TL; DR: Founded in the wake of Google’s purchase of YouTube, FORA.tv launched during a time when video aggregation sites were a dime a dozen. But, by carving a niche as a technology-adaptive provider of full-service video solutions, the company now serves more than 500 organizations, including Condé Nast, Oracle, and Brightcove. FORA.tv provides the backbone for video-centric digital marketing campaigns by providing turnkey services for all of their customers’ video needs — ranging from full-scale, multi-camera events to livestream functionality for private corporate meetings.
Even with the bright lights and fast-paced innovations in the world of video streaming, production, marketing, and distribution, FORA.tv President Bob Appel prefers to look into the mirror of the past as he plans for the future.
When considering which new technologies to explore, he compares the decision to those faced in the 1940s and ‘50s.
“Your account executive might say, ‘Television is bright and shiny, but we found out through market research that you get a lot more interaction and conversion on the radio.’ So the idea is: let’s concentrate on radio instead of overspending on TV where we’re not getting any action,” Bob said.
Instead of chasing the hot new tech fad, the FORA.tv team carefully constructs custom turnkey video solutions that ensure clients reach the right audiences with videos — whether via social media campaigns, livestreaming an event, interactive videos, an online viewing gallery, or a number of other configurations. The company maintains a powerful influence in the digital sphere by taking a multiplatform approach to video — and by keeping a finger pressed to the pulse of today’s ever-evolving technological landscape.
“It’s the same kind of concept with the new technologies and multiplatform livestreaming distribution, and on-demand distribution, as well,” he said of the radio-to-television transition. “Let’s push the technology aside for a second and see what works best for each brand and event.”
A Wide-Angle View of FORA.tv’s Multiplatform Video Marketing Evolution
FORA.tv emerged from humble beginnings in 2006 and was keen from the outset on observing trends in the rapidly-changing sphere of video production and online distribution.
“We started, not in a garage, but in a two-bedroom apartment, just months after Google’s purchase of YouTube,” Bob said. “At that time, there were a lot of aggregation sites popping up with the idea that, if you had enough viewers, you could be advertising-supported only. But even YouTube was never successful at that: You need other revenue streams.”
FORA.tv’s Founders realized during the company’s fledgling years that the company would need to widen its scope to compete with the Google-YouTube powerhouse.
“It’s not like one day we flipped the switch,” Bob said. “The way we were servicing our content partners was by developing our expertise in livestreaming and video production. We started hyper-focusing on being a digital media business — almost like a video agency, where video is more than a commodity.”
Customer Needs Top Trends When Tailoring Video Services
In its early years, Bob said FORA.tv’s goal was simply to aggregate as much content as possible, so it cast a wide net. As the company refocused its services to include onsite video production, livestreaming, and post-production, it also streamlined its efforts to work with large corporations and institutions.
“We were analyzing what the needs were of the marketplace, and we were not interested in being a commodity-based services company,” he said. “During those years, we discovered that we’d better have the answer to any question. ‘Can you do this in the arena of livestreaming, video capture, and production?’ That answer had better be yes.”
To this day, FORA.tv makes answering yes to its clients the backbone of the company’s mission. Bob said specific video and campaign goals vary widely from client to client — and project to project.
“Do you want an embeddable player on your homesite with a lot of bells and whistles? We have that technology,” he said. “But we also understand that you have some followers and subscribers on other platforms. What are those?”
No Two Gigs are the Same: FORA.tv Adapts to Meet Unique Project Goals
Placing its primary focus on high-level publications means that FORA.tv must be as responsive and versatile as its clients’ goals shift with each project.
“FORA.tv’s differentiator is that we’re not a commodity A.V. production company,” Bob said. “We happen to be really great at that, but we also know how to integrate all the elements that drive these companies to success. Each gig within those companies has a different goal, so we’d better know what that is.”
Bob cites FORA.tv’s work with Vanity Fair as an example, noting that the magazine is one example of an institution that reigns supreme with print offerings, even in the digital age — but the publication still requires a robust online presence to reach its audience and satisfy the need to get readers and viewers looking at the company’s content.
“Vanity Fair’s goal on one gig we do with them might be to drive people to a funnel on their homepage, where they’re doing a print subscription drive,” Bob said. “However, we don’t assume the next gig is the same. The next gig may be purely about getting online eyeballs because the goal may be pleasing a big sponsor that has underwritten half of the cost of their event.”
Looking Toward the Future of Video Through a Long Lens
FORA.tv’s ongoing success relies on the team’s ability to identify trends and timing in the tech industry, which encompass video production and distribution.
“We are often testing new technologies, developing the expertise internally, and learning how it integrates into the entire ecosystem of live streaming, digital media consumption, and distribution before it officially hits the marketplace,” Bob said. “It’s fun to be tinkering with this stuff. Deep down, most of us at FORA are kind of nerdy about this industry. We enjoy learning all these new things.”
For instance, the team currently sees significant buzz surrounding the advent of 360-degree video and virtual reality — but Bob and his team aims to see if reality lives up to the hype.
“Technologists and companies in Silicon Valley actually drive the perception that this is the next big thing in the mainstream, that everyone’s going to be doing it, but that’s not necessarily true,” Bob said. Even though FORA.tv offers 360-degree livestream capabilities, only one client has requested the service in the past year.
So what does the FORA.tv CEO have his eye on? For Bob, it’s all about quality over gimmick — his gaze is tuned to high definition.
“It maybe sounds more mundane, but my biggest pet peeve is that the quality of livestreaming is not that of true HD television broadcast,” he said. “They keep improving the ability to stream at higher resolutions and higher bitrates. What I’m most excited about is when we get to shoot our next concert and offer it in 4K livestreaming. I’m into the art of it all; the better it looks and the better it sounds, the better I think it is.”