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The Evolving Role of Video in the Website Publisher Ecosystem

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A recurring theme of my conversations with our media company and advertiser partners is that demand for high quality online video inventory is bigger than ever. Media companies are perpetually sold out on their O&O sites, and advertisers are getting smarter about the inventory they buy, demanding only the highest quality video inventory available: user-initiated, above-the-fold inventory on an attractive website.

Advertisers know the good stuff from the bad, and thus shun inventory that is less than engaging to the user or that simply doesn't deliver on engagement metrics. While high quality inventory is always in short supply, there is significant growth of high quality inventory in the middle and long tail of the web -- growth that our company, Grab Media, enables through content services provided to the publishers in the mid-long tail of the web.

Website publishers of all sizes -- from the biggest players on the web to attractive niche sites in the mid-to-long tail of the web -- are now creating valuable video inventory with great content experiences on their sites. For the mid-to-long tail of the web (defined liberally as the thousands of sites attracting audiences of 50K to 5MM unique visitors each month) this is a relatively new phenomenon. Until recently, these publishers have struggled to create inventory that advertisers want to buy (or could buy). It isn't from a lack of trying -- publishers have been trying to create video inventory for several years, typically trying to satisfy one of two motivations: 1. add great content to engage their users, or 2. create incremental revenue for their sites. But until recently, very seldom could publishers in the mid-to-long tail of the web achieve both objectives simultaneously.

Publishers motivated by the content value of video have leaned primarily on YouTube for video content. While YouTube is the most comprehensive repository for finding video content (it is the #2 search engine in the world for a reason), website publishers do not materially participate in ad revenues generated through YouTube video. Other video integration strategies -- such as creating video sections, related video thumbnails, or video players in the rail --suffer from relatively low click rates and hence low scale.

The revenue-driven publisher have historically leaned on in-banner video to increase their ad load per page, and thereby their revenue per page view. This was easy money for publishers, but as advertisers look more carefully at the inventory they buy and the engagement they garner from in-banner units, demand for this unit is rightfully declining.

So, how are mid-long tail publishers creating high quality inventory in light of these challenges? They are engaging with service providers like Grab Media. From the publisher's perspective, this is achieved by delivering on the following fundamentals:

1. Great content. A catalog with high quality, licensed content from the world's leading media companies provides a valuable content resource to the publisher and viable alternative to YouTube as a video content provider.

2. Integration. In order to truly make video a part of the site content experience, video catalog assets -- including preview images, thumbnails, and the metadata for the video must be integrated with the content management system (CMS) to enable attractive promotion of that content throughout the site. Grab achieves this through its suite of CMS plug ins, APIs, and SDKs. Ultimately, editors are put in position to promote video content as they would promote any other content on their sites.

3. Automation of Curation. Equally as important is the filtering of content results based on site editor's defined interests -- making relevant video surface automatically, with little effort on behalf of the editor.

4. Sharing directly in revenue creation. Publishers that are vetted for quality and are creating high quality inventory deserve to be fairly compensated for the inventory they are creating, so a fair revenue share for the value they create is a must.

Creating high quality inventory through video syndication isn't a simple thing -- it requires a strategic, value driven approach to enable publishers to integrate video content thoughtfully and seamlessly on their sites. Delivering on these fundamentals in the publisher community has made Grab Media the fastest growing video property on the web over the last 12 months, as measured by comScore Video Metrix (August, 2012), as well as a top 10 video property as measured by content streams. At the end of the day, it is about getting the right content in front of the right audience, and publisher services provided by the likes of Grab Media enable advertisers and media companies to reach fragmented audiences, where they are.