The NewFronts are a media event where content companies present their bold ideas in digital video to advertisers and the press. Media companies can trot out their signature content of the upcoming season, touting sponsors who enable #gamechanging video content. The NewFronts are a place to reach for the stars in order to make a tasteful cashgrab, announcing content that only your content company is capable of creating and selling.
- The Economist is bringing longform content from text to video.
- FullScreen Media is launching two channels called HisScreen and HerScreen in partnership with Mattel to promote HotWheels.
- PopSugar is launching a politically-charged web series called Know Your Vote with the goal of registering 1 million voters.
- Yahoo! promises to stream more Major League Baseball games.
Ad buyers are are used to being wowed by the television industry's Upfronts, which is the widely accepted process where television executives show advertisers their planned programming for the upcoming television season.
A spectacle like the NewFronts is necessary to make the same advertisers feel comfortable about spending money in the largely undefined frontier of digital video. The top platforms and content providers in digital media have come together for greater good of siphoning money from traditional television ad buying. Together, these new media companies and old media companies with digital arms can effectively sell their big ideas. The NewFronts are where next year's virtual reality, 360 degree video, and Snapchat story scripted series content will be sold.
The Newfronts started in 2008, but this year's conclave of digital video content creators is particularly interesting because of the shifting format of the digital content farm. Reliance on video as the most monetizable realm of digital content adds some urgency, if not despair to digital media companies pitching content to ad buyers that may very well not exist without a sponsor. The Newfronts are an exercise in education and normalization. Educate the ad buyers about the scale of digital content companies and inform them of the reach. Let them know who is watching and how influence-able they are. Normalize them to newly define industry standards and jargon so they don't question any metrics or compare the influence to that of TV. Instead, the Newfronts serve as a brainwashing process to make the realm of digital video worthy of more than a sliver of media buying budgets.
In 2015, Facebook touted 8 billion daily video views. Snapchat achieves over 10 billion daily video views. YouTube boasts on its own PR site that it has invested in premium creators who have achieved over a billion views. BuzzFeed, a digital content company rather than a video platform, boasted 7 billion monthly video views across platforms. Conde Nast boasted 2.8 billion video views last year. With so many platforms, content companies, and billions of video views, the Newfronts are a place to pitch the content that will be seen, and get it bought by brands that need to reach people who watch content.
Here are the most disruptive announcements of the 2016 #NewFronts that will change the way brands and viewers view the value of video content forever.
The #DamnDaniel teens are launching a scripted series for Snapchat.
#DamnDaniel was a trending hashtag that captured the hearts of America as a teenage boy swooned over his friend's signature look and attire. Captured in a Snapchat story and uploaded to Youtube, the clip went viral, ending up on popular viral meme aggregator Ellen. It's no surprise that Ellen will use #DamnDaniel as a cornerstone of her new Ellen Digital Network, which is launched in partnership with Warner Brothers, to create an original series on Snapchat. If you are an ad buyer and haven't sponsored a Snapchat series yet, you might as well keep wasting your money on "popular" CBS sitcoms. There's no way to reach purebred Millennials dumping your money into a format that isn't built for mobile or short attention spans.
Virtual reality content is here, and it WILL be sponsored.
I haven't personally consumed that much virtual reality content, but as I understand it, it is the next realm of content beyond even video. Even though it's not widely consumed as of yet, most platforms and publishers believe that it is what's next. Needless to say, it's important that before popular virtual reality content is actually consumed that is must be sponsored.
If you are considering buying your way towards a VR-sponsorship, know that your name could be attached to a widely-publicized piece of content that tears down barriers. One day there will be so much virtual reality content that is sold at even higher prices than today's video content, requiring a new #VRFronts. Your brand should get on board before the market rate shifts even higher.
Only new media publishers make optimal video content for women, Millennials, men, children, moms, dads, and every possible demographic.
The NewFronts are filled with pitches that mix old formats of content like scripted, reality, and young-adult novels, with new mediums like Snapchat Story, Facebook's 360 video, and Instagram video. If you have reach on a platform, your job at the Newfronts is to let ad buyers know that this type of content matters more to #Millennials. It doesn't offend female Millennials. And it highly appeals to groups of people who have money and love buying things. Brands need to know that humans love content across platforms, and wasting money on traditional television advertisements might not reach them on all of those platforms. The most important demographic just doesn't pay attention to outdated mediums in our post-DVR, binge watching, video-thinkpiece watching era of content.
Celebrities like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson have lots of followers who love content.
The Rock boasts over 100 million followers across social platforms, which is why it is natural that he built a digital content arm of his personal brand. Johnson said, "Other than my family, social media is my strongest relationship and it's allowed me to connect on a very direct and personal level with fans globally." In case you didn't know, people love following celebrities and consume their content because their voice represents a trusted authority. In teaming with YouTube to launch a channel, The Rock can bring premium content to people. Most importantly, people will actually care about it because it is backed by a celebrity. Despite pushing out content in this digital medium, The Rock understands that having monetized reach across all mediums important, surely keeping a stronghold on film and television.
Many of the media narratives around the NewFronts create a binary in which digital video or television is much more relevant than the other. Realistically, both ad buyers and content farms that now make video continue to spread their presences across old and new media. Whether it is view counts, Nielsen ratings, or concurrent viewers on a Buzzfeed Facebook Live video of employees trying to make a watermelon explode with only the force of rubberbands, the relevance of any one medium is ultimately determined by how much money it can make.
The major players in digital video had to be at the NewFronts, in the event that ad buyers actually thought it was a real event. Trotting out celebrities, wining and dining influential people and businesses who spend money, and framing relevance is what eventually occurs in most mature industries and the conclaves that keep the industry wheels spinning, so it's no surprise that the NewFronts are the evangelizing force for digital media companies. Disruptive content is hard to create, but the NewFronts accomplish something much easier. Content companies are doing their best to aggregate their reach across platforms into a coherent pitch, rather than letting the cross-platform model be interpreted as a temporary solution for the fractalized state of online media.