Ashkan Karbasfrooshan, CEO of WatchMojo.com, shared some thoughts on whether a Horizontal or Vertical content strategy was more valuable in a post on the OnlineVideoInsider blog. A horizontal strategy is one that emphasizes multiple categories or multiple outlets. A vertical strategy is one that emphasizes a focus on providing multiple levels or stages within a specific category. Horizontal is breadth, vertical depth - in terms of networks, major general-interest broadcast networks like NBC or CBS are horizontal, niche networks like ESPN, SyFy, or the Military Channel are vertical. In some cases, like Disney, you have both horizontal and vertical strategies within a firm.
Karbasfrooshan makes the point that the question of what strategy to pursue is becoming more important as a variety of tech firms, distribution channels, and ad networks are beginning to actively move into content creation. Should they pursue a more horizontal strategy to broaden their reach, or should they go vertical in hopes of developing more focused, engaged, and passionate audiences?
In terms of producing video content, he suggests that there are three things to consider in today's media environment - the challenge of scale, the problem with passionate audiences, and the challenge of video.
The Challenge of Scale - Karbasfrooshan argues that the scale in content that's important doesn't come from producing more content, but from distributing it in more places. Today, scale economies in video kick in very, very quickly, so scale in terms of multiple simultaneous productions isn't critical. But scale, in terms of maintaining IP ownership and gaining multiple revenue streams from distributing in multiple outlets, is increasingly critical.
The Problem with Passionate Audiences is that they keep wanting more. Karbasfrooshan argues that "if you decide to produce videos with a vertical strategy, you run the risk of hitting a wall by running out of topics to produce." If your vertical is something that is continually renewing, such as sports, or lifestyle, or if your audience is just as happy watching reruns (Kids and cartoons), it may work. Otherwise, as with Star Trek franchise, you'll often find yourself recycling storylines.
The Challenge of Video is that it's not always the best format for content. Karbasfrooshan states that "you cannot produce a video on any topic; it boils down to visuals," and notes that search engines still aren't doing a good job indexing video. Noting that very few video producers maintain their own sites for direct distribution to audiences, he suggests video is focused more on distribution than "destination." And that to maximize distribution, "you need to have as many content pieces in as many categories" as possible, because the largest aggregators and distributors are all horizontally-focused.
In the end, Karbasfrooshan notes that both strategies have advantages and disadvantages, and that producers, distributors, audiences, and advertisers are all looking for different things - "Ultimately what advertisers prefer is different from what users like and distributors need."
For a video producer, it really boils down to what your purpose is, where your strengths are, and what you're interested in. And in reality, what your opportunities are. Let the strategies develop over time, to meet circumstances and opportunities - and always remember that you can integrate aspects of either or both, and change as needed.
Source - Is A Horizontal Or Vertical Content Strategy More Valuable?, OnlineVideo Insider