Pivot to video

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

"Pivot to video" is a phrase referring to the trend, starting in 2015, of media publishing companies cutting staff resources for written content (generally published on their own web sites) in favor of short-form video content (often published on third-party platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, and TikTok).[1][2] The controversial trend is generally described by publishers as a response to changes in social media traffic and changes in the media consumption habits of younger audiences. But according to commentators, it is in reality driven by advertising; only advertisers, not consumers, prefer video over text.[3][4][5] Due to the numerous jobs lost as a result, the term eventually became a euphemism for layoffs, death, and termination.[6]

Commentators have also noted a lack of transparency and accuracy in the viewership metrics reported by platforms such as Facebook, pointing out that abrupt shifts in platforms' proprietary algorithms can have devastating effects on publishers' viewership, traffic, and revenue.[2][7][8][9] Following a scandal in which Facebook revealed it had artificially inflated numbers to its advertisers about how long viewers watched ads, many journalists and industry analysts concluded that the shift to video was based on such misleading or inaccurate metrics, which created a false impression that there was customer demand for additional video content.[5][10][11]


Streaming media technology has been available since the early 1990s, though it was relatively low-fidelity and not widely available until the mid-2000s.[12] In 2007, legacy media publishers including the New York Times, Washington Post and Time Inc. created new divisions to develop web videos, and Facebook launched its video platform.[13] Twitter purchased micro-video service Vine in October 2012, began adding native video streaming in late 2014, and acquired video-streaming service Periscope in January 2015.[14]

An August 2014 profile on BuzzFeed noted the publisher's large investment into video production, and observed that "the future of BuzzFeed may not even be on BuzzFeed.com. One of the company’s nascent ideas, BuzzFeed Distributed, will be a team of 20 people producing content that lives entirely on other popular platforms, like Tumblr, Instagram or Snapchat."[7][15]

On 7 January 2015, Facebook issued a statement about "the shift to video," reporting that "since June 2014, Facebook has averaged more than 1 billion video views every day."[16] Media critic John Herrman argued that "What the shift to Facebook video means is that Facebook is more interested in hosting the things media companies make than just spreading them, that it views links to outside pages as a problem to be solved, and that it sees Facebook-hosted video as an example of the solution."[17]

In February 2015, the digital video-journalism publisher NowThis announced that it would operate without a home page, producing content to be published directly on social media platforms.[18][19]

In April 2016, Mashable fired much of its editorial staff, attempting to pivot away from hard news coverage while "growing Mashable across every platform" and doubling down on branded content and video.[20][21] By December 2017, following a sale to Ziff Davis, Mashable retreated from this focus on video; Bernard Gershon, president of GershonMedia, said that the announcement of many such "pivots" were actually aimed primarily at investors.[22]

By 2017, "advertiser interest in video [was] insatiable... Any CFO is going to say 'How can we get more video?'" according to an executive of the publishers' trade association Digital Content Next.[23] Publishers such as Vanity Fair, the Washington Post, and Sports Illustrated began adapting their own articles into cheap video content, either dictated by a newsreader or animated as a slideshow with captions, which could be shared on social platforms or even played alongside the articles themselves.[24][25]

June 2017 saw numerous high-profile pivots to video. Vocativ laid off at least 20 staff, including its entire newsroom, explaining that "as the industry evolves, we are undertaking a strategic shift to focus exclusively on video content that will be distributed via social media and other platforms."[26] Fox Sports eliminated its entire writing staff to focus on creating "premium video across all platforms."[27] And MTV News announced a restructuring that would cut its writing team. Less than two years earlier, MTV News had hired Grantland co-founder Dan Fierman to lead an significant investment in "longform" political and cultural reporting, but Fierman left in April 2017, and in June MTV announced it was "shifting resources into short-form video content more in line with young people's media consumption habits."[28][29]

In July, Vice Media laid off at least 60 employees, including the editor-in-chief of Vice Sports, while expanding video production.[30]

August 2017 saw Mic cut ten writers and directed the remainder of the newsroom to generate videos for social platforms. CEO Chris Altchek said "When you think about how many hours people spend watching video versus reading, the audience has already spoken."[23] The move was ultimately unsuccessful, and Mic laid off the majority of its staff a year later.[31][32]

Movie Pilot CEO Tobi Bauckhage explained his company's fall 2017 layoffs as part of moving "from a text-based publishing model to video... a reaction to the fact that Facebook has changed their algorithms in favor of video instead of referral traffic over the last 12 months and we were losing money in the publishing bit of our business."[33] As part of the company's change in direction, the majority of its staff was laid off and its parent company was sold to Webedia.[34]

In November 2017, magazine publisher Condé Nast cut jobs, reduced the frequency of several magazines, and shut down the print edition of Teen Vogue, then invested significant new resources in video production, with a senior executive saying "In the next 24 months, I hope that video is half our business... It’s critical. It’s the macro trend of content consumption."[35][36]

In February 2018, Vox Media cut approximately 50 employees, primarily those assigned to "social video," as Vox CEO Jim Bankoff admitted that those efforts were not "viable audience or revenue growth drivers."[37]

As euphemism[edit]

Journalist Brian Feldman says that "'Pivoting to video' has become a business strategy for digital publishers common enough in recent months to be a kind of cliché — a slick way to describe something else: layoffs."[6] In response, writers use the phrase as gallows humor shorthand for death or cancellation, as in "how do i tell my bf i want our relationship to pivot to video" (SkyNews' Mollie Goodfellow)[38] or "Horse broke its leg, so we had to take it out back and help it 'pivot to video'" (blogger Anil Dash).[39]

Facebook metrics controversy[edit]

In September 2016, Facebook admitted that it had reported artificially inflated numbers to its advertisers about how long viewers watched ads leading to an overestimation of 60-80%[40] Facebook apologized in an official statement and in multiple staff appearances at New York Advertising Week.[41][42] Two months later, Facebook disclosed additional errors in audience metrics.[43][44] In October 2018, a California federal court unsealed the text of a class action lawsuit filed by advertisers against Facebook, alleging that Facebook had known since 2015 that its viewership numbers were inflated "by some 150 to 900 percent" and waited over a year before taking action to disclose or fix the problem, citing internal Facebook communications that "somehow there was no progress on the task for the year" and decisions to "obfuscate the fact that we screwed up the math."[45][46] In response, some journalists and industry analysts complained that the industry-wide "pivot to video" was based on lies, though some publishers disagreed.[10]


  1. ^ Weissman, Cale Guthrie (21 Feb 2018). "Here's An Abridged Timeline Of Digital Media's Pivot To Video". FastCompany. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  2. ^ a b Moore, Heidi N. (26 Sep 2017). "The secret cost of pivoting to video". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  3. ^ "What's driving the publisher pivot to video, in 5 charts (hint: ad $$$)". 31 August 2017. Retrieved 2020-03-24.
  4. ^ Schonfeld, Zach (30 Jun 2017). "MTV News—And Other Sites—Are Frantically Pivoting to Video. It Won't Work". Newsweek. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  5. ^ a b Oremus, Will (18 October 2018). "The Real Lie About Online Video Runs Deeper Than Facebook's False Metrics". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2020-03-24.
  6. ^ a b Feldman, Brian (29 Jun 2017). "The Lesson of MTV News Is Not 'Longform Is Dead'". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  7. ^ a b Isaac, Mike (10 Aug 2014). "50 Million New Reasons BuzzFeed Wants to Take Its Content Far Beyond Lists". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  8. ^ Draper, Kevin (9 May 2016). "Internet Video Views Is A 100 Percent Bullshit Metric". Gawker. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  9. ^ Benes, Ross (21 Sep 2017). "Side effect of the pivot to video: audience shrinkage". Digiday. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  10. ^ a b Mullin, Benjamin (18 Oct 2018). "Are Facebook's Bad Metrics to Blame for 'Pivot to Video'? Publishers Disagree". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  11. ^ Meyer, Alexis C. Madrigal, Robinson (18 October 2018). "How Facebook's Chaotic Push Into Video Cost Hundreds of Journalists Their Jobs". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2020-03-24.
  12. ^ Zambelli, Alex (1 Mar 2013). "A history of media streaming and the future of connected TV". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  13. ^ Andersen, Kurt (24 Oct 2007). "You Must Be Streaming". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  14. ^ Blattberg, Eric (12 Jan 2015). "What native video means for Twitter — and its users". Digiday. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  15. ^ Buchanan, Matt (11 Aug 2014). "Content Distributed". The Awl. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  16. ^ "What the Shift to Video Means for Creators". Facebook. 7 Jan 2015. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  17. ^ Herrman, John (8 Jan 2015). "Territory Annexed". Archived from the original on 6 February 2015.
  18. ^ Barr, Jeremy (6 Feb 2015). "NowThis scraps its website, goes all-in on social". Politico. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  19. ^ Herrman, John (5 Feb 2015). "The Next Internet Is TV". The Awl. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  20. ^ Kulwin, Noah (7 Apr 2016). "Mashable Fires News Staff, Replaces Executives as Part of Pivot to Video Infotainment". Recode. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  21. ^ Cashmore, Pete (7 Apr 2016). "Today I Sent This Note to The Mashable Team". LinkedIn. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  22. ^ Patel, Sahil (8 December 2017). "Mashable is reeling in its video ambitions after Ziff Davis sale". Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  23. ^ a b Bloomberg News (29 Aug 2017). "Fire Writers, Make Videos Is Latest Web Recipe for Publishers". Ad Age. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  24. ^ Curtis, Bryan (3 Jul 2017). "What "Pivoting to Video" Really Means". The Ringer. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  25. ^ Killingsworth, Silvia (30 Jun 2017). "When The Video Plays You". The Awl. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  26. ^ Funke, Daniel (14 Jun 2017). "Vocativ lays off entire editorial staff in shift to video". Poynter Institute. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  27. ^ Shaw, Lucas (26 Jun 2017). "Fox Sports Cuts Web Writing Staff to Invest More in Online Video". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  28. ^ Gensler, Andy (28 Jun 2017). "MTV Restructuring News Department, Shifting to Emphasis on Video (Updated)".
  29. ^ Holloway, Daniel (28 Jun 2017). "MTV News Shifts Toward Video, Targets Younger Audience (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  30. ^ Jarvey, Natalie (21 Jul 2017). "Vice Media Lays Off At Least 60 Employees Amid Video Expansion". Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  31. ^ Ohlheiser, Abby. "A pivot to video couldn't save Mic. The news outlet has laid off most of its staff". Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  32. ^ Weissman, Cale Guthrie (29 November 2018). "Mic lays off most of its staff as the pivot-to-video bloodbath reaches its zenith". Fast Company. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  33. ^ Spangler, Todd (7 Dec 2017). "Movie Pilot's Sale to Webedia Came After Huge Layoffs in Pivot to Video". Variety. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  34. ^ Spangler, Todd (8 December 2017). "Movie Pilot's Sale to Webedia Came After Huge Layoffs in Pivot to Video". Retrieved 2020-10-17.
  35. ^ Ember, Sydney (2 Nov 2017). "Condé Nast Ends Teen Vogue's Print Run, Plans to Cut 80 Jobs". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  36. ^ Safronova, Valeriya (4 Apr 2018). "What the 'Pivot to Video' Looks Like at Condé Nast". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  37. ^ Mullin, Benjamin (21 Feb 2018). "Vox Media Cuts About 50 Employees, Scales Back on Social Video". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  38. ^ Dumenco, Simon (28 Sep 2017). "Why the 'Pivot to Video' Has Failed". Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  39. ^ West, John (26 Jul 2017). "Publishers are desperately pivoting to video—but they should be standing up to Facebook". Quartz.
  40. ^ Vranica, Suzanne and Jack Marshall (22 Sep 2016). "Facebook Overestimated Key Video Metric for Two Years". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  41. ^ Fischer, David (23 Sep 2016). "Facebook Video Metrics Update". Facebook Business. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  42. ^ Fiegerman, Seth (27 Sep 2016). "Facebook goes on apology tour following video metric mess up". CNN. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  43. ^ Fiegerman, Seth (16 Nov 2016). "Facebook admits it messed up more ad metrics". CNN. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  44. ^ "An Update on Metrics and Reporting". Facebook Newsroom. 16 Nov 2016. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  45. ^ Vranica, Suzanne (16 Oct 2018). "Advertisers Allege Facebook Failed to Disclose Key Metric Error for More Than a Year". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  46. ^ Kates, Graham (17 Oct 2018). ""Far from an honest mistake": Facebook accused of inflating ad data". CBS News. Retrieved 2018-10-18.