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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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The four types of Online Video – which is best to advertise around?

This has been something I’ve been pondering for some time. It is still a work in progress, and feedback or suggestions are welcome.

I believe that online video can be categorised into four broad categories:

Reference – Largely, this is the how-to guides such as Videojug which relay advice and practical tips. They will have a steady, but most likely small, stream of visitors looking for specific content. For how-to, specific content is related to the genre or topic but not necessarily the producer.  I am also grouping the long tail of video on demand into this category. Arguably it could be a fifth type as the content producer is now key, but I believe the specific nature of the search is enough to group it within this category. People that watch Buffy on the WB (US only) will go there specifically looking for Buffy – few viewers will arrive there via another method with another show in mind

Scheduled – Web series and TV catch-up fall into this category. The Secret World of Sam King had a new video every weekday; the latest episode of Spooks (UK only) arrives on the iPlayer shortly after it is aired on BBC1. Similar to reference videos, people will seek out scheduled videos with the specific content in mind. The key difference is that time is now as important as a mindset, and viewers are more likely to visit after an external prompt – such as a TV guide for catch-up, or email reminder for a web series – rather than a simple desire to view.

TopicalThis differs from reference videos because they represent the long tail, whereas topical videos are the short head. TMZ will get a spike in traffic whenever a celebrity has a “moment” (such as Mel Gibson or Michael Richards), and the news sites will see growth whenever there is a major story such as an election (NB: the link refers to unique users, but the trend holds for video). Topical videos continue to get small levels of traffic in the long-term, but nowhere near the levels of when the story is breaking. Portals and news sites will be the primary vehicles for this type of video as their superior resources will ensure the fullest coverage.

Viral – Youtube’s bread and butter. A viral video can be attempted by anyone, but success is far from guaranteed. They may be corporate (Nike has a good track record at viral videos), user generated or a combination. If you ignore the fact that Youtube is now the primary mechanism to consume music for free, the top videos on the site include a stand-up show (Evolution of Dance) and a home video of a newborn and his toddler brother (Charlie Bit My Finger). Not content people would necessarily have predicted to have enjoyed the success they have done. Virals don’t seem to have many rules – they can break instantly or after bubbling under a surface; they can come and go or they can hang around.

But like Creative Commons licences, these categories aren’t mutually exclusive. Examples where content can straddle multiple categories include:

Scheduled/topical – Liam’s death in Coronation Street had three alternative endings uploaded to ITV.com after the episode showing the chosen fate aired. It received 650,000 views over that weekend

Reference/viral – the Japanese art of T-shirt folding has circled the Internet on more than one occasion

Viral/topical – political out-takes such as the Sarah Palin/Katie Couric interview or John Prescott punching a protester.

Viral/scheduled – Web series such as Kate Modern that encourage interactivity

Viral/scheduled/topicalTina Fey-lin got the short head, but the long tail shows no sign of abating

Of these four broad types, which would be the best for video advertisers to target? The best choice will be campaign dependent but each format has its advantages and disadvantages

NB: A previous post of mine details the advertising options available around online video. Given the swift evolution of the medium, I may need to write an updated version soon.

Viral – these tend to have the biggest numbers but success or failure cannot be legislated for nor accurately planned. It would therefore be best for open-ended campaigns, but even then the quality or content of the viral video needs to be carefully moderated

Topical – these will be short-term so the campaign needs to be perfectly timed with an immediate call to action

Reference – likely to be special interest and so the audience will be more targeted and efficient. Good for niche brands, but the numbers may not be there for those with a more mass appeal

Scheduled – using the traditional TV model, these can be planned in advance to a greater degree of accuracy. But TV flops show that predicted audiences are an art rather than a science, and the large growth in online gives an extra degree of uncertainty compared to the gentle fragmentation of TV audiences. Scheduled content means quality can largely be vetted in advance and so the advertiser has reassurances of their investment, but this sort of model may come at a premium.

However, this premium can be justified. When asked to choose, the vast majority prefer professionally produced content to amateur work, and people are also more accepting of advertising around this content.

As an employee of a TV owner making forays into online video, I am biased but I do believe that for the most part advertising around scheduled content is the best method to use. There is nothing preventing multiple video formats being utilised (after all, each has unique advantages) but in most situations, I believe scheduled content should be the primary focus.

Viral clips may provide mass reach, but scheduled content has the advantages of

  • Easy incorporation into a media plan
  • Assurances over the quality of content
  • Acceptance from viewers willing to sit through ads in exchange for free, premium content

A “best practice” ad model is yet to emerge, but there are interesting experiments going on, and it will be fascinating to see how this develops.

sk

Image credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/atencion/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/

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Nine Inch Nails and free music

Free music

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/mightymightymatze

As the world and his blog is now aware, the latest Nine Inch Nails album has been released over the Internet, in a variety of formats and prices. Rather pointedly, Trent Reznor remarked, “I’m very pleased with the result and the ability to present it directly to you without interference”. However, the most interesting thing about this (press) release is the following quote:

“Now that we’re no longer constrained by a record label, we’ve decided to personally upload Ghosts I, the first of the four volumes, to various torrent sites because we believe BitTorrent is a revolutionary digital distribution method.”

Furthermore, the album is being released under a Creative Commons licence that permits sharing. So, while the music has been made available for purchase both digitally and physically, the band are essentially saying that it is OK to distribute for free. They are not concerned with revenues or royalties on the release.

This leads back to a couple of prescient posts from some very authoritative figures. Firstly, Chris Anderson started the PR campaign for his latest book with a preview in Wired entitled “Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business”. He highlights how Prince was able to release his album for free (or the price of a newspaper, with a free Mail on Sunday bundled in) by making money from live performances. That he could have sold out the dates without the CD is seemingly incidental. I was at one of the O2 gigs and while the performance was fantastic, the CD has had one listen.

The free hypothesis ties in with Seth Godin‘s Seinfeld curve (the second link is a must read):

If you like Jerry Seinfeld you can watch him on television, for free, in any city in the world two or three times a day. Or, you could pay $200 to go see him in Vegas. But there is no $4 option for Jerry Seinfeld. This is death. You can’t make any money in here. Because if you’re not scarce I’m not going to pay for it because I can get if for free. And one of the realities that the music industry is going to have to accept is this curve now exists for you. That for everybody under eighteen years old, it’s either free or it’s something I really want and I’m willing to pay for it. There is nothing in the center-it’s going away really fast.

As Seth points out, digital makes scarcity obsolete. There are no longer finite units – when I lend or share music, I still have my copy. With infinite supply, the price gravitates towards zero.

The traditional business model of the record label is in ruins. Seth suggests that we are moving from brand/artist management to tribal management:

That the next model is to say, what you do for a living is manage a tribe…many tribes…silos of tribes. That your job is to make the people in that tribe delighted to know each other and trust you to go find music for them

I think the Seinfeld curve is genius but, through my interpretation at least, tribal management is flawed. It is saying that niches need to be identified – almost isolated – while an editor of sorts suggest music for the tribe to select. Evidently people can be in multiple tribes, but a tribe – traditionally based on kinship – is the primary social identification. There is a hierarchy. Musical influences don’t conform to this. And if music is free at the point of entry, why should people choose bundles?

Furthermore, musical movements shift faster than general societal trends (where is crunk these days?). Newspaper editors can predict and adapt to shifts, but in this sphere it would be far more difficult. A Nick Denton type mogul could emerge and preside over an ever-shifting portfolio of niche movements. But can this trust last? Gawker hasn’t had the smoothest of rides recently.

I am not nearly as clever or insightful as Seth, and I do not have an alternative answer. What is clear is that the Internet is brilliant for musicians to disseminate their creations virally. More people are listening to more music through more methods than ever before.

And for businesses? In a free economy, one needs a combination of creativity, luck and finance to be heard over the cacophony. And with less control over distribution, it becomes more difficult to judge the success of a release, to measure a return on investment, and to forecast future finances. Dull perhaps, but integral to a healthy business. Guy Hands must be in his worst nightmare. However, this can be where the Seinfeld Curve comes in. The live arena offers a unique, finite experience where supply and price can be controlled. So will CDs become the loss leaders – the razors to the blades?

From a research perspective, the future is fascinating. With no accurate measurements, how can we assess succcess and forecast for the future? As well as music, it raises fascinating questions over the future of TV. I will return to this topic later in the week with a few further thoughts.

sk