WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN THE DIGITAL MEDIA AND ADVERTISING INDUSTRIES?
I started out working in the Out Of Home (OOH) advertising industry and loved how clients could make bold and impactful statements about their brands to large audiences. I was selling large static billboards in Time Square and digital billboards were quickly eclipsing static boards. I saw how powerful and flexible digital billboards were compared to static, allowing the client the ability to quickly pivot messaging based on time of day, location, or campaign objective and I observed the rise of programmatic.
At the time, Netflix was all the rage, and streaming services were shaking up the TV industry. Content was quickly becoming democratized, giving consumers more control over when and how they watched, while traditional TV commercials could easily be skipped. Suddenly content could be consumed everywhere, across TV, mobile, desktop, tablet. I realized then that content was everything and that there was an insatiable need for it. This prompted my next move to Shutterstock, helping big media companies create more quality content with assets such as music, video, and images.
HOW DID THIS LEAD YOU TO JOIN “NEWSFLARE”?
I started to notice a real need for authenticity arise, especially around the news organizations. The coining of “Fake News” was creating distrust in the media and suddenly heavily produced stock content was ineffective and stale. The news organizations were looking for ways to break through and connect, to galvanize their audiences and bring them along for the journey, to make them feel. User-generated video (UGV) was an organic vehicle to help them tell their stories in a more meaningful way.
I had spoken with colleagues and did some research and found that there was a general feeling that UGV was low-quality and there was a preconceived notion that it was not always safe to license. There seemed to be a common sentiment that the people and companies involved in making and licensing the content were more interested in making a quick buck in ways that devalued the filmer or did too little to protect the clients. Newsflare seemed committed to getting it right on both sides. They had a loyal and passionate network of filmers and took serious measures for protecting their clients, such as creating a proprietary tool, the “Trust Algorithm” which ensured bullet-proof licensing for the companies using their UGV content. I saw the value of both the product and company.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU? WHAT DOES YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE? (YOUR APPS, PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS, ETC.)
I try to sneak in a run in the morning to get my head in a good place for the day! I check The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Daily Mail for any breaking or important news that will be areas of interest for our clients. I spend time prepping for client meetings. The pandemic has made the ability to have high-level client meetings that much easier and on any given day I can have 3-5 client meetings.
I usually have a daily meeting with my U.S team and communicate with the wider team to get alerts of strong videos coming in from our Newsdesk. They do an excellent job of gathering and highlighting the most compelling videos for our clients and prospects. To communicate with my team and clients, Google Hangout and Slack are a must. I also use HubSpot, Tableau, and Trello, which admittedly I need to get better at! I am constantly on LinkedIn as well and find it to be a valuable source for information on your network and clients.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE EVOLUTION OF UGV IN PUBLISHING AND WHERE DOES IT STAND TODAY?
UGV content came into the mainstream in 2005 after the London bombings and then shortly after, in 2006, Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, in which the person of the year was “you” was published. This was a nod to all the people who contributed to user-generated media, including YouTube, Wikipedia, and MySpace at the time. As more footage was being circulated and mobile devices continued to get technologically advanced, it became easier to capture quality footage, and publishers recognized an opportunity to use the content to engage their audiences and tell stories. Video continued to be a powerful mechanism for publishers to inform and engage audiences and journalists embraced video as a way to tell stories, with UGV often taking center stage as the story (think George Floyd, for example).
In the pandemic, the ubiquity of UGV has been powerful since traveling has been limited. The ability to tell stories from all over the world at any moment has been a driver of consumption, and that factor, juxtaposed with the gap that Trump left in the media, created a strong need for ample amounts of attention-grabbing content. The power of video has been realized and now publishers are trying to harness that power to reach the valuable younger audiences who are shifting from traditional publishing outlets to social platforms. The younger generations want bite-size reporting that emphasizes underrepresented minorities or underscores less widely known stories.
UGV is a compelling medium to deliver info to this audience, as it is visually rich content that can be easily edited with enhancements like text and music to draw young people in. Today, publishers need quick and safe access to compelling content that helps tell stories in a digestible way that breaks through the noise, especially for the younger generations.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE GREATEST CHALLENGES WITH AUTHENTICITY, TRUST, AND CONTENT DISTRIBUTION AND LICENSING FROM UGC?
The greatest challenge for anyone using UGV is the chain of copyright. How can I know, really know, that it is real, that the filmer is really the filmer, and that the story told is represented accurately? We have really focused on this, and our technology runs algorithms and allows us to sort the good stuff and say no to the stuff that we can’t verify. This means the licensors can be confident in what they get and using it safely.
The other key challenge for licensors is finding the right content quickly and easily. The platform means we have scale and diversity and our search tools make it easy to find the real gems, and then get them quickly to the right outlets.
WITH SIGNS OF RECOVERY TAKING PLACE FROM THE GLOBAL PANDEMIC, WHAT CONSUMPTION SIGNS ARE YOU SEEING TAKE PLACE? WHAT WAS TEMPORARY AMD WHAT WILL BE PERMANENT MOVING FORWARD?
Recently, we have seen revenues increasing consistently and the pulse of the market is that clients are hungry for more compelling video. There is also a visceral need for uplifting content that transcends across digital, social, and news publishers – people want to be taken away from their problems, they want to feel good.
Now that we can finally start to reflect more on this pandemic, it was temporary that the marketplace and consumption audiences were so restrained physically, however, what is lasting is that desire for communication, the desire to feel understood, and the desire for “togetherness” that erupted so powerfully during the pandemic and continues on. Smart publishers are finding content that breaks through and galvanizes in a way that makes one feel and feel vulnerably human.
I wonder too if we will continue to see an acceleration of the downfall of traditional linear news networks and the accelerated rise of new outlets on social media, that deliver information and entertainment in more engaging and creative ways and that appeal to Millenials and Gen Z, meeting them where they are and on their terms.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM THAT YOU’RE PASSIONATELY TACKLING AT NEWSFLARE AT THE MOMENT?
Currently, I am finding new ways to build awareness in the U.S. We are a UK-based company, and we need more publishers to know about what UGV is about and how it can help them. Now that I am here, I want to automate more of our marketing and work to build relationships with clients in a way that shows the U.S market we are a dominant force. We are currently the largest and most diverse UGV provider in the marketplace and have a lot to shout about.
WHERE SHOULD A PUBLISHER START WHEN LOOKING TO GET STARTED IN SOURCING UGC VIDEO CONTENT AND NAVIGATING PRIVACY/COPYRIGHT LAWS?
Newsflare! More than ever newsrooms and publishers are tight for time and pushed to deliver safe and compelling video quickly. Resources are tight. The clients I speak with don’t have the time nor skills to do social media newsgathering, along with rights clearances and verification. We are experts and we are dedicated to getting it right. We adhere to all the privacy laws and norms; we respect people’s privacy. We have developed in-house proprietary tech called the Trust Algorithm. Every video goes through a series of on-platform checks that assesses the validity of the video and captures meta-data in a consistent way. It examines the resolution, headline, member account, and description.
It’s like deciding to sell your house on your own. You could spend the time and money to educate yourself and endure the mistakes or you could let professionals handle the sale who have already made and learned from the mistakes, to ensure you have an enjoyable experience and get the best value while saving you time so you can focus on what you’re good at.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING PROFESSIONALS AND CONTENT PRODUCERS LOOKING TO CREATE VIRAL AND BREAKING NEWS VIDEOS?
Don’t be afraid of making your own trend, push in your own direction. It’s easy to follow along but you never stand out when you do. And be honest to yourself, that honesty will always sell.