Why the “Pivot to Video” Is Misguided

Why the “Pivot to Video” Is Misguided

After all, 2017 is “the year of video” -- so why shouldn’t people consume more videos, and why shouldn’t creators make more? What is pivoting to video? What Is Pivoting to Video? MTV News staffed its team with content creators who produced documentary-style videos and 4,000-6,000-word long-form written pieces -- most of whom were let go in June of this year, when MTV News "pivoted" to create more short-form music and entertainment video over long-form editorial pieces. And making videos is smart -- it just shouldn't be the only content your brand produces. It's true that videos are growing in popularity -- your audience wants to see videos, videos drive results for your business, and videos are an extremely favorable medium across different social media platforms. In fact, audiences want more written content and more videos -- so can't we all just get along? Read about how we're changing up our social media video strategy in this blog post. People have their preferences, and in our forthcoming survey, we found that consumers want to watch video content and read in-depth news and research content -- and that they want to watch videos on social media. The best scenario is to create both types of content -- along with multimedia content -- to meet audiences' ever-changing preferences, and to attract visitors and leads throughout the marketing funnel.

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When I read that the average American spends five-and-a-half hours per day watching video content, I scoffed — because between video explainers on Facebook, Game of Thrones, and Netflix, that average is closer to my daily minimum time spent watching videos.

After all, 2017 is “the year of video” — so why shouldn’t people consume more videos, and why shouldn’t creators make more?

As it turns out, there is such a thing as too much video — and it happens when publishers “pivot to video.”

pivot gif friends.gif

No, not that kind of pivot. I’m talking about the “pivot to video.”

What is pivoting to video? No, it’s not changing seats on the couch to get a better view — it’s the latest example of marketers and content creators being so eager to adopt a new platform or medium that they ruin it.

What Is Pivoting to Video?

Pivot to video (verb): To decrease or entirely shutter written editorial operations to focus on creating more video content

Synonyms: restructuring, reorganizing, refocusing

If this sounds like a joke … well, the dictionary definition is kind of a joke. But “pivoting to video” consists of publications deciding to focus so entirely on video that entire writing and editorial staff are laid off completely. In fact, Esquire pivoted to video the day I started writing this blog post:

some personal news (i know, i know): esquire has decided to end its digital features program, which means i am out of a job.

— Megan Greenwell (@megreenwell) August 7, 2017

Esquire isn’t the first publisher to do this. It started with MTV News.

You might not be surpised to hear this — after all, the word “television” makes up two of the three letters in MTV. But after an organizational restructuring at MTV in 2015, long-form editorial and video content about politics, culture, and social issues helped improve the network’s ratings and engagement on web properties. MTV News staffed its team with content creators who produced documentary-style videos and 4,000-6,000-word long-form written pieces — most of whom were let go in June of this year, when MTV News “pivoted” to create more short-form music and entertainment video over long-form editorial pieces.

Twitter was flooded with tweets from former employees announcing their newfound employment status, friends calling for publishers to hire them, and content creators from all media decrying — and defending — the strategic pivot.

I’ve been laid off by @MTVNews. I’ll miss seeing my brilliant, talented colleagues, and I look forward to continuing my career elsewhere.

— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) June 28, 2017

.@MTVNews I’m a fan of video. I work in video. But behind strong video, you also need strong storytellers. https://t.co/LBgJZpi9mw

— Traci Lee (@traciglee) June 28, 2017

I’ve been in digital media for 12 years. One thing I’ve learned is that nobody wants to read anything over 1,000 words. MTV is more proof.

— Andy Gray (@AndyGray35) June 28, 2017

But the pivot didn’t stop there.

Over the past year thus far, several major publishers have pivoted, structured, reorganized, and refocused on creating video content — at the cost of writers’ and editors’ jobs. Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, Vice, and HuffPost have all focused efforts on creating short-form video content — and all have laid off writers and editors. One publication — Vocativ — laid off its entire editorial staff “to focus exclusively on video content.”

In fact, “pivoting to video” has become such a ubiquitous term in the digital space that it’s become a joke in and of itself.

Quit doing this. No one wants video. We all read faster than people talk, it eats up data, and you can’t watch video on the toilet at work. https://t.co/cctmoHKiwz

— Peter Lynn (@Peter_Lynn) July 21, 2017

the WH communications department is pivoting to video

— Gideon Resnick (@GideonResnick) July 31, 2017

But funny tweets notwithstanding, we need to talk about why you shouldn’t pivot to video — at least, not fully.

What Pivoting to Video Is All About

Let’s call a spade a spade — publishers are pivoting to video to make money.

In the age of pre-roll and mid-roll advertising, it’s harder to ignore a video ad when it’s the only thing standing between you and a video you want to watch. Ads are easier to ignore when they live in the side margins and on top of written long-form articles, so publishers might see a greater opportunity to make money from placing video ads over video content.

And the biggest piece of the digital advertising pie now goes not to advertisers or publishers — but to Facebook and Google. So it’s understandable that media companies and publications are doing whatever they can to drive ROI on the content they produce.

But the pivot to video isn’t happening at random — these strategic reorganizations are also a nod to the growing popularity of video content, which we can’t deny — nor would we want to.

We’ve blogged at length about video being engaging, in-demand, and a smart way for brands to diversify content and connect with audiences in new ways. And making videos is smart — it just shouldn’t be the only content your brand produces.

It’s true that videos are growing in popularity — your audience wants to see videos, videos drive results for your business, and videos are an extremely favorable medium across different social media platforms. It’s also true…

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