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“52% uptick in time spent on-site”: Why one millennial publisher turned to short-form, vertical video

Headquartered in Toronto and founded in 2013, Narcity Media, has the ambitious aim to become the largest urban news and travel website on the North American continent. With 10M unique monthly users, the publisher is already one of the leading digital publishers for millennials with its brands and MTLBlog covering breaking news, personalities, and events in Los Angeles, Austin, Atlanta, Montreal, Toronto and 19 other metropolitan locations.

A key challenge the publisher faces is competition from social media, especially video-centric platforms consumed primarily on mobile. According to Pew Research Centre, the majority of U.S. 18- to 29-year-olds use Instagram (71%) and Snapchat (65%), while roughly half say the same for TikTok, with YouTube also a hugely popular platform amongst this cohort.

Such is the strength of competition from the social media giants, Narcity Media’s senior management came to the realization in early 2021 that they needed a new way to engage their audience while also expanding their brands’ monetization strategies.

After deliberation, the publisher turned to short-form vertical video, not least because of the success of Instagram Stories and other swipeable video social media (TikTok, etc) with its millennial audience.

Narcity subsequently settled on a new four-point strategy:

  1. Transforming user engagement with short videos
  2. Delivering a modern ‘swipeable’ experience
  3. Unlocking the full potential of traffic monetization
  4. Ensuring the videos were shoppable

The average Millenial internet user has an attention span of about 12 seconds. For Gen Z users, that figure drops to just 8 seconds. So, if you hope to stand a chance, you need to make sure you’re using the most efficient, message-dense medium possible – and that’s short-form video.

Chuck Lapointe, Co-Founder and CEO, Narcity Media

Short form video, home movie style

Narcity Media settled on Firework, the interactive short-form video platform, to host its new content. Launched in 2017 by Vincent Yang and Jerry Luk, Firework’s platform already reaches 250M people globally who consume short-form videos across hundreds of categories.

Talking to WNIP, Anand Vidyanand, Chief Customer Officer at Firework says that despite the surface-level similarities, short-form video is a fundamentally different medium to longer, YouTube-style videos.

Brands looking to optimize their content for short-form video should start by forgetting everything they know about traditional video because, above all, short-form video thrives on authenticity. Whatever the subject of the video may be, your approach should lean more towards home-movie than Hollywood.

Anand Vidyanand, Chief Customer Officer, Firework

Jeff Lucas, Chief Revenue Officer at Firework, adds, “Short-form video not only is better adapted to audiences’ shrinking attention spans, but it also provides a sense of urgency and immediacy that other mediums simply can’t replicate.

“In the same way that a bolt of lightning will turn more heads than a steady rain, short-form video grabs the audience’s attention and leaves an impact. And the research supports this – showing that short-form video is almost twice as effective at generating brand recognition than traditional video content.”

Revenue implications

The results for Narcity have been instant and profound – by transforming the reader experience into a video-powered ‘story’ experience, the publisher has witnessed a 48x increase in video plays and a 52% uptick in average time spent on the site. For a publisher that relies on the AVOD (Advertising video on demand) model to monetize its traffic, the revenue uplift has been significant with short-form video ad units outperforming traditional banner ads by 9x as well as a CTR of just over 2%.

The growth that Narcity has experienced is by no means an aberration…over the next several years, agencies will invest a higher percentage of media dollars into livestream and shoppable video than any other digital transformation asset.

Jason Holland, President & Chief Business Officer, Firework

Perhaps the last word should go to Chuck Lapointe, Co-Founder and CEO of Narcity Media, “We saw real, measurable improvements in engagement and ad impressions almost immediately after implementing Firework’s vertical video and advertising capabilities on our sites – driving over $100 thousand per month in programmatic and direct video revenue.”