For non-broadcast publishers, creating digital video has long been an option. But also a challenge. Up until now, many of us had good reason to hold back from launching a full-blown video offering - citing resource demands, investment and ROI.

The thing is, while many of us have been sitting back, in cruise control – the road has gone from a single track, to a six lane motorway.

In other words, the video question for publishers has shifted from ‘sell this to me, why do I risk it?’ to ‘if we don’t embrace this now, will we be left behind?’

Facebook & Buzzfeed’s Best Friend

Facebook is already predicting that its own service will be all video before long. The ultimate goal is reportedly for consumers to spend four hours a day on the platform – and it sees video as the way to build that engagement (as well no doubt as taking a slice of TV ad spend.)

Meanwhile, another digital leader in the shape of Buzzfeed has also pivoted towards a strong focus on video – its Tasty food brand already driving huge traffic. And it seems like every day another publisher announces a video-focussed spin-off – Time Inc’s personal finance-focused Coinage being just the latest.

And there are two major factors that explain the shift. One, video ad spend is on the up – by 2020 in the US alone, it will reportedly top $28bn. Now add that to the growing dominance of mobile – also within the next three years, video will make up fully 75% of all mobile content according to Cisco.

Barriers to Entry

But back to that traditional reason for hanging back on the video highway - cost, of course – but also resource – retraining – and extra skills. While none of these challenges is ever going away, there are a number of new tools in place to help you produce videos faster, cheaper and more efficiently.

It’s interesting to note that, when video inventory sells out, a publisher like Bonnier uses text-to-video software to create more video content. In this case, it uses a service called Wibbitz to speed up and even automate the process. Another one is Wochit, which aims to dramatically speed up video creation – with a ‘real-time’ media bank, and it can even suggest content directly based on a link to your story.

By no means are we advocating publishers plumb for quantity over quality here. Rather they need to bring in video where it suits or expands on the story. In a similar vein, producing video solely for ad revenue is a dead-end – not least if the content, style and length isn’t suited to the medium, or indeed doesn’t fit well with your brand. Tasty is a simple, yet great example – it fits perfectly with its parent Buzzfeed, as well as being an original format, and one you can feel has been optimised and tested for its audience.

Video without Video Formats

It’s worth adding at this point that a reliance on video content to run video ads doesn’t tell the whole story. For one, regular banner formats can also run video creative - another key area for publishers to consider.

Another ‘video without video’ format which has gained widespread adoption is outstream – videos which render within articles, but are easily dismissed, with user experience front of mind.

Going back to ads within video content, pre-roll has traditionally been the publisher’s best friend. But just like understanding your viewer’s optimum video length, other types of format and duration need careful consideration.

The 30 second pre-roll for one – a direct transplant from the world of TV – is considered to be too long by many. And indeed, YouTube is ending support for 30 second unskippable formats within the year. It’s also interesting to note that Facebook is experimenting with mid-roll ads (not to mention auto-play audio – let’s see how that plays out.)

The Future

Of course, there’s another reason why publishers like Buzzfeed are investing in big teams devoted to original video – it’s part of their diversification efforts. And much like the New York Times’ own video-focussed T Brand Studio, they are effectively reinventing themselves as agencies – whether it’s producing video ads, or even long-form video content for advertisers.

It might seem a longshot, especially if until recently, as a publisher you’d still only largely focused on text, as opposed to the moving image. But for a taster of the road some publishers are on, look no further than Amazon and Netflix.

Until recently little more than content aggregators, within the space of a couple of years, they’re now major producers of original video content in their own right. Amazon just picked up its first Oscar nomination for best picture – and any producer predicting that even a few years ago might well have been laughed (or even hounded) out of Hollywood.

Whatever road you pick, from mobile to connected TV, a video-dominated future awaits us all. Before we reach that destination, know that the options – the possible routes for publishers, are both multiplying and diverging. And that means greater opportunities, as well as challenges for some.

But as many publishers’ increasing focus on video suggests, the opportunities right now outweigh those drawbacks.

The last time you want to be stuck in the slow lane, is just as the competition pulls away.