Why Aren’t Publishers Commissioning Video Content? by Jon White

Posted by Stella Calvert-Smith on 10 April 2021, in Byte Experts, News

Now that I have caught your attention with a clickbait headline to this article, let us get down to the
serious business of talking about video content.

A large percentage of my working life is spent talking with publishers across the education,
academic, professional, and trade sectors of the publishing industry. In parallel to that, I spend the
rest of my time in conversation with brands, non-profits, and on occasion government departments
about the very same, and a definite pattern is emerging.

Within the publishing industry, I see a general trend that does not make the future look terribly
bright and rosy, and perhaps goes some way towards explaining the rampant consolidation (for that
read merger, acquisition, and redundancy), which we have seen accelerate in our industry over the
past few years. And much of this centers around us not yet fully realising the true digital
opportunity, that a spread portfolio of formats can achieve.

Whilst some publishing sectors such as education and specifically ELT education are commissioning a
lot of video content for their digital product portfolio, much of the industry is not. Video is seen as
comparatively complicated and expensive, and therefore without the demand and the right business
models, it is initially hard to see the ROI.

Let us look at some of the statistics and tackle some of the issues around demand.
Since the beginning of the digital drive, the opportunity for our industry has been to expand into
other media types and areas. And we have been good at some. Audiobooks are now returning
healthy revenues, new online retailers have appeared and secured the eBook channel for
themselves, catapulting their brands to the top of the global company revenue leagues. We have
reached a point where revenues from digital products are healthy for publishers but at the same
time, mass-market consumer digital media consumption trends are showing that short-form video is
fast becoming the number one chosen format, certainly for post-millennials, and probably for
millennial consumers too.

According to Cisco, in any given second 1 million minutes of video are crossing the internet, and at
the end of 2020, 75% of all internet traffic was video content. They have predicted that this will rise
to 82% by 2022.

Publicis and Verizon in a joint study have discovered that a lot of video content is consumed on the
go or at work and because of this, 92% of those watch video with the sound off meaning that
captions are becoming a must!

More than 2 billion people use Youtube – that’s one-third of all internet users with around 5 billion
videos watched on Youtube every day, and Youtubers are uploading 500 hours of video every
minute. According to Social Media Today, 82% of Twitter users mainly use the platform to watch
videos. These are mostly mobile users as well since roughly 90% of all video views on Twitter
happen via mobile phones.

This tallies with eMarketer’s study in 2018 which shows that most view video content via mobiles
and this trend has only grown since then. We are nearing the point where everyone who possibly
can in terms of device ownership, will view short-form video content daily, wherever they are,
anywhere in the world.

What’s interesting to learn from Brand Gym is that when consumers are viewing adverts on a mobile
device, 75% skip the advertising in an average of 5.5 seconds (ie: as soon as they can!), so if
advertising supported video content is the end strategy, then it’s completely the wrong one and
something needs to change.

On the educational front, video-assisted learning has become more and more popular. Classrooms
are awash with high-tech digital displays and now that schools are fully connected to the internet
worldwide, video has become an important part of everyday learning – this has of course extended
into the home this past year. The Covid pandemic has created the perfect environment for distance
learning which has increased spectacularly with universities having to create high-quality distance
learning modules complete with high production values for their remotely delivered video content.
Animated videos enrich subjects and help pupils and students understand complex subjects simply
and easily in a format with which they identify. As one university employee put it to me “simply
pointing a camera at a member of teaching staff in a lecture theatre, just isn’t going to cut it with
today’s multimedia savvy student, yet it is still what we do.”

The US government have recognised that short-form video is an important learning format and are
awarding grants to those who produce educational video content. PBS Education, an off-shoot of the
network PBS, have secured a $24M federal grant in the past year. They have seen the opportunity
that presents itself and are going to spend it on creating high educational value, curriculum-linked
video assets and they have employed early-learning and children’s education experts as well as
media producers to realise this project.

Those non-publishing businesses whose aim is to target post-millennials are getting it right too. I
often talk about Blippi and how he has grown to become a multi-million-dollar brand in his own right
through simply producing quality edutainment videos and posting them on Youtube. Last year he
made about $12M. This year, judging by the merchandise in our house he will be making a lot more!

Without a doubt, we are going through a big transition where short-form video content is fast
becoming an important weapon in the digital armoury of any savvy business involved in the media
sector. It was always on the cards that short-form educational video was going to become the
learning medium for learning anything. But the fact that the entire population of the planet was
forced online in this past year, whether they liked it or not, has made this happen today and it is
leaking rapidly into other subject sectors. Not next year or the year after. Today.

We at Makematic are seeing an explosion of opportunity as a business. Trade publishers are coming
round to the fact that any book series which targets under 18s, must have a short-form video
component to go with the books, be they print or electronic. Professional publishers are focusing more and more on short-course CPD qualifications where those interacting with their products can simply
view a series of short films during a lunch hour and then answer questions to earn their next
“badge”. Academic publishers have realised that through the addition of high quality 2–3-minute
video abstracts, huge increases in Altmetric scores and full-text views are being realised, as many
more are accessing their sites. And in the education sector, very few publishers launch new digital
products without a considerable video component that goes hand in hand. At governmental level,
MoEs are commissioning video content along with everything else that they need to provide a
successful education for current and future generations.

Demand and expectation amongst new generations of consumers definitely exists. That is
irrefutable and because of this, business models are now being proven to satisfy that demand. It’s
not that publishers must abandon the whole idea of print and move swiftly to an online world of moving live-action and animated images, but instead that short-form video is expected, and that it
must play a part in the overall armoury that we have when attracting and retaining new consumers.

2021 will see a rapid increase in the amount of high-quality short-form video content, professionally
produced, and tied into new products and services. Those who choose to ignore this dynamic
format will simply fall behind.

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Jon has over two decades of experience in digital content and publishing. He has held senior roles with DK, Macmillan Education, Ingenta plc and Semantico, He is fascinated by the constant changes being driven by the networked economy, how this affects all aspects of content consumption and whether or not parallels can be drawn across media sectors. He can be contacted via jon@makematic.com

Makematic are a trusted partner for purpose-driven brands, non-profits and publishers to create inspiring and impactful educational videos. They make better educational media for the next generation of global citizens.

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