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What Did SXSW Teach Us About Online Video?
The introduction of Meerkat, Periscope, and Snapchat Discover emphasize the value of instantaneous, live video content, but a session at SXSW last month highlighted the perils that accompany the promise in how this technology is transforming video journalism

Ten years on, YouTube is no longer the only major story in online video, with publishers and social media platforms speedily developing their own video offerings. At SXSW last month, the industry stood up and took note of the latest innovation: live-streamed, chat integrated video apps. The digital generation doesn’t want to wait, and the focus on quick, relevant content and the likes of Meerkat and Periscope understandably created a huge buzz at SXSW. News organisations and content owners need to adapt to this changing behaviour or risk falling behind.

Meerkat, Periscope, and Snapchat Discover have all launched this year, creating a wealth of conversation about the impact they will have on the video and content industries. Snapchat Discover already has Vice and the Daily Mail using it to distribute content, just two of many major media partners announced at Discover’s launch. Snapchat’s new content collaborators create “editions”—bundles of stories that disappear after 24 hours. The Snapchatting generation want news and entertainment now: online and on-demand, and now perhaps in a new storytelling language that seamlessly integrates text, photos and video.

The idea of instantaneous video content is not new, but its re-introduction with such immediacy and an integrated social graph is extremely compelling. I attended a session at SXSW called "Breaking the News in the Age of Snapchat" that looked at how digital technology is transforming journalism. The session discussed how, like it or not, news platforms have to adapt to the changing online video landscape, quicker than ever before. Critically what’s often lacking on new platforms is the professional editorial filters serious news organisations rightly insist on. Since that SXSW session we have already seen an example of this, with Periscope breaking the news of a building collapse in New York before any news media had had time to arrive on the scene. It seems that the combination of smartphones and these new video platforms gives everyone the power to be citizen journalists and in turn content owners, which also raises some serious questions about their use and possible abuse. It also raises an important question for publishers and brands: Where do they fit in?

The industry needs to consider the implications of having this instantaneous video content so easily created and accessed. How are you protecting your viewers from graphic or unwanted imagery? What are you doing to manage or help others manage rights? How are you ensuring that what you are streaming doesn’t break any laws or acceptable standards? It only takes one person to live stream the wrong thing, at the wrong time, for the industry to be turned on its head. Immediacy isn’t always a good thing if these questions are not considered and addressed. Being disruptive is great, but we must always bear in mind the consequences if things go wrong. YouTube spent years developing and improving tools to deal with these questions, while the new entrants have yet to prove their commitment on these matters.

In addition to emerging media platforms, video content is becoming a new focus for a lot of content publishers. According to the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) and Deloitte’s Q4 Digital Publishers Revenue Index Report, online publishers saw a 20 percent increase in revenue generated through online video in the last 12 months. AOP managing director Tim Cain said that the growth "continues to demonstrate how publishers are adapting to a rapidly changing online environment." Publishers are continuing to embrace online video as a platform, and they are being rewarded with strong growth figures, with focus and investment only set to continue.

Probably the biggest investment in video recently has been through the social media companies. Facebook just introduced embeddable videos and is trying to change attitudes so it is considered a media outlet, rather than just a social media network. Facebook is also liaising with content creators to try and get them to consider the platform first when planning their content distribution. For example the Game of Thrones world premiere at the Tower of London was live streamed on Facebook. Facebook video is already delivering three billion videos a day, and according to statistics recently announced at Facebook’s F8 conference, 88 per cent of millennials get their news from Facebook. Similarly, Twitter is now testing autoplay videos in user news feeds as part of an effort to take on sites like Google and Facebook, which already offer this feature. Autoplay is a way to grab a user’s attention and no longer rely on a person clicking on a video to have immediate, emotive impact.

Brands and content owners need to be nimble, flexible and most of all understand their audience. Getting to know your audience, where they are and what their old and newer media consumption habits are like is key to succeeding in the online video space.

[Patrick Walker is CEO of Rightster. Streaming Media accepts vendor-contributed articles such as this one based solely on their value to our readers.]