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Making the Holiday Season Work for Your Video Business

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iris-tvThe end of the year brings many things: movie premiers, shopping and overeating  (all the important things, right?). For media companies, it is serving up online video, to capture that much-needed ad-revenue and traffic. These premium CPMs help fulfill revenue goals and campaign guarantees, so it’s vital that media companies take full advantage of the opportunity.

According to Ezoic’s ad revenue index, the fourth quarter (specifically November & December), garners the highest online ad rates of the year. IRIS.TV’s historical data also shows that our clients experience the highest view volumes at the end of the year (1.8M streams per client in Q4 vs. 1.3M streams per client in all other quarters). These two recurring trends create a unique challenge for both our clients & the digital media space in general: How do we take advantage of this audience, not only right now, but into the new year and beyond?

We’ve put together our best practices for high-volume user consumption, engagement, and retention.

There are 12 Days of Christmas, but here are 5 things to do right now

Organize Your Content: Create categories that prepare you for the expected & unexpected this season

Whether you celebrate or not, the season lends itself to countless opportunities to highlight holidays. As everyone knows, creating holiday or seasonal content is a great way to engage viewers during this time of year. Viewers are inherently more inclined to not only click on seasonal content, but to keep watching that content.

It’s also important to create categories surrounding this content. Whether using an AI programming engine (like IRIS.TV) or creating manual playlists for the holiday, viewers respond well to an experience that flows logically from asset to asset. With an engaged user and premium CPMs, this strategy becomes even more important during this season. .

Here are some examples of how to create a premium seasonal experiences for users based on your L.E.N.S. (lifestyle, entertainment, news, sports) of content.

  • Lifestyle – IRIS.TV Lifestyle clients find the most success with how-to videos that surround holiday food. On average they have lower bounce rates than other how-to videos (decorating, costumes, arts & crafts, etc.). Create holiday-specific categories that surround this content. When users begin an experience on one of these assets, they will be served content that has the highest engagement for this time of year.
  • Entertainment – Create ‘Year in Review’ or ‘Top 10 in 2017’ videos or listicles ahead of time. In periods of slow entertainment/celebrity news, these clips are topical for the season, and keep viewers engaged between news cycles.
  • News – Election coverage drove the majority of traffic this time last year, but news publishers can’t rely on that type of news cycle every year. Take advantage of holiday content that performs well on other verticals – showcase holiday recipe tips or present a ‘Year in Review’ for top news stories of the year. This is an excellent opportunity to re-edit and use content that was produced over the last 12 months.
  • Sports –  In-game highlight videos have the lowest bounce rates across all sports content, and audiences love watching top plays. Create ‘pre-game’ playlists or categories ahead of major events (football games  for example) that showcase performances and results from the same event in years past. Replace these streams with new highlights as soon as they are available.

Evergreen isn’t Just a Tree Outside: Use last year’s seasonal content to bolster your original content library

What a lot of publishers forget, and what our most successful clients take advantage of, is the evergreen nature of most holiday content – last year’s Christmas recipe or decoration video is almost definitely still relevant. While you might not have the capacity to shoot all new holiday content, some timely edits will give your older assets a contemporary feel. Pairing those with the new content you can produce will give visitors a sizeable content library to consume. On top of that, reusing your own assets will generate higher CPMs than syndicating in seasonal content.

Also Read: Marketers: Here’s How to Evaluate Your Campaigns Heading into the Holiday Season

No Matter What Vertical, Create ‘Year in Review’ Content: It will be key when your offices are empty or the news cycle is slow

This is important enough to be repeated. If there’s anything that pubs like Buzzfeed & Business Insider have taught us, it’s that audiences will re-consume if there’s added value. They’ve probably already seen what you’re about to show them, but you can bet they want to know what the experts say is the most important or best content to remember into next year. Almost equally valuable is that these articles or videos can be prepared ahead of time, allowing production before teams leave for vacation

Look Back at What Drove Growth or Engagement Last Year: Use that data to shape your strategy

Using IRIS Vision, or whichever analytics platform you prefer, generate a report from Q4 of last year (or for several years if you have data for them). In conjunction, use the preceding several months of data as a benchmark for 2017 trends. Using both asset and  category level data, you can begin to understand what type of content resonated in the holidays last year, and compare that to other facets of 2017 content that perform well (think asset length, specific delivery methods, text on screen vs. voiceover). Together, those analyses will put you in a great position to create the most engaging content for holiday 2017.

Using a specific example from IRIS Vision, one particular client saw that the highest volume of video views in Q4 2016 came from ‘holiday’, ‘thanksgiving’, ‘Christmas’, etc. categories. They also found that the highest initial view assets during that period were ‘how-to’ videos about the holidays. When looking at bounce rates, the highest bounce rate asset was a 3:00 minute long video ‘How to Light a Christmas Tree’, and one of the lowest bounce rate asset was under a minute long and was titled ‘How to Carve a Turkey’. The last thing they looked at was the whole site performance over the last quarter. The assets performing best (lowest bounce rates) all had lengths of under 1:30.

Using this information, the client is able to put together a specific type of content to focus on for the holiday 2017 season. They’ll be producing holiday-specific content that focuses around ‘how to’ and ‘DIY’ food videos, and they will keep all clips under 1:30 in length. The data showed them what type of content to repeat from last year, and what type to avoid.

Before You Leave for Vacation, Make Sure Stack can Handle Anything that is Thrown at it

One of the most exciting things about Q4 is that traffic and click volume skyrockets. One of the scariest things is that your site might not be prepared for it. Take the time to confirm with your web and services providers (your CMS, OVP, CDN, SSP, Ad Network, etc.). If you aren’t prepared for a rapid increase in volume, seriously consider investing in an upgrade.

Things like heavy site UI, video load latency, and repeated ads are all reasons for viewers to bounce, and if your infrastructure isn’t prepared, your revenue losses will stack up. The importance of user experience is compounded when using a continuous video experience, because users become more engaged the longer they watch. So, for example, a 5-10% increase in bounce rate can translate into a 10-15% decrease in total consumption. The same is true if you proactively invest in a better experience for your site visitors – a minimal drop in bounce rate can have substantial increase in total consumption.

These precautions are all compounded when human resources are slim due to holiday closures and end of year vacations. All the more reason to prepare ahead of time for anything that might come your way.

Recommended Read: What Retail Marketers Can Learn From Walmart This Holiday Season

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