Questionable Traffic Seems to Follow This Video Company Everywhere | Adweek Questionable Traffic Seems to Follow This Video Company Everywhere | Adweek
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Questionable Traffic Seems to Follow This Video Company Everywhere

OneScreen has had issues with Meredith, Bonnier, Touchstorm and others

In mid-2012, the online content/distribution firm Touchstorm was pushing further into original Web video, particularly for its lifestyle site Howdini. Like many in the industry, Howdini was attracting solid CPMs but struggled to get enough views.

That is, of course, a common challenge for any site not called YouTube. Large media companies including Time Inc., Condé Nast and Dow Jones all strive to become players in online video, and all need traffic since none of their sites are major video destinations—at least not yet.

That's why many companies turn to vendors that promise to expand their audience. The typical pitch goes something like this: You pay us and we’ll distribute your video all over the Web. You’ll get lots more people to watch your videos, and you’ll be able to sell many more ads. We might get a cut, and everybody wins.

If that sounds like a prime opportunity for scam artists, you might be right. That’s what Touchstorm believes it has encountered. In fact, one audience-extension firm Touchstorm employed, OneScreen, is at the core of questionable Web traffic that has shaken the video operations of several media companies and perhaps even the careers of a few executives. Aside from Touchstorm, OneScreen has also had issues with Meredith Corp., Bonnier Corp. and HealthiNation, while indirectly impacting the likes of Tremor and Videology.

Meredith dumped OneScreen in mid-2012. Per sources, Meredith executives believed much of the traffic being delivered by OneScreen was bogus. One executive who was a champion of the OneScreen deal, Michael Knott, former head of the Meredith Women’s Network, left the company soon thereafter. Knott, who declined to comment for this story, is currently doing consulting work. Some sources said Knott left Meredith because he was looking to build his own company, while others contended he clashed with management. Still others said his departure had to do with his having previously advocated for OneScreen.

Several other Meredith executives, including J.R. McCabe (who jumped to Time Inc. to help that company dial up its video offerings), also would leave the company, and the Meredith Plus Video Network was eventually phased out.

Meanwhile, around the same time, HealthiNation was increasingly using OneScreen to acquire traffic and host its videos. Problems soon arose, according to sources. HealthiNation had tapped OneScreen to provide the company with more video inventory to sell to third-party networks like Tremor Media and Videology, but some executives were immediately suspicious of the traffic HealthiNation began to receive. To be fair, others at HealthiNation were not concerned with traffic issues and even praised OneScreen’s technology. That led to a dispute inside the company some speculate contributed to the voluntary departure of co-founder Raj Amin, according to former HealthiNation insiders—though other HealthiNation executives dispute that (per sources, Amin had been vocal about his concerns over OneScreen and some other traffic partners prior to his departure).

Back to Touchstorm. In 2012, the company hired OneScreen to manage its Web video and drive traffic to Howdini.com. According to top executives inside Touchstorm, after just a few weeks problems emerged in the partnership. OneScreen insisted on hosting Howdini’s videos on a new domain, videos.howdini.com; the reason is the subject of dispute. OneScreen claimed it was done to avoid crashing Howdini.com, but Touchstorm executives maintained that is inaccurate.

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