Huffington Post CEO Talks About Online Video

In this audio transcription of an interview that took place at the 2013 Dublin Web Summit in Dublin, Fergal Gallagher speaks to the CEO of The Huffington Post, Jimmy Maymann, about the increasing importance of online video. The original recording can be found at the bottom of the page.

(Please note that the DWS was a very crowded event and parts of the original audio interview were subsumed by the noise of background activity.)

Fergal Gallagher: What are the trends emerging in digital media [and] with the Huffington Post in particular?

Jimmy Maymann: …One of the things, obviously, that we have invested in is online video. I sold my online video business to AOL and I am obviously still a big believer in that. But at the same time online video is still in its infancy which means that there is a lot of money that will come into video from the advertiser[s] in the coming years. The reason for that is that right now if you look at the overall media consumption, a lot of that media consumption is, actually, online video. And from the same lens if you look at online advertising spend there’s a big gap.

So, the advertisers right now are not spending. The gap is almost 15%… We always know with new formats is that you want to spend where the eyeballs are. So, I think video is at an inflection point where there will be some catch-up on [the] spending side. At the same time what’s also interesting with video is that video is starting to get the scale that advertisers… wanted for a long time. Because for a long time you weren’t able to buy a big enough audience on video and now you are starting to have that scale. Which means, that slowly, you’ll also see TV budgets moving into online. And in the past, really you’ve only seen that… the investment in online video came from the digital marketing budget. So, TV budgets are obviously much bigger. It’s a different game. So, as soon as you start to see those inflections TV buyers want to buy video at scale and that’s gonna be very exciting for the people that have inventory…

FG: You can see it nearly flipping the way it is now where you’ve more eyeballs on internet video than TV and therefore the money will follow.

JM: That’s a very good way of summarising. It needs to be very easy for a TV buyer to compare. “OK, if I buy some TV it’s going to cost me X, and I can have the same audience on online video and it’s actually cheaper or broader reach or gives me something else so it adds to the TV campaign.” Those are the things that will move the needle in online video.

FG: When you are talking about that online video you might associate The Huffington Post with articles. In recent times we have seen a lot of new digital media. Just last week it [was] announced that Glen Greenwald is partnered up with a founder of eBay. Buzzfeed is getting huge… Who are you competing with? Is it TV? Is it other online newspapers?

JM: The way I look at The Huffington Post is that it is an online media platform. We deliver news in many different ways. But it’s always been about creating a community, starting conversations, having bloggers contribute, really bringing everyone together around topics. The same thing that we do in video… You say many people think about HuffPost as a news site which is another reason on the video side we just last year invested heavily in video. We hired a hundred people. They are just doing HuffPost Live which is 12 hours a day, 5 days a week — an online video streaming experience.

So, we are definitely doubling down on this. It’s a huge area for us. And now we are starting to see that it’s really working at scale. Last month we had 80 million video streams and we are now looking at how we can take that into more traditional media. So, we have just done a deal with iHeart radio where we will actually have our own radio channel…

I don’t see the players you are talking about as competitors. What I and we want to do is try to build the next-generation CNN. We want to be a global media company and to do that you need to have more than in the old days… You need to be able to offer digital services across platforms.

FG: Are those new platforms today more monetizable?

JM: I think video is one of the platforms that [is] more monetizable. I think one of the challenges that you have with traditional online is… over the last five, ten years, banner advertising has only gone one way and that’s down and the click-through rates are very low and the CPMs are low. So, we need new formats and video is one of them. Mobile is another format that is popping up. As mobile becomes more and more important the whole buzz in the US is about native advertising. It’s becoming an important revenue stream also.

FG: So this is digital advertising where there is an advertorial in the digital content.

JM: It’s really taking the old-school advertorial and moving it into a digital environment… And, obviously,the thing you can do in a digital environment is that it is not a one-off, it is an ongoing experience, it’s evolving over time, it’s story-telling at scale. And then with an advertiser bringing it to you right there, they are actually paying for that experience and I think that is also a very interesting way. We are seeing that it is different to the content that we are creating. We are seeing that the readers… enjoy that much more than they enjoy traditional advertising. There’s an added value, it’s not just a product sell. It’s actually stories that are relevant to whatever section they are in.

FG: Have you enjoyed the Web Summit so far?

JM: It’s an amazing event. I remember two, three, four years ago when it was only five hundred people — it’s now ten thousand people. The quality of the speakers, the line-up is impressive. So I have to say… is also the reason why I decided I had to stop in Dublin because it is really a European event that has put Dublin on the map, I think, from a tech and media perspective and startup scene it’s great for Dublin and I think it’s a great event.

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