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The Huffington Post: “Video is a linchpin of our growth strategy”

Yaoshiang Ho,  VP, Head of Business Development, The Huffington Post

Yaoshiang Ho,
VP, Head of Business Development,
The Huffington Post

As a media organisation, The Huffington Post remains way ahead of the curve – as it has since its emergence almost ten years ago. Today, its innovation is centred on the development of its streaming video arm, where it has showed unstinting commitment and enjoyed significant success.

This week IP&TV News spoke to Yaoshiang Ho, Vice President, Head of Business Development, about The Huffington Post’s plans for an increasingly multimedia future…

We know you oversee some very interesting work at the The Huffington Post. Could you please give us some examples of how video is playing an increasingly significant and central role to the group?

Video is a linchpin of our future growth strategy for all the reasons we know – every chart and graph shows that video consumption and monetization is both a large healthy business, and ripe for new entrants.

HuffPost Live is the core of our video strategy. It’s led by Roy Sekoff, the founding editor of The Huffington Post. We generate eight hours of live programming five days a week from our in-house studio in New York. This live content is then edited into hundreds of short clips every week, which has allowed us to create an incredible library of original video content. This content helps to power and accompany content on huffingtonpost.com and Aol.com. We’ve recently hit 1.4bn video views in the 23 months since launch, all of it monetized at premium rates.

Key to our programming vision is our involving community – that’s part of the HuffPost DNA we’ve brought into video. We believe that anyone with “skin in the game” is worth hearing from. For example, we don’t only want the perspective of a pundit on healthcare. We also want to hear from people who have been personally impacted by Obamacare.

What have been the main challenges and achievements presented by live streaming network HuffPost Live?

Let’s start with the achievements. One major accomplishment is the great user engagement we’re seeing. We have created a very unique social and community offering. More than 22,500 guests having joined us on air from all over the world via Skype and Google Hangouts. Additionally, we have received over 1.6 million comments on the HuffPost Live platform in response to our video content. And, users are spending an average of 18 minutes on the site per visit.

Another achievement is the interest from brands like MillerCoors, Citi and American Express. They are seeing the value of our brand and audience, and have been buying our premium packages.

Additionally, the industry is also acknowledging our success. In May, HuffPost Live won its second consecutive Webby as the Best News and Information Channel. Digiday named HuffPost Live the Best Video Platform for 2013. Other awards include a Gracie and an NABJ award.

Now on to the challenges. Fundamentally, it’s about trying to stay ahead of the rapidly changing landscape. There are all kinds of changes in consumer behaviour, the regulatory landscape, industry structure, and capabilities of the players in the industry. For example, mobile consumption has grown to become more than half of HuffPosts’s audience in the 2 years since HuffPost Live launched, and we all know mobile video consumption patterns are different than desktop. Staying on top of changes, making predictions about what they mean for our business, and then testing those hypotheses is something we are doing constantly.

How do you envisage the balance between text and video playing out for media outlets such as The Huffington Post?

Text and video complement each other and each has its place depending on the audience and what they need at a specific moment. This is one of the reasons we created HuffPost Live – to take the written content and conversation that was already happening on Huffington Post to the next level in video.

What opportunities do you think the growth of the second screen present?

People are certainly watching more and more video on their phones, tablets, and laptop screens, and that’s a trend that’s only going to increase. I broadly put that concept under the “OTT” banner and it’s something we obviously believe in – just look at our apps for Smart TVs, iOS, tablets, and Roku / other devices to get Internet video on your TV.

But looking at second screen from the perspective of stand-alone apps that enable check-ins, chat rooms, rewards, etc., well, that hasn’t been an area we think can move the needle for our business today.

I think what second screen was trying to solve was creating engagement with linear TV. At HuffPost Live, our take on that concept is much deeper – we’re trying to build the most social video experience possible by combining the first screen experience of consumption, with the second screen experience of interacting by actually encouraging the community to be on air.

Besides video, what other areas of multimedia do you expect to grow in importance over the coming years and how do you best take advantage of them?

Besides text and video, audio is the main media format we need to take a harder look at. Events are an area we’ve invested in already with successes such as our recent Thrive event. There is always more to do with involving the community – our blogging platform has been core to who we are for our entire 9 year history, but what could it become over the next 9 years? Finally, we know mobile created a very different consumption pattern – what will wearables do? People are still going to want to know when major news breaks, but is one device treated as secondary to another? Or is there room for commentary and opinion? Does lack of screen size (and assuming no good goggle / “Google Glass” type technology emerges), do wearables push consumption format back towards audio?

You’ll be appearing at TV Xperience. What is the value of attending this specific event?

The topics that TV Xperience focuses on are really critical to what so many players are dealing with on a daily basis – multiscreen experience, monetize multi-platform, using data to enhance product offering. I look forward to leaving the conference more informed, and I hope my participation will be a factor in others saying the same.

Yaoshiang Ho will be appearing at this year’s TVXperience (October 13-15 , Convene Center, New York), for booking and more info go here.

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