NewFronts News: Merging video, data still the main focus for AOL

It’s all about content for AOL, per the media giant’s NewFronts event. But AOL is focused on distribution, formats and data, rather than just the content itself.

During last year’s NewFronts event, AOL announced a partnership with NBC Universal and an increased focus on video content, which the company planned to intersect with programmatic. The convergence of video and data is still a top priority for AOL, according to its 2016 NewFront, which took place last night in New York City’s South Street Seaport.

The two go together because there’s so much content out there that it’s overwhelming. AOL uses data to personalize and curate that content, extrapolating what you probably like based on past viewing habits.

“Companies can use engines and data for commerce recommendations; it’s the same with content,” says Marta Martinez, senior vice president of AOL Advertising.

Noah Fenn, head of video sales and strategy at AOL, added that this strategy represents a shift in the way people interact with content.

“In previous years, we’d create really engaging content and great stories, but we’d be telling the audience what to consume,” he says. “[Now] we’re taking data and listening to what the audience consumes, what they’re sharing and how they’re sharing it.”


When it comes to audience-fueled content, diversification is important. Traditional video content isn’t the only kind, which AOL recognizes through the introduction of the Verizon-powered live streaming app go90, acquisitions such as virtual reality-focused video company RYOT, and plans for a new content studio.

The studio, which was announced yesterday, will encompass more than 13,000 square feet in New York City. There, AOL plans to connect the physical and digital world with more immersive live and VR experiences.

“It’s easy to tell a story through text or a director showing what he wants to show you. But imagine bringing someone into the experience,” says Fenn. “Immersive video gives the audience more than the standard consumption experience, and the opportunity to dive in and really feel the content.”

Content is key for AOL going forward. The company will continue to prioritize original programming from partners such as The Huffington Post, Tech Crunch, AwesomenessTV, and the NFL.

But beyond the content itself, AOL is focusing on all the things that make it consumable, such as distribution and formats. Echoing a keynote from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Martinez referred to video as “the future of the Internet, and it’s happening through mobile devices.”

“The disruption in mobile is more than its impact on consumption,” adds Brian Angiolet, senior vice president of the consumer product portfolio for Verizon. “It has to do with the access that consumers have to find content, and everything downstream impacts that.”

Openness and transparency are another area focus for AOL in the coming year. Since marketers don’t just glean data from AOL properties, the company is working on stitching everything together – including social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – and then making it available to all industry partners.

“We’re opening it to the ecosystem,” says Martinez. “Distribution is critical for the future of this industry.”


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