How-to videos are on the rise, and present a huge opportunity for advertisers to engage with brands in a highly positive way. As part of Netimperative’s Digital Minds series, Tom Laidlaw, CEO of Videojug, speaks about the power of useful branded content, the long-term implications of social media and the forthcoming YouView web TV platform.
How does your business help people or markets be more efficient or more effective vs traditional approaches?
Videojug helps people to ‘get good at life’. As the original pioneer of ‘How-To’ online video, we’ve been producing professional, instructional online video content since 2006. Our huge, ever-expanding library of video content enables people everywhere to access straightforward and valuable knowledge and advice on every subject imaginable. For advertisers Videojug gives targeted access to people searching for a solution to a problem, through video advertising inventory – proven to impact brand awareness more powerfully than on-page advertising.
As well as grow, since launch we’ve broadened our offering. We now also use our expertise to help brands communicate with, and educate, consumers through branded online video. There’s a huge opportunity for brands to benefit from the power of branded online video and various independent brand surveys on Videojug show an impressive uplift in purchase intent after watching a bespoke film. The news is starting to spread; Unilever chief marketing officer Keith Weed recently cited branded video content as the key to building engagement with consumers.
With our recently launched knowledge and revenue sharing website, Videojug Pages, we are also empowering enthusiasts and experts around the world to publish and monetise their knowledge online. We have seen in recent years that opinion-formers are using blogs and websites to profile and establish a reputation for themselves, publish their views, share their knowledge with others, address people’s questions and make money from it. Videojug Pages now enables anyone with an internet connection to do this, quickly and easily.
Of course consumers now expect to access the content whenever they want and wherever they are, and in September we took Videojug content mobile with the launch of our apps for iPhone and iPad, which have been a huge success.
How did you get into the digital sector?
It’s the only sector I’ve ever worked in. I started out in the first days of the web back in 1994 –with a proto internet start-up offering website hosting and tools. The space has always felt exciting and that it matters – it’s dynamic, constantly evolving and ultimately it has proved revolutionary.
What’s most impressed you recently and why?
That’s not so easy, there’re a lot of clever folk out there doing amazing stuff. One thing I would single out is a speech I heard recently from Anthony Rose, CTO at YouView. He’s clearly a brilliant mind, but further I think after a long journey what they are trying to achieve there is potentially very special. An open platform for content and content applications, that blends on-demand with live broadcast could have gone terribly wrong, still might, but the thinking behind it’s very impressive.
What frustrates you most at the moment in digital?
It’s the buying side. Planners and buyers don’t have it easy, but the frustration is that media budget can flow to places that don’t really do it justice, simply because it’s easier to do and justify. Nothing new there I suppose, and online video is relatively new so inevitably understanding of the space is still patchy within brands and agencies. When you’ve got a product that’s as effective and targeted as made-for-online video is, you want to the world to know – but we can only explain it to so many people at once.
What’s over hyped and under hyped right now?- and why?
Technology developments or trends tend to be overhyped in the short term but the long-term implications are often over-looked. Social media is potentially in this category. There’s a lot of focus on developing and delivering a social media and innovation but, with many notable exceptions, most of the time it doesn’t actually do very much in terms of generating meaningful business, traffic or whatever your metric is.
What I don’t see so much of is the thinking that will tackle the long-term shifts in behaviour that we’re seeing. If people are interconnected and self-publishing/promoting across platforms via Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Foursquare etc for very significant amounts of their time, how does my proposition need to evolve to be available, useful and relevant? The answers to these questions are complex and will emerge over time to those who consider them properly and experiment bravely.
What was the ‘ah!’ moment for you – the moment where you suddenly realised the scale the web or digital marketing would play in your business?
Videojug is a purely digital business and what excites me is our opportunity as a publisher to answer the world’s questions through the medium of online video. This might not sound so big the first time you say it, but then you think about it and the penny drops. Short-form video reaches consumers when and where they need it; video is a fabulous advertising medium; devices and platforms are moving to support and promote video content; and of course there are endless questions for us to answer!
Many senior directors still just don’t get the scale of what’s happening. How do you convince them?
That’s not a problem we have here. Our board and investors really do ‘get it’- that’s why the company exists! The only issue for me is expectation management – we’re doing a great deal but it can never happen quickly enough for an ambitious company like ours.
What’s different in the formula for creating successful teams / companies / products in the digital space?
Product-wise it’s a straightforward formula, simple to say but less so to do. It’s always about innovation, optimisation and scale. You need to offer something new and / or better, which is part inspiration, part market research but is often simply the product of a very good idea and a lot of chutzpah.
You need to continuously optimise it of course, you never get it right at first so watch, learn, do it again, repeat. Data is everything and customers don’t lie through behaviour. Lastly there’s no point in thinking small. A leader of a business I respect has “go large or go home” on his email footer. Say it how you want, but I like that. Teams are different and there’s no one way to get it right, but you need committed people with talent, always; and you must have a vision that they understand and believe in.
What’s the most common mistake people make in digital media or marketing?
Probably it’s still thinking of digital as a separate component of their marketing mix. The days of a ‘digital strategy’ that is developed by a different team or department, or as an afterthought or separate piece should be long, long gone. But out there in the milieu of businesses up and down the country I still sense this is far from the reality.
If you could go back in time to a key ‘digital moment’, where and when would it be – and why?
Picking one is hard. Anyone in technology stands on the shoulders of giants, but the key moment has to be the invention of the WWW, it changed the world forever. Enabling the instant global publication of information in an open standard means that we live in a world where you can know anything that is known without leaving your chair. I marvel at that.
Where do you spend your time most online, and why?
In terms of time, it’s email, analytics, our sites, competitor sites. Probably true of most web business managers. Digital services that I love, not counting our own, include the Guardian iPhone app – still fabulous, Around Me app, iPlayer and Spotify. I’m not a compulsive networker, but LinkedIn is also pretty useful.
What are the big changes yet to come, in marketing, media and beyond?
Branded and ad-funded content, sponsorship and product placement will all develop. This is important because mainstream consumers will put their media worlds together around them using on-demand and cross-platform services, slipping in and out of and blending video, social and utility activities. Smartphones, netbooks, tablets and wireless will drive this and we’re only seeing the beginning of it now. Everyone will be always online, they’ll be assuming any content, information, service and anyone they know is available at any time. We’ve been talking about this for years, but we will see it very soon not just in early adopters but across society.
Social media that creates value: If applicable, what’s the role for consumers in creating content and value in your sector?
I’m glad you asked me that! I mentioned above that we’ve just launched Videojug Pages, a new knowledge and revenue sharing platform specifically to enable experts and enthusiasts to become online publishers, sharing and monetising their knowledge. There is huge value in the knowledge held by almost anyone and we want to help people tap into it. More broadly, I think that the advent of social media has had a positive effect on brands, forcing them to self-awareness, like someone at a party who starts off boring on about themselves but learns to listen and ask questions to be considered interesting. Brands are now looking at how to be helpful, rather than simply invasive.
Who should own digital strategies in an organisation (brand/marketing director, agency, technology team, CEO, operations director) and why?
This depends of course, on what sort of organisation it is and who is in these roles. Generally I would say it is very dangerous for any business to rely on an agency to own anything, they are there for specific insight and expertise. Digital needs to run through the business and be owned by those most able to appreciate and deliver on the opportunities.
What will be mainstreaming by this time next year?
YouView, branded video content and Android-based tablet devices.
And any final words of advice to people developing their own digital careers?
Firstly, focus on what you’re good at and enjoy, it’s a long road. More specifically, digital is ideas and analysis – imagine, test and refine. Always look for ways to get closer to the consumers of your service, to gather the behavioural data they generate and improve accordingly. Whether you’re a developer, marketeer, product manager, salesperson, this will always take you forwards.
• Tom Laidlaw, CEO, Videojug
• Age: 38
• Career: Tom’s career in digital media spans over 15 years, the early part of which was spent at AOL where he was a Senior Producer, Entertainment. He then took on the role of Head of Online Broadcasting at the then Capital Interactive division of Capital Radio, moving on to become New Media Director of the consolidated radio group GCapMedia. Notable industry firsts whilst there include the launch of the first music industry-licensed online radio stations, various commercial interactive services for mobile and the personalised online radio service, mi-xfm.
• In 2008, Tom joined Videojug (www.videojug.com), the original UK pioneer of ‘how-to’ online video, as Product and Operations Director. Today he is CEO of both Videojug and its newly launched knowledge and revenue sharing website, Videojug Pages (http://pages.videojug.com).
• Company website: www.videojug.com