What Online Video Has Learned From Broadcast

The internet is awash in blogs and white papers documenting the rise of online video and the fall of broadcast (and we may be guilty of sometimes having a doomsday attitude about traditional media too).

While it’s true that online viewership rose 43% in 2014, when broadcast saw a downturn of roughly 4%, it’s premature to cite this as the death of broadcast advertising. But in an hours-to-hours comparison, the average viewer still spends 141 hours watching TV per month, compared to just under 11 hours in online viewing time.

Rather than ditch what some characterize as a “dusty relic” in favor of the younger medium, the smart play is to develop an interplay and learnings between your online and broadcast content. We’ve taken notice of a few online trends that borrow quite a lot from its older, Madison Avenue counterpart—specifically:

  • Traditional run times

In contrast to the four-minute-plus videos of five years ago, we’ve seen social video platforms adopt long-established broadcast durations (:15, :30, :60), which are now the standard on Instagram and Twitter. The same rules that have governed TV spots for decades now apply to online: write with your run time in mind, be clear about your story and intent, and script as though you were the editor.

  • Custom content

Online audiences have high expectations for video storytelling, due in part to exposure to smart TV ads, but they want content that’s designed specifically for social or mobile. Successful campaigns are taking thoughtful, tailored approaches for each video content type. Take recent campaigns like Geico’s “Unskippable”. By positioning the spot in it being “unskippable”, it’s clear that the high-quality video was created specifically for online use, and not a second-rate cutdown of TV spot. Which leads us to…

  • Investing in production quality

Modern viewers see less of a distinction between viewing video on a television versus a desktop or mobile. There’s been a welcome shift in the production quality of live action and animation video. Gone are the days when broadcast received all the production love and online was a wasteland of flip-cam, talking-head, and low-angle nostril shots. Brands and organizations are finally investing the budgets that were historically reserved for print and television. The key difference is that the resulting online assets can be directed at a more targeted audience base, allowing that investment to be used more purposefully.

  • Distribution

Brands and organizations ignore distribution at their own peril. Just as in broadcast, in order to achieve scale in digital, it’s imperative to invest in paid media. Your distribution plan—in this case, your media plan—ensures that your video will be seen by more than a handful of people and that the people watching are the ones you want to reach. And to bring it full circle, these targeting capabilities are extending to living rooms with internet-connected TVs, causing the already blurred lines of broadcast and digital to become harder to differentiate (which is great for advertisers).

It’s difficult to make hard rules when the video landscape is changing quickly. Rather than pick a side, take an integrated approach to planning video, embrace the blurring of lines, and avoid the doomsday train.