Twitter Seeks Path to More Video Bingers

Company May Add Promoted Videos to Redesigned Related Videos Lists

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Credit: Ron Antonelli/Bloomberg

Twitter is checking the boxes on a modern online video service's basic features. It has begun letting people upload videos on mobile, started testing autoplay videos to induce people to watch clips that pop up in their feeds and made those videos embeddable on others' sites to get them in front of more people.

Now it plans to try out a way to get people who watch one video to check out more.

Twitter has displayed a link to "view more videos" after someone finishes watching a Twitter-native video, but that link opens up a list of other native videos posted by the same account as the video that person just watched. In a bid to get people to binge on videos as they do on YouTube, Twitter is discussing a redesign of its related-videos feature that would boost its profile and functionality, according to people briefed on the company's plans.

Twitter's updated related-videos section would appear underneath a video as it plays and would include videos from different accounts, similar to YouTube's related video lists, the people said. Those related videos could be specifically related to the video a person just watched, based on other videos the person has watched or manually curated by a publisher.

Twitter may also eventually borrow YouTube's strategy for making money from its related videos. During discussions with advertising and entertainment execs, Twitter has mentioned but not committed to the idea of placing links to promoted videos within the related videos lists. But that possibility is farther down on the product's roadmap.

"We're always thinking about ways to better surface the amazing content on the platform, but we don't have anything specific to share about future products features at this time," said Twitter spokesman Will Stickney in an email.

Twitter appears to be following YouTube's and Facebook's playbooks as it tries to match those two companies' preeminent video services with its own. YouTube has pinned a list of related videos adjacent to its video player for years as a way to keep people on its service. And last year Facebook started a test to show people related videos after they finished watching a clip on their smartphones.

Related videos, autoplay videos, embedded videos, mobile uploads -- these are all ways for Twitter to prompt people into watching videos on its service, as were the acquisitions of 6-second video app Vine and livestreaming app Periscope. And Twitter's efforts appear to be working to a point, though the company hasn't come out and said how many video views it averages per month.

Based on a Twitter-commissioned survey of more than 1,000 people in the U.S., 82% of the people who use Twitter watch videos on Twitter. But these people aren't necessarily going to Twitter specifically to watch videos. Twitter is not a video search engine like YouTube; only 11% of the people surveyed said they use Twitter's search engine to find videos. Instead 70% of those surveyed said they only or mostly watch the videos that pop up in their streams.

And the reason Twitter wants people watching videos? Money. According to eMarketer estimates, last year YouTube made $1.13 billion in video ad revenue after subtracting the revenue it passes on to content creators. That's almost as much as the $1.4 billion Twitter grossed in overall revenue last year when the company first began testing standalone video ads.

If Twitter can carve out a sizeable share of the $7.77 billion that eMarketer expects advertisers to spend on digital video ads this year, that could go a long way toward wiping its Wall Street woes. But first it would have to prove to the people on Madison Avenue -- as YouTube and Facebook have -- that a lot of people are watching a lot of videos on Twitter and so brands should give Twitter their money to get in on the act. Related videos may help to get them there.

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