The top four U.S. online video content properties in comScore’s December 2013 U.S. online video rankings are well-known brand names: Google sites, driven primarily by video viewing at YouTube; Facebook; AOL; and Yahoo sites. But digital marketers can be forgiven if they aren’t as familiar with the fifth largest property, NDN.
NDN ranks ahead of Amazon sites, VEVO, Microsoft sites, Vimeo, and Turner Digital in the latest online video rankings. So, it’s worth knowing more about an online video platform that says it “is disrupting the digital media industry in all the right ways.”
Search Engine Watch (SEW) interviewed Stephen Bach (SB), the head of Business Development at NDN. Here are our questions and his answers:
SEW: NDN was founded in 2007 “to provide free solutions for online publishers and content creators.” What’s the backstory? Why did the founders believe “that technology should be free”?
SB: NDN was incorporated in 2007 and launched in 2008 with a strong focus on coverage of politics. Our official kickoff was the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver. Distribution of video to premium publishers was always part of the model, but it quickly became clear that video was the key opportunity. Also, our partners immediately looked to us for all categories of video, not just politics and hard news.
We re-calibrated and expanded our focus: seeking out the best content providers in a variety of categories and capitalizing on the existing traffic of very large publishers, which created a lot of growth early on. We always sought to match the best content to the best publishers, and in doing so, we created a premium offering for advertisers: one that allowed them to buy video at scale across the best news websites in the country with a single insertion order.
At the same time, publishers were struggling with their online video businesses. Very often, we’d see expensive video platform contracts, expensive content licenses, and lots of incremental cost that publishers would have to pay, up front, in order to power video on their website. In combination with anemic (or non-existent) video sales at the local level, video was often an upside-down business.
NDN began as a marketplace for the exchange of premium video. But as we learned more about the deficiencies of the existing online video model; it became clear that with enough scale and advertiser demand, the technology could be given away, displacing premium online video providers We found that we could actually pay publishers as an incentive to feature as much video as possible.
SEW: In 2009, NDN introduced the Digital Media Exchange. What was the initial reaction by publishers?
SB: We had strong early adoption by Chicago Sun-Times, Cox, McClatchy and the pre-AOL Huffington Post. These deals gave us a very large footprint in a short period of time.
SEW: In 2010, AP selected NDN as its syndication partner for AP’s 4,500 member and associate member sites. Was that a key moment in NDN’s history?
SB: That was definitely a critical moment. With the endorsement of then-CEO Tom Curley, AP’s executives and bureau chiefs actively encouraged their members to join the NDN platform. We gained thousands of new publishers in only a few months. AP issued a press release that said the new partnership would create the “broadest offering of video news available anywhere.” That was an instant injection of credibility and changed NDN’s direction in a very positive way.
SEW: In 2011, NDN acquired Inform Technologies, a natural language processing and semantic analysts company. In 2012, NDN acquired Mochila, the web’s leading syndication marketplace for text and photo. Did these acquisitions help accelerate NDN’s growth?
SB: Absolutely. Mochila’s infrastructure is the foundation for key NDN services, including Perfect Pixel, which gives our newsroom the ability to remotely embed videos on articles for participating publishers. (See the story by Lucia Moses in Adweek, “Video hungry newspapers let outsider play editor” .)
Inform’s rich taxonomy – which includes more than three million entities and variants – is a critical component of automating the process of matching related videos to our partners’ articles.
SEW: Today, NDN is the 5th largest online video property in the US, according to comScore’s December 2013 U.S. online video rankings. How is NDN driving more than 530 million video views per month across over 49 million unique viewers?
SB: NDN has very broad reach across thousands of America’s largest publishers. In fact, 45 of the largest 50 U.S. newspaper websites use NDN. Many of them include our player on most pages. That’s a large footprint in itself, but newspapers are only half the story. We also get significant traffic from digital-first, “new media” sites, including some of the largest and most popular political blogs.
We’re also excited to see more and more partners adopting NDN as their primary video platform. From the Chicago Tribune and Christian Science Monitor to Breitbart and Journal Broadcast Group; digital publishers are increasingly relying NDN to power their entire video content management system: leveraging our technology to host and present both original video content, as well as a variety of clips from our library of premium providers.
SEW: How is NDN shaping the future of content distribution and website monetization? Why has your integrated multimedia solution proven that it helps partners drive user engagement and generate revenue?
SB: NDN has created a premium ecosystem providing access to the best publishers and content in an extremely efficient buying environment. This opens up national advertising budgets to regional publishers, and encourages those publishers to lead with video in a far more aggressive way. We have already begun to host full pages and immersive video experiences for publishers. These feature responsive (mobile-friendly) design along with display opportunities for advertisers. These hosted experiences create more opportunities for our advertising partners and build on NDN’s mission of removing cost for publishers, while generating more engagement and revenue.