Google’s Think Video event

Yesterday, I attended the Google/Youtube hosted event “Think Video”. It was an event primarily aimed at marketers (research seminars tend not to have goodie bags), but I found it an interesting – if not groundbreaking – session.

Below are some of the notes I scribbled down during the talks. I’ve linked or embedded the presentations, where they are available.

Quantitative overview of the market

After an introduction from Dara Nasr, Dan Cryan of Screen Digest gave the first talk with a speedy overview of the current state of the online video market, and where it is heading.

Some statistics and projections I noted include (note that I was having to write quickly to keep up with Dan, and so there may be some errors in the below)

  • 90% of online views will be user-generated content in 2014 – about 2.5bn viewing hours
  • In 2014, ad-supported revenues will be around £180m, transactional VOD £40m and download to own £10m.
  • At this time, online TV will still only be 2% of the total TV market
  • Currently, 67% of online video viewing is short form, since “work time is prime time”
  • At the moment, 80% of the UK online video revenues are with the broadcasters. In the US, it is only 57% but Hulu represents the majority of the difference (Hulu looks like it is losing a lot of money at the moment, since 70% of its revenues goes to the broadcasters.

I found the most interesting part of the talk to be about distribution strategies, and whether to affiliate and syndicate or not. It would appear to be a good move, given the increases in reach that such a tactic produces. Quoting Comscore figures, Dan showed that in the US

  • ABC has 4.7m monthly site users but 9.9m monthly video viewers
  • Youtube has 98.2m visitors but 120m viewers
  • Hulu has 8.4m visitors but 38.1m viewers

Within this distributed model, there are two main options. Hulu operates the “player as the platform” strategy, where it allows its player to be embedded on sites such as MSN and Yahoo!, enabling it to retain control over advertising sales revenue. The alternative – which Channel 4 and Five appear to be pursuing, is “content as the platform”, where they licence their content to other video sites to include in their players.

The power of social

Neil Perkin of Only Dead Fish followed this talk with his keynote on the importance of social and data in online video. The presentation can be seen below (RSS viewers may need to click through)

Some of the key points I took from the presentation were:

  • Businesses should get their hands dirty – Neil has learned about the space by participating in it
  • Cisco say that in 2013 90% of data will be video, while 70% of data will be created by individuals. For businesses to succeed, they need to derive value from data – of which metadata is the fastest growing category. I’m a big believer in this.
  • However, businesses also need to understand social. Media brands are now less defined by the platform and more by their community (I think this is true, and we are increasingly seeing companies seeking to “own” a particular audience – whether the Guardian, Channel 4 or NME)
  • Attention is no longer the only key metric – we also need to consider participation, content and interaction
  • Distribution should be wide, with content scalable and portable. Slippy, not sticky
  • Companies need to loosen their grip on the creation process and let the community interact in pre-production, actual production or post-production.
  • Ultimately, convergence is about content flowing across channels.

Youtube’s development

The final presentation came from Bruce Daisley of Youtube, who coped admirably with technical issues that prevented his presentation being visible for the first five minutes of his talk. His presentation can be viewed via Google Documents here.

He mentioned how Youtube are looking to reinvent the experience for premium long-form content on their site. They want Youtube to be seen as a revenue opportunity by content owners, not a threat. He believes Youtube’s strengths come from 4 R’s.

  • Reach – it’s not necessarily as big as TV, but it can help build audiences. He cited Britain’s Got Talent audience figures rising from 8m in episode 1 to 12m in episode 2, fuelled by SuBo fever (of course, this can’t be blamed solely on Youtube)
  • Rights – he used Monty Python as an example of how content owners were licencing their material, and creating a viable business model
  • Research – Youtube can be seen as a virtual research community (Bruce called it an online focus group), with different creatives compared in terms of views or ratings
  • Revenue – whether through pre-rolls, in-video adverts or the front-page masthead video ad. He showed that searches for Avatar on Youtube actually peaked during the masthead campaign, and not when the film opened a few months later.These can also be integrated with Facebook, so that you can “like” an ad within Youtube.

He then quoted a range of research and statistics to highlight some of Youtube’s strengths

  • Social – Two thirds of users say they’ve sent a clip onto someone else. 10% of video views are from embedded clips on social media websites
  • Reach – a medium weight TV campaign of 160 GRPs aiming for 1+ cover among adults would reach 54% of the audience on TV. On Youtube it would reach 9% – 2% being incremental reach. This figure is higher among younger and more affluent audiences.
  • Mobile – Although mobile and TV only represent 2% of total views, iPhone users will look at an average of 3-4 clips per day, and Android users will look at 10.
  • Engagement – Ipsos have created an engagement metric across different media channels, accumulated from “around 50 metrics” (I’d be interested in hearing more about this). Of the channels shown, Youtube had the highest proportion within the high engagement band, and the least in the low (followed by BBC brands, then Channel 4, Five and ITV).

Youtube are now working with more content owners and broadcasters, with material ranging from films to the Indian Premier League. Bruce mentioned that the first company they negotiated with – the BBC – were very cautious and were arguing for removing comments, ratings and ability to embed, but gradually companies are warming to them.

He closed by talking about Youtube Bubble – a Youtube channel accumulating the best of advertising on the site. I would imagine the Evian babies dancing to Rapper’s Delight (with over 58m video views worldwide) heavily features.

Panel discussion

A Q&A session was chaired by Matt Brittin – the Managing Director of Google in the UK – who was very engaging (and puntastic). The speakers were joined by someone from Channel 4’s sales side (Ed someone, I believe) and Ben Chesters from Mediavest.

Some disjointed points I noted down during the session were:

  • Channel 4 were wary about giving specific figures in viewing across different channels, but did say that the total reach was more important than what individual channels made, since they controlled the advertising across each.
  • Ben Chesters mentioned that advertisers default to BARB for cover and frequency metrics, and that an incremental reach figure would be the killer feature needed for advertisers to trust online video
  • The first TV ads were like display advertising but with a voiceover. Currently, online video adverts are mainly repurposed 30 second spots. Gradually, this should change.
  • Neil Perkin talked about how transmedia storytelling across platforms should be emphasised. Content shouldn’t be copied onto different platforms, but should be unique to take advantage of different strengths.
  • Neil Perkin also mentioned that a big challenge for online is that it lasts forever – it is not campaign based and you can’t control who sees your spot when and how.
  • Channel 4 are trialing teaser 2-3 minute clips of forthcoming comedies to gauge reaction.
  • Answering a question from the audience, Dan Cryan mentioned online video was seeing a renaissance of the soap opera – particularly in the United Stated where sponsored and branded content is increasingly prevalent
  • And answering a question from Nick Burcher regarding the culling of Downfall mash-ups on Youtube by the studio despite the approval of both the director and the audience, Dan Cryan said “you would have to be a brave man to bet against the anarchy of distribution”. It may not always be timely or the best quality, but people will always find a way to watch what they want.
  • A final question concerned the film market online. Dan Cryan mentioned the primary barrier was the windowing of films – films make most of their money on DVD within the first 12 months. During this time, they won’t be available to view on ad-funded sites, but will gradually transfer to parallel availability on pay per view or download to own sites – though this would be more likely to be situated on a TV than a computer.

From a personal standpoint, more focus on the metrics of success would have been welcomed, but as addressed in the Q&A, this is a very thorny issue.  I would also have liked to have seen more from Youtube on how they are breaking down the distinction between TV and online and innovating in advertising formats – this Wario advert is one of my favourites – but nonetheless it was an interesting afternoon, with some useful tidbits from each of the speakers.

sk

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Twitter and Mad Men

dondraper_twitterPaul Isakson has revealed himself to be the brains behind the Don Draper profile on Twitter (for those unaware, Don is the central character in the AMC drama Mad Men – set at an advertising agency on Madison Avenue in 1960). Its popularity inspired others, and before long virtually the entire roster of characters (if not all) were Tweeting away.

Paul has said that he will be transferring control of the account over to AMC for them to use it as they wish.

Will AMC make use of it? Should they?

Back in the Summer, AMC asked Twitter to shut down these user accounts due to copyright violation – although after a groundswell (another buzz word du jour) the profiles were reinstated.

I can understand their reasoning behind it, even if I don’t agree with it. Traditionally, branding was about central planning and pushing a clear and coherent message to current and potential users.

But the nature of a brand is in the eye of the beholder. Faris has a great post where he riffs on Paul Feldwick and socially constructed reality to postulate that

A brand is a collective perception in the minds of consumers

This is why UGC and social media is so scary to some people – they can’t control how the message gets reformulated and reconstituted as it passes from person to person and perception to perception – each new thought predicated and built upon the previous.

And as Heinz found out when they asked consumers to submit videos of Ketchup to be used in an advert, people don’t always say or think what you would like them to.

If a brand is to be successful on Twitter or within social media in general, they have to accept this and roll with the punches.

Will AMC? They would obviously prefer it if they could control all Mad Men Twitter accounts. But if they can’t? That depends on how far they are willing to engage with their fans and perpetuate the mythology. With long-running scripted shows, this can be a difficult prospect.

As the comic book world shows, the problems with multiple storylines, continuity problems, canon vs. non-canon, retcons and so on are legion. At the moment, these Twitter accounts are a bit of fun but if AMC get involved, they are given the aura of legitimacy.

Personally, I think that AMC should take the plunge. People are invested in the show and immersed with the storylines – social media offers fantastic options to deepen that engagement further. This in turn creates loyal advocates who will religiously watch the show and expound the benefits to their peers. A few nitpickers aside, this will be a positive step for fans.

But problems can be caused as social media encourages an insider-outsider effect. I have felt first-hand the issues of being an outsider.

A while back, I tweeted that Mad Men makes me want to drink whisky. Presumably through a Twitter search, two of the fake characters promptly added me as contacts. I am only halfway through the first series and by browsing their feeds I quickly saw things I wish I hadn’t.

Social media activities tend to be run on the premise that people are au fait with all the characters and their developments.

If you are not – BEWARE OF SPOILERS

sk

Two great videos and the importance of distribution

The video above – Dr MIchael Wesch’s Anthropological Introduction to Youtube – has, at the point of writing, received over 112,000 views. It was uploaded just over a week ago. Not bad for a 55 minute video

The author has past form. A previous video of his – the Machine is us/ing us – has over 6.1m views.

As Dr Wesch mentions in the top video, the Machine is us/ing us grew exponentially in popularity. It spread through word of mouth and grew via Digg and del.icio.us. User generated filtering led to user generated distribution.

But how can the content rise to the fore? It helps that Dr Wesch produces captivating videos but as he points out, 9232 hours of video are uploading to Youtube per day. Six months of Youtube videos equate to sixty years of always on network TV content.

Blogs can of course promote user generated content. But Technorati tracks over 112m blogs. How can a blog rise to the fore?

This question is bubbling around my head at the moment, but I think it points to the continuing necessity of mass media. These may be traditional, but they can equally have spawned bottom up from the Internet.

There needs to be a guarantor of quality content out there (insert joke about quality of content on mainstream media at the moment). Both for people to consume, but more importantly it needs to exist to attract the talented people that create quality content.

Because in the current climate I’m not convinced that quality can naturally rise to the top. There is a good chance of it being sidelined by a Numa Numa or a Tay Zonday.

While The Machine is us/ing us beat the Superbowl adverts (average cost $3.6m) in popularity, what are the chances of these videos having as many views if they were released virally? They could potentially have been as successful and possibly more if the stars align in the right place, but I wouldn’t bet on it. The event, the television event, brought people together.

Mass media still has a future. It may not be perfect, but for me it is the best method for talent to reach an audience.

sk

Dilbert shows how not to relaunch a website

 dilbert

The Dilbert website has undergone a redesign, and now incorporates a web2.0 element. What should have been a successful launch has been mired in criticism. Change, and especially a radical overhaul, will always attract dissent from some quarters, but Scott Adams et al made some basic mistakes which have spoiled the new look.  

I really like the participative element of Dilbert, found under the vertical entitled mash-up. The concept is that the final pane of the strip –essentially the punchline – is now customisable. Users are invited to see if they can improve on the original joke. In my eyes, this ticks all the right

  • It is a simple idea that can be easily communicated
  • The interface is extremely easy to use
  • The daily nature means users are consistently drawn back to the site
  • Voting and commenting are included
  • It is searchable

It still isn’t perfect – the profile page could do with more information – but that is what the big fat beta sign is for

So why all the hate?

The mash-up element is easy to use. But as a whole, the new features and layout have compromised the simplicity of the site.

People want to visit the site on a daily basis, read a funny strip and move on. Looking at ways to enhance the experience is commendable, but the core offering shouldn’t be disrupted.

Particularly when Dilbert fans are likely to be the rabid uber-geeks that know about website design and aren’t afraid to share their opinions. The use of flash in particular has come in for a lot of criticism. Linux users are reporting that the new site is incompatible with their operating system. This kind of oversight is unacceptable.

This brings me on to participation inequality – a typology of online users created by Jakob Nielsen. Essentially, a tiny minority account for a disproportionately large amount of content – whether in blogs, social networks or Wikipedia, this inequality will hold true. He labels it the 90-9-1 rule

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute).
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time.
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs

By focusing too much on the 10%, the Dilbert team have potentially alienated the 90%. The minority may be the power users, but it makes no sense to ignore the 90% in order to focus on them

The sad thing is that most of the problems with the redesign could have been avoided by going through a simple process. Conversation.

Yes, the element of surprise would have been lost. But by conversing with users, creating buzz, encouraging ideas and providing feedback, the launch would have been a lot smoother. And by taking the participative element to the next level – actually providing users with the opportunity to invest into the look and feel of the site – loyalty and affinity would have improved considerably

Instead, the site owners are fire-fighting. Rather than focusing on the mash-ups and the increase in visitors, they are now announcing a bare-bones page without the additional features. The pointy haired boss would be proud

sk

Rodchenko competition

Fungus 

Photo taken by http://www.flickr.com/photos/rooreynolds/  

I think that this is a brilliant idea for a campaign.

To promote the Rodcheko exhibition at the Hayward, enthusiasts are invited to submit their own photos taken from unusual perspectives (a Rodchenko trademark) with the best broadcast on the Hayward website.

Simple, relevant, inclusive and – most importantly – fun. Top marks to the originator.

 sk