Shane Smith, Vice Media’s chief executive, wants to build an in-house native ad team similar to the one he set up for its TV network in an attempt to use those learnings to finally monetise mobile effectively.
The youth-focused media channel was one of the early pioneers in the native ad game but has found mobile much harder to tackle than its other mediums. Most recently, the business has taken its “pre spots and dots” advertising, as Smith calls it, to TV. This has helped it form an in-house 30 person team – Vice Labs – to help advertisers create what are often ads that are longer than the typical 30-second spot and are built with an editorial approach. Since Viceland’s debut in March, the process has been successful, claimed Smith, hence why he thinks there are learnings there to be mined for its mobile issues.
“People are watching these promos because its actual content they want so see. And that’s been really encouraging to see with the success of Vice Labs and how we ported that from TV to mobile and online,” said Smith at the Cannes Lions advertising festival. “In a way it’s a derivative of the native which we developed online and how we’re seeing what works because the two things are different. We’re trying to get a mobile lab [to create our mobile ads] because mobile monetisation, unless you're Facebook, is very difficult and our biggest challenge right now is to figure out if the native [content] can work on mobile, which includes with the carriers.”
While advertising and subscriptions are the most discussed pillars of Viceland’s business model, there are gains to be made through licensing. “You have to make content that’s good enough that it can stand on its own so you can license to mobile carriers, sell the TV [rights] around the world or monetise on your own platform, for example,” said smith. “What a lot of people don’t realise about content is that with all the sub fees and the license fees that there’s a tremendous amount of revenue you can bring in if its good.”
The content rush comes as Viceland moves into its fifth month on air. Within a year, the channel is aiming for half of its advertising to be made of native ads with Smith calling the revenue potential “amazing”. His confidence is not surprising given Vice Media will launch its online and TV offerings in more than 50 countries including Africa and South East Asia, with the Viceland channel launching in 44 countries.
“We are bringing millennials back to TV,” he continued as he talked up the company’s plans to “go after a premium audience”. Many media owners have tired and failed with similar gambits, though the media executive believes the “revenue is coming because the demographic is there”.
Additional reporting by Natalie Mortimer.