A session on online video this morning at the DDC conference explored some of the opportunities for directories to integrate video on their sites and video ad units in the toolbox of their sales reps.
The thought is that this can be a nice user retention tool — in line with users’ growing affinities toward online video — as well as a draw for advertisers who are increasingly asking for video ads.
This inventory is flying off the shelf, according to Jeff Folckemer, COO of White Directory Publishers. Folckemer is selling roughly 50 video ads to small businesses per week, and growing. Interestingly, White has adopted a low barrier model for integrating video in the IYP environment.
Instead of sending camera crews on location, he simply arms his sales reps with digital cameras, and they each shoot seven to 10 pictures of a business, regardless of a sale. This is a nice idea, but will have to prove itself in scale, as it begs some questions about quality of execution in practice (sales reps getting good shots, or getting raised eyebrows from confused local merchants).
“Our costs are the price of a digital camera,” he says, adding that these stills are then sent away to a producer, who splices them together in a slideshow “pan & scan” type video (the “Ken Burns effect“). See an example here.
The price point for this is $50 per month with the opportunity for an upsell to a professionally shot on-location video a la TurnHere. These videos then live on IYP listings (embedded video) as well as businesses’ Web sites and other distribution sources, even YouTube.
TurnHere VP of Bus Dev John McWeeny was also on the panel, along with Citysearch VP of Product Strategies Rob Angel. Citysearch, with the help of TurnHere, has integrated small-business video ads more than any other local search or IYP destination (see TKG Advisory Citysearch’s New Era: Video and Personalization).
Video is just the beginning, according to Angel. Integrating more user-centric tools to put a user inside a restaurant for a more holistic experience is the company’s goal. This includes user reviews, menus from Menupages and other things that appeal to as many senses as possible (smell might be difficult) to move away from a static directory listing.
Getting on Board
The panel was very bullish (expected) on video opportunities, especially Folckemer (unexpected), whose White Directory has been late to the online game but has clearly begun to make up for lost time with a progressive online feature development roadmap.
Currently, 10 percent of White’s revenues are digital, and Folckemer projects that to increase to 20 percent in ’08. This will include $3 million to $4 million in revenues from video this year and about 5 million uniques per month.
“It’s not a large chunk of overall revenues, but it’s a step in the right direction,” says Folckemer, who believes that Yellow Pages is a commodity and differentiation needs to happen with online tools — not to mention the need to make up for losses in print.
“For those that don’t innovate online and launch new products, EBITDA will drop like a rock,” he says. This was part of the “if you don’t do it, somebody else will” attitude that was pervasive throughout the conference.
The missing link for Folckemer and many IYPs will be video production partners to shoot the “upsell” videos, which will increasingly grow in demand over his entry level moving slideshows.
Cue TurnHere: McWeeny ended the session by expressing that large publishers of all kinds are its sweet spot. McWeeny was subsequently flooded with offline audience members after the session, and TurnHere will likewise be flooded by the video opportunities and expanding video ad inventory opening up (i.e., Superpages, Citysearch, Yellowbook.com).
As this medium, and this inventory, grows, video producers such as TurnHere could be sitting pretty. We’ll keep a close eye on how this shakes out, especially for directory publishers and their IYP properties.