Founded in 1909, Las Vegas Review-Journal is the largest circulating daily newspaper in Nevada and has been included in E&P’s top ten list as one of the leading newspapers in the U.S. “that do it right”. The newspaper has also won the ‘General Excellence’ award from the Nevada Press Association numerous times as well as the ‘Freedom of the Press’ award for its First Amendment battles.
In 2017, like many publishers at the time, the Review-Journal doubled down on its video output, even going to the lengths of building a studio in its downtown campus to produce high-end live and on-demand videos for news, politics and sports. Programs included a Reporter Roundtable, Vegas Nation covering Raiders’ football, and Nevada Politics Today, with the publisher even launching its own Roku app in early 2018 to allow readers to stream Review-Journal video content directly onto their TVs.
Like many of its peers, who infamously got their fingers burned in the pivot to video five years ago, the publisher’s foray into video engagement came at a cost. With up to 70 articles published per day, creating rich and relevant video in every article was both time-consuming and expensive – not just in terms of producing and editing the videos, but also in video player license and hosting fees. Video essentially became a “loss leader” for the publisher.
The crux issue for the Review-Journal was that although video production costs were prohibitive, the audience engagement and traffic they produced were substantial.
There are four reasons the pivot to video has failed (for publishers): faulty metrics for measuring the audience; trusting other platforms, like Facebook, to do the hard work of distribution; low-quality video production and weak technological support for video content; and, ultimately, a failure to effectively turn video views into either higher readership or ad dollars.Heidi N. Moore, Columbia Journalism Review
A pivot to online video platform
The publisher in 2019 decided to overhaul its entire video operations with a platform that allowed it to not only produce bespoke video content but also host content sourced under license from premium content creators – the goal was to increase revenue from digital video but eliminate the associated costs.
The solution selected by the Review-Journal was STN Video, a North American platform that gives publishers unlimited player configurability via a single embed code. The platform also provides licensed content from a library of 1 million+ videos spanning most content types, from over 250 providers including Condé Nast, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Rolling Stone, Variety, as well as all major sports rights holders including NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL.
Using ‘Smart Match’ AI-powered tech, relevant video content gets matched with publishers’ articles, lifting both engagement rates and ad revenue. Publishers do not pay STN for use of the platform, nor the content – revenue is shared with STN on the monetization of the videos, typically through advertising, but also subscription revenue and ecommerce.
We’re able to configure a different experience in each section of our publishers’ sites to enhance user experience and improve engagement while bringing publishers new, optimized revenue opportunities.Matthew Watson, CEO of STN Video
The results for the Review-Journal were almost immediate. In year-over-year comparisons (Sept 2019 – Feb 2021) the publisher saw significant improvements in traffic, user engagement and revenue metrics across their digital property. This included an increase in monthly page views of 41%; monthly visitors by 22%; video plays by 710%; and an increase in digital video revenue of 536%.
Our number one priority at the Review-Journal is delivering quality content to our readers. STN Video plays a key part in our content strategy by delivering the best possible video content to keep our readers up-to-date and informed and at the same time, has driven impressive results.Jim Prather, Executive Director Digital Programming, Las Vegas Review-Journal
Licensed Vs User-Generated Video (UGV)
The use of syndicated video by the Review-Journal comes at a time when publishers are also looking into user-generated content created by the public. This comes with serious challenges, not least ethical guidelines, licensing issues, and quality assurances. Newsflare, which announced in January it had raised £5M in Series B funding, feels it has solved this issue by carefully curating all the videos it receives.
The platform has now built a network of 45,000+ global membership of filmers ‘capturing life as it happens’ and currently works with Mail Online, LADBible, Upsocl, Jungle, and other publishers.
UGV tends to have more of a ‘wow’ factor because it captures events that often can’t be recreated – a freak moment in a football match, for example. The videos are also much quicker to produce and make available.Daniel Braybrook, Head of Editorial Licensing UK ROW, Newsflare
However, at the end of the day, whether a video is UGV or syndicated from an established provider, the key is the quality of the content. Speaking to WNIP, Daniel Braybrook, Head of Editorial Licensing UK ROW, Newsflare concludes, “it’s all about the content – if it’s strong and engaging that’s what drives eyeballs – ultimately they are the same thing. Traffic generation is the win.”