What can we learn from publishers’ pivot to video?

With the hindsight offered by a new year, publishing’s “Pivot to Video” seems like a moment of collective madness best assigned to a less enlightened time (2017).

But what ended up as a bad joke, started out as a serious response to shifting market conditions. And working on the premise that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, what actually was the pivot to video, why did it happen, and why did it fail?

At its most basic, the pivot to video was a widely followed move away from static content toward video content: Between 2016 and 2017, a long list of publishers announced that they would be scaling back their “words & pictures” teams in favor of expanded video teams.

I recently saw the pivot to video described as a pivot to Facebook and although there was undoubtedly more to it than keeping Facebook sweet, executives from the social network can be credited with triggering the pivot.

Mr. Zuckerberg himself set the hares running in a Spring 2016 interview when he announced a “new golden age of video.” “I wouldn’t be surprised if you fast-forward five years and most of the content that people see on Facebook and are sharing on a day-to-day basis is video,” he told BuzzFeed News.

For publishers desperate to find revenues around distributed content, the idea that the biggest player in the game was going to give video content priority was all the encouragement they needed to go all in. Algorithm tweaks that showed video content enjoying better engagement on the network cemented the deal and the pivot proper began.

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