Why UK Publishers Aren’t Going All In on Video

Pivot to video? Not at the expense of other formats, say UK publishers.

Pivot to video – it’s been the rallying cry for a while now in the U.S., as some publishers forgo written content in favor of resource-heavier video.

“The much-mocked term ‘pivot to video’ has become a catch-all phrase for replacing text-based journalists with video specialists,” writes Lucinda Southern in Digiday. “Since 2016, publishers like MTV News, Fox Sports, Mic, Vocativ and Mashable have all laid off writers to focus on creating more video.

“The argument is people want to watch video, and with programmatic display advertising stagnating, there’s more potential to make money through video’s higher CPMs,” she continues.

For U.K. publishers, however, it’s a different story. With a smaller market and less overall reliance on Facebook, video just isn’t as important there.

“Much of that is due to the fact that the U.K. has fewer venture-backed media companies scrambling to live up to inflated expectations, comparatively less Facebook dependence, and a less perky video ad market,” Southern explains.

For digital-first publishers like Vox, Buzzfeed and other U.S. media brands, video might make more sense. But in the U.K., Southern notes, the market is much different.

“The publishing landscape in the U.K. mostly consists of legacy publishers that have transitioned to digital such as News UK and Trinity Mirror, or Facebook-first, so-called viral publishers like Ladbible, Jungle Creations’ VT and Unilad,” she explains. The revenue from a platform like FB’s video mid-roll ads just isn’t there for them.

For Mick Greenwood, head of video at Time Inc. UK, he’s not expecting much from video ad potential.

“I have allocated a lower priority to this revenue stream on the U.K. road map based on industry forecasts and feedback,” he says.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., publishers are caught in the familiar “tail wagging the dog” scenario, as Facebook prioritizes video content. Some are savvy to what’s really going on; some are publically calling FB out for faking video demand to move the needle even further.

Publishers are good at publishing. If they were good at videos they’d be producers. Yes, there are some brands that are doing good things in the video medium, and that’s great. But it’s time to stop letting platform – and especially a third-party distribution platform with questionable metrics and a definite trust problem – make those kinds of publishing decisions for us.