For the uninitiated, The NewFronts are the digital media world’s answer to the upfronts, the presentations networks make to media buyers of their slate of new shows for the upcoming season.
But whereas the television upfronts are geared toward buying and selling — where the networks secure advertiser deals for their fall TV programming lineups — the NewFronts have been more of a general strategy and content presentation for US advertising execs.
This year, the discussion between publishers and advertisers centred around online video and had the usual buzzwords and focus on youth, mobile, and fun. However, challenges remain relating to brand safety, metrics, and building awareness of publishers’ digital video offerings.
As digital video ad revenue in the U.S. continues to grow — predicted to hit $15.42 billion this year and reach $22.18 billion in 2021 — according to eMarketer, more publishers and tech platforms will battle it out for those ad dollars even as popular video destinations like Netflix and HBO lack ads. And with so many publishers and platforms working together, it’s become more of a “coopetition” among them at the NewFronts.
Here’s a roundup of some of the key NewFronts trends to watch.
Brand Safety Concerns Continue
Similar to last year, for most publishers, what they want to offer — and therefore what is at the forefront of their minds — is brand safety.
“With the widely reported issues around questionable adjacencies and toxic environments, this has only become more important,” Hearst Magazines Digital Media’s Todd Haskell told Digiday. “We speak to issues around brand safety in every pitch, but particularly in ambitious content marketing programs like this.”
The Metrics and Awareness Challenge
The convergence of video and TV means that brands this year are also paying more attention to metrics. Nothing comparable to Nielsen ratings has yet to exist for digital. As such, publishers that define success with their own metrics can lead to the kind of inflation and misinformation that has got some of them in trouble in the first place.
“I think what needs to come into play is, ‘How are publishers themselves using those types of information that they own specifically to help drive their own business forward?’”
Beyond the typical vanity metrics, Meredith exec Andrew Snyder mentioned how important measuring impact is for the publisher, which swallowed up Time Inc. recently.
“We are really focused on driving impact,” Snyder told Broadcasting & Cable. “We think about impact in two ways. On one side, it’s about impact with consumers. On the advertising side of the house, what matters most to our customers is scale, and together the new Meredith reaches over 170 million consumers. We reach 80% of millennial women.”
But what really puts some traditional broadcast and print publishers behind the eight ball is the fact that audiences don’t think about them as purveyors of original online video content. According to the 2018 Digital Content NewFronts Sentiment Forecast, commissioned by Matrix Solutions, consumer interest in original content from big media names like ESPN and the New York Times is pretty abysmal. While Americans who watched online content were excited about YouTube (57%) and Hulu (32%), only 16% were excited about ESPN, 10% about New York Times, and 2% about Conde Nast.
Big Media ‘Coopetition’ with Platforms
While many larger publishers have had love/hate relationships with the tech platforms, it’s interesting just how much love there has been at the NewFronts. Twitter announced even more live video programming with publisher partners, and nearly every publisher mentioning programming on tech platforms.
For marketers, it’s not an either/or proposition between the platforms and publishers, but how to spread the word in brand-safe content, with measurable results to the right audience. How they get there isn’t as important as the fact that they can get there.
Abridged with kind permission from Digital Content Next