Where Will You Be When the Video Bubble Pops

Illustration: Jim Cooke

Illustration: Jim Cooke

Media companies are pouring resources into video, but it may not be the holy grail for much longer.

Video, video, video. If you’re paying attention to the marketing strategy of late, that’s the prevailing paradigm, with companies pouring resources into video publishing at an astonishing pace.

“Everywhere you look, you can see news and media organizations devoting more resources to video. Mashable recently restructured the entire company and laid off dozens of people so that it could focus more on video, and the New York Times has set up a team just to do Facebook Live video,” writes Matthew Ingram in Fortune. “BuzzFeed has an entire content arm called BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, not to mention several standalone Facebook pages that primarily do video.”

According to Ingram, the march to video is being driven in part as a way around ad blockers, but more importantly because Facebook is pushing video media hard.

“Over the past year or so, the giant social network has been focusing most of its efforts on video, to the point where CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that video is the future of the Facebook experience,” Ingram writes. “And wherever Facebook goes, that’s where the media tends to go, since so much of their traffic and audience reach comes from the social network.”

Here’s the problem:

“According to a study from Google last year, close to 50% of video ads on the web are never seen by an actual viewer, for a variety of reasons. That’s almost half of all the video advertising that appears online,” Ingram writes.

Sound familiar? Google reported similar viewability problems with digital ads just as the massive scope of online ad fraud was beginning to be understood. Still, the rush to video continues.

Some are getting good engagement, Ingram notes, like native ads and sponsored content via BuzzFeed or Snapchat video streams.

“But those aren’t the kinds of advertising that most media companies are doing as they rush into video—most of them are selling traditional pre-roll, which virtually no one ever watches, and hoping that the price they’re getting for a three-second pre-roll ad on a 30-second-long video clip isn’t going to plummet the same way that display advertising on the web did,” Ingram warns.

“Is that a safe bet to make? Probably not. Especially if Facebook starts to get serious about in-video advertising and turns on ads for the billions of video views it is already getting every day. That will mean another exponential increase in the amount of video and the amount of video advertising, and that means more pressure on ad prices for everyone. The problem with everyone jumping on a bandwagon is that eventually there is no more room,” he concludes.

The parallels are just too similar to ignore. And really, haven’t consumers already told us enough of the digital bloat? Publishers and advertisers need a return to sanity by building a model around quality ads and content that consumers actually want to see. In some cases, this will be video; in others, a well-executed and relevant digital ad, or a print ad spread in a magazine. There is no “here, now do this” magic button for advertising. Anyone who believes there is probably deserves gum on their face when the next bubble pops.