NEW YORK: Recent – disputed – data from comScore has indicated a precipitous drop in traffic at those publishers which have pivoted to video and sparked debate about whether video should continue to play a role in their strategies.

Digiday cited figures in relation to Mic (traffic down 60%, from 17.5m in August 2016 to 6.6m in August 2017), Vocativ, Fox Sports and Vice Sports to support its contention that “media companies chasing video ad dollars are pivoting to declining pageviews”.

But Mic president Jonathan Carson responded that “comScore accounts for about 10% of Mic’s actual audience, so we really don’t take that number very seriously".

Mic now reaches over 70m people, he told Business Insider, as he attributed the measurement gap to a halving in the number of text posts designed to draw readers to the Mic site and a greater focus on ‘distributed content’ pushed out to social networks.

Journalists naturally have a different take on the matter, since the pivot to video has generally been financed by the sacrifice of their jobs.

In the Columbia Journalism Review, digital media strategist Heidi N Moore argued that good quality journalistic output had been replaced by “undifferentiated, bland chunks of largely aggregated ‘snackable’ video”.

In addition to low quality video and a poor user experience – slow loading times and too-long pre-rolls – Moore fingered faulty audience metrics and publishers placing too much trust in “frenemies” like Facebook to carry out the distribution of video content as reasons for the failure to turn video views into either higher readership or ad dollars.

“Advertisers don’t need publishers,” she said. “Advertisers long ago realized they can pay Facebook directly for traffic.”

Despite her gloomy assessment, Moore believes that “Video has a bright future in digital journalism” since it can communicate in ways that text and pictures alone cannot.

“That’s why it’s worthwhile to do it right, invest resources in good equipment and production, and focus on original content,” she reasoned.

“The biggest problem with the pivot to video is that it’s not well-considered strategy,” she concluded. “Instead, it’s been born of desperation. Video deserves better, and so does journalism.”

Sourced from Digiday, Business Insider, Columbia Journalism Review; additional content by WARC staff