Interview: Jamie Nevin, Founder, 180Vita
Published 19th December 2014
How have Google’s ongoing algorithm updates affected how you approach and deliver content?
As a company, we are not particularly focused on SEO. We aim for our sites to be fairly represented by Google and are not out to game the system. Over the last few years it has become very clear that SEO refers to a philosophy for how to develop and maintain a website, rather than a set of shot term hacks or tricks that can be used to increase your rankings. We focus on building, genuine first class online businesses and hope Google continue to recognize this, by placing our brands in positions of authority in their respective niches. To summarise: as long as we continue building websites for our users and not for Google, updates should not affect us.
You have acquired several video portals in recent years. Why did you decided to diversify in this direction, and what were the main challenges in integrating these with your existing business and acquisition models, including PPC?
The fact we have gone in the video direction was more or less an accident. We acquired PokerTube a little over two years ago as we believed it could help grow our existing poker business. From here, we made some mistakes and learned a lot about developing and operating video websites in the process. It occurred to us that whilst people spend a significant portion of their browsing time watching videos, the market really wasn’t that saturated. As a user, if I am really passionate about a niche such as poker, YouTube will not cut it. Of course they have the videos, but their categorization is obviously going to be lacking compared to a dedicated ‘Tube’ site such as PokerTube. Additionally, PokerTube can offer those users who are interested in poker, extra, relevant content such as news and player bios, and users can even share poker hands. In 2014, we have begun to scale the same model we use for PokerTube to other video portals such as FootballTube and DocumentaryTube. Again, I truly feel that for those that are passionate about documentaries or football, we can offer a much richer experience than a site like YouTube. Of course we also have lots of exciting plans to further set PokerTube apart from generic video sites – the more we develop our offering and differentiate from the likes of YouTube, the happier we will be. As for our acquisition models, we do not use generic PPC marketing. We will pay per click sometimes using content marketing networks such as Taboola, but we have never been the kind of company to pay £20+ per click for gambling keywords. Whilst this model clearly works for some, it’s not our area of expertise, and like many things, I feel it is edging closer and closer to a zero sum game. In markets like the UK, gambling related keywords are extremely competitive, and the only way the price will begin to decrease is when some advertisers see their margins eroded to such an extent, that this method of advertising is no longer worth their while. I think in some markets we’re already at this point. Also worth noting is that when an affiliate makes a decision to advertise using AdWords, they are competing with the operators too. While, a non-operator has certain advantages such as flexibility over their landing page or the ability to showcase multiple deals on a single landing page, it’s nevertheless a tough business. Maybe at some point in the future, content marketing will develop similar issues, but for now it’s not as expensive as traditional PPC. What’s more, fewer affiliates and operators are taking it seriously and it’s far more in keeping with our overall business model. We enjoy producing top-quality content and it makes sense for our marketing methods to make good use of it.
Forrester reported a few years ago that it was 50 times easier to reach Page 1 on Google rankings with a video than a web page. Does this advantage still exist?
I am not sure about the exact multiple, but in my experience it’s definitely easier to get traffic to a video than it is to text content. If you put the video on YouTube, I have no doubt whatsoever it’s much easier to rise to the top page, but if it’s on your own site (especially if the videos are hosted yourself) it’s a different ball game. Firstly, your videos are now actually competing with YouTube – that’s obviously a tough gig. Then you must consider things like Schema, so the search engines, social sites and so forth, correctly recognize your videos.
Does video allow you to access a different audience, and if so, how do they vary in terms of profile, conversion etc?
I think video traffic is typically tougher to convert. When users visit a video site, I often picture them (like me) half asleep, plodding along, watching the video – not in a state to be sold to. Whereas, text content requires a certain level of sharpness or initiative from the user. However, I hope that the increased traffic by virtue of being a video site compensates for the lower conversion ratio. Of course, there are lots of other factors to take into account. For example, the topic of the video. If my video is a poker coaching video, then I have a much better chance of the viewer converting to play at an online poker room, than if it’s a Dan Bilzerian photo shoot extravaganza.
How much stickier is video than written content, i.e. how much longer on average do players spend on portals such as PokerTube compared to sites based primarily around written content?
In general, I see most text based article websites with average visit time of anywhere from one to three minutes. There are exceptions, such as MailOnline or maybe Forbes, who embed videos and use a lot of big pictures, lists and so forth to make their content more sticky. In contrast, with videos you are looking at a minimum of five minutes. Then we also have sites like 9Gag, who have consistently iterated their site to increase average time and I think now have it up to about 14 minutes – pretty impressive. Maybe, the question is a little misleading though: We are talking about average visit time on a website, but as mentioned above, the reality is that it is not 9Gag’s website or even their own content that is capturing the user, but the video. Thus, conversion is little more tricky.
You pull in video content from third parties but also produce your own in-house for PokerTube. How significant a barrier to entry is the latter, and what advice would you give to other affiliates considering this direction?
I do not think video production presents a significant barrier to entry. There are lots of people making great quality videos, with top production value on a shoestring budget. The best examples of this can be found outside poker, of course. However, building and operating a site like PokerTube presents a number of technical barriers and maybe this is part of the reason, it’s an attractive business. These include: * Video hosting – very expensive * Video upload process – how do users go about uploading videos to your site? These are big files, they need to be processed and encoded. * Categorization * Device compatibility – will your videos work on mobile, tablet and other platforms?
Video obviously needs written content to help search engine crawlers recognise it, but do the benefits of bringing video and written content together go beyond this?
One thing that obviously works well are video lists and videos actually embedded in articles. Lots of mainstream media sites use this to great effect.
Do you have any final comments or observations?
One thing I am always conscious of is that the internet is rapidly becoming consolidated. It is becoming increasingly rare to see a small business really make it through to the big time. Of course there are new services and innovations, but these are commonly developed by big companies, or at least funded by one. I think the door of opportunity is closing, and it is our goal to grow 180Vita and its brands to become key players in their respective niches, before it’s all sewn up.
“As a user, if I am really passionate about a niche such as poker, YouTube will not cut it.”