The five questions that need to be answered about online video

I’ve recently put together a presentation deck on the state of the online video market. It consists of both the primary research that we have been conducting here, and the secondary research I have been able to source through subscription services, press releases and generous folk who put their work online – such as Ofcom and Universal McCann.

I’ve been taking the presentation around our various agency clients in order to spread the love (and of course use the face time to sell in opportunities). Thus far (touch wood) the presentation has been well received.

The general feedback I’ve been getting is that people are willing to experiment with online video, but the paucity of makes it difficult to justify a long-term investment. Any data showing the efficacy (or otherwise) of online video is therefore valuable.

Below are the five major questions regarding online video. I’ve tried to give a steer on them but currently there are no definitive answers.

1. Who is watching?

And indeed how many. This is the crucial question for agencies. With many (but not all) moving to online video from TV, the gap where BARB audience ratings should be is extremely conspicuous. Alas, JICIMS don’t have an immediate solution and so for the interim one or a combination of the below is used

  • Internal site stats. But even if they are externally validated (e.g. by ABCe) there is still the lack of transparency about whether the stats have been gamed and comparisons with other sites won’t necessarily be like for like. And of course the major problem is that it gives you numbers, but not demographics. I posted about many of the problems around online measurement here.
  • Users could be forced to register and share information before being allowed to view videos. But this contravenes the “openness” of the web
  • Comscore and Net Ratings give basic demographic details for video views and offer a competitive context. However their methodologies aren’t universally accepted. All impressions are equal – whether auto-rolls or each ad in an ad break being tagged as a separate impression
  • If none of these methods are viable, then we are forced to rely (at least partly) on survey data. And that opens up a whole new can of worms

2. Which advertising model is best?

Or, which is your favourite child?

There are a multitude of ad models and formats to choose from. I detailed many of them in a previous post here. Since writing that, I have read about two further types of ad format which add to the choice available.

Inskin Media wrap an interactive banner/border around content

MirriAd digitally incorporate brands and products into a show in post-production – whether a logo on an object, or a car driving off in the background.

Pre-rolls are the most common format (from memory, I read a stat saying two thirds of European video providers use pre-rolls), and their prevalence has driven acceptance. While people may have initially been turned off, familiarity has bred acceptance. The public generally agree that advertising is a reasonable exchange for free content.

However, not all content sites are equal. Ipsos have shown that people are less likely to find advertising reasonable on user generated content than professional. This is why I am eager to find out whether Youtube’s post-roll experiment works. Despite ads only being placed after partner content, Youtube has the stigma of UGC and I believe people will have trouble accepting ads on the site, no matter what content they are placed around.

3. How effective is my advertising?

This is the big question in all forms of media, and online is no exception. However, because audiences can’t be so easily identified, it is also a big problem. To my knowledge, there are three routes to go down

  • Pop-up/overlay advertising. We know respondents have just seen the ad (unless they are the control), but this is the downside. The questionnaire is served at the point of exposure. There is no window to allow the ad to embed into people’s consciousness.
  • Behavioural tracking. Whichever company does this first (and effectively) will become very, very rich. Obstacles include coverage (it is unlikely that all websites will participate, and even the most popular ad networks only cover a fraction of the web) and the sheer volume of data that would be generated. Analysis of longitudinal data would require a cloud/farm of Google or Amazon proportions
  • Surveys on online panels – again the can of worms of claimed, rational, after-the-fact responses among members of a panel

4. Why should I add online video to my media plan?

Indeed. But why should I add radio, or press, or cinema? Each medium brings a different audience and a different experience – if they are used in conjunction effectively then a stellar transmedia campaign can be executed.

My argument regarding online video is that it dovetails very nicely with television. Rather than cannibalising, it complements. TV has the mass reach and epoch-defining moments. Online video offers the shared experience asynchronously, allowing the attentive audience to interact on their terms. People tend to watch TV programmes online when they have missed them on TV, while short-form extras can deepen the experience (look at Heroes for example), and increase engagement among the TV-viewing audience.

For those that are interested in numbers, creating an accurate measure of incremental reach is vital. Touchpoints offers it at a platform level but isn’t granular enough for most situations. A tool that highlights incremental reach and frequency across a multitude of platforms and channels therefore needs to be developed.

5. Where is this going?

I don’t understand financial markets but I do understand the dangers of speculation. And that’s what any answer to this question would be. Forrester, emarketer and so on may predict future audiences and revenues. But who knows what the situation will be like next year, let alone in five. How long did it take Youtube to change the market? Or iPlayer/Hulu? And what effect will Kangaroo/SeeSaw have?

And as for the unified home entertainment TV/Internet experience? I’m not even going there…

sk

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4 Responses

  1. […] The five questions that need to be answered about online video « Curiously Persistent (tags: tv2.0 video) […]

  2. The key sentence in all these questions is, Allowing the attentive audience to interact on their terms.

    Advertisers need to serve two different emotions. One is: I’m relaxed now, don’t wanna think about anything hard, entertain me! The other is: That’s interesting, let’s go!

    I don’t need to tell you which emotion is for which medium. As well as online video, advertising itself needs innovation, too, rather than choosing the easy way. Pre-rolls, wrap arounds force viewers to watch something they haven’t choosen in the middle of their action mood. If somebody wants to surf, give them the surfboard, instead of holding them back to watch the waves!

    Best,

    Ozlem

  3. Hi Ozlem, thanks for commenting.

    I’m in agreement that, in a perfect world, all interactions would be in the control of the audience. From a realist perspective, there are two major questions revolving around this
    – Can revenues generated from opt-in advertising sustain the production costs of a video/series (either rates would massively go up, or production costs would go down)
    – Can opt-in advertising be incorporated into a media plan, when the agencies have no certainty (or much idea) of when their ads will be consumed and to what frequency?

    We will only know the answers to these questions with the benefit of time. This makes it an exciting period in terms of innovation and experimentation, but that means there will be failures as well as successes from both a business and user POV

    Simon

    PS Love the surfboard analogy!

  4. great blog, it very helpfull

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