Dan Beltramo, CEO of Vizu, an online market research and opinion polling firm, recently articulated “across-the-board” impact of online video, particularly preroll advertising which, he says, outperforms dynamic display ads by as much as six times. That’s strong justification for a premium price per impression for video ads.
Luckily, I’ve had the privilege of speaking with many of the industry professionals innovating in this arena. I asked people working across the internet video industry the following or some version of it:
Some were elusive. Others were eager to share. Here’s what I learned…
A standard metric for video will likely emerge.
A standard set of metrics will not only benefit the industry in general, but certain standards are inevitable. All advanced marketplaces generally develop standard units of account; they encourage more perfect competition.
Other media markets, like television, print and radio, all have industry-wide standards. However, the dynamic nature of web content will make creativity in reporting/communicating/setting goals important even when standards have emerged.
What should that metric be?
IAB‘s standard metric for a video view is post-buffer, frame 1, or less than a second of play. I think this is a poor measure of viewer engagement, particularly in light of prevalence of cumbersome players that play automatically and invariably turn-off the very people they aim to reach.
Almsot every major video platform and new media company has a different measure of a view. Revision3 reports views very conservatively by measuring only data transmitted. In other words, if a video is 200MB total, the transmission of 200MB counts as one view. Partial views still count for the percentage of data transmitted.
If all major video platforms would report with these terms, TubeMogul would become a much more powerful tool. Unfortunately, that’s an unlikely scenario, but one we would strongly support.
TubeMogul CEO Brett Wilson says his company’s vision remains “a single set of standardized rich publisher-level metrics across all the venues where video is consumed.”
“Getting our industry to speak the same language is the first and most critical step to both communicating and understanding ROI. And by providing metrics across online video venues, we can help all constituents understand viewership, engagement and audience metrics in context,” Wilson added by email.
Will census-based measures work?
Other third-party tools are emerging too. Comscore‘s VideoMetrix and Nielsen‘s Video Census have similar strategies with products that integrate code with video players, but both products have major exclusions for anyone “superdistributing.”
Comscore and Nielson are also both experimenting with video and audio fingerprinting technologies that rely on panel and census based measures — a sample of the population of users. Nielson’s current panel has 180-thousand likely video consumers. A statistician could explain more colorfully why that’s not large enough to project the audience of a show that needs only 200-thousand views to substantiate effective advertising.
Tania Yuki of Comscore highlights the high-level strategy of her product: “What we’re really talking about with this is looking beyond ‘streams’, and to start talking about online video in terms of audiences and people. The value in online video is really all about being able to understand the people who are being reached and affected by something of value to them… quality content.”
No clear standard is likely to be adopted anytime soon, and nothing exciting has yet emerged from third-parties, but there are still effective tools available to creators…
How do companies currently communicate value?
David Newberg, CFO of ManiaTV, notes,”This all goes back to the age old issue that there is no model that shows that for each dollar of advertising provides x amount of benefit to the company.”
But substantiating expenditure is difficult for any business function, so what tools do new media companies use to communicate that a media buy within online video buy is at least 1.x the investment — hopefully much more?
Dina Kaplan, COO of Blip.tv, discusses her focus on communicating how a certain type of video ad provides a certain amount of brand lift or purchase intent. She notes that the experimental ad budgets that we saw before this time of economic uncertainty have all but vanished, so her goal is to siphon ad dollars from TV by proving the efficacy and trackability of online video:
“There is an advantage to advertising on the Web, versus spending on television, because there are so many additional metrics to track through viewership on the Internet, but there are challenges in that the standards for measuring brand lift and purchase intent through Web video advertising have not yet been solidified. In the end we are not just after digital dollars, which have been previously tied up in search and banner ads and a number of other mostly direct response-based campaigns. We are also after TV dollars, which primarily have been used for brand building and brand lift. It is clear to us, through campaigns that we have run on blip.tv and feedback from marketers themselves, that advertising on Web video – if it is done well – can offer the branding benefits of TV advertising – and positive ramifications of advertising on the Web and the metrics that stem from that.”
Similarly, Brent Weinstein, CEO of web studio 60 Frames, discussed the unreached potential of video on the web versus traditional television: “As opposed to television, where most metrics have been based on sampling, we have access to significantly more information about our users and consumers, and our capabilities are only getting stronger as new products are services are developed. And while I definitely advocate the notion of standards, I’m not convinced that there needs to be one defining methodology surrounding reporting and measurement. There are multiple strategies today, depending on the needs of the particular marketer and campaign, and even more options will become available next year and beyond.”
Indeed, different companies are using different metrics for different types of campaigns. A Viacom employee who requested anonymity told me that, in the near term, monetizing new media is about discussing broad goals with advertisers and then agreeing in advance on metrics to determine the effectiveness of a campaign. To this person, each campaign has a different set of appropriate metrics.
What are some specific tools?
What are some of those metrics? Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision3, which has had particular success with a highly engaged audience, listed a few tools his company has used successfully in the past.
Purchase or a product or service before and after a campaign
Twitter/facebook/friendfeed/chat room/forum mentions before, during and after a campaign (measures of social activity and conversation
Specifically, notes Brad Murphy, Revison3’s VP of Ad Sales, discount codes integrated within their flagship show, Diggnation, gave his client, GoDaddy, the flexibility to directly measure the impacts of various types of ad integration.
Stefan Goldby, VP of Programming Operations at Mania TV has found success by “defining and delivering specified numbers of on screen impressions via on camera shout outs, creative graphics, environmental on set product placement and narrative elements within each episode of each show.”
For Your Imagination which, according to CEO Paul Kontois, has sold brand integration for “anywhere from $50-$125 [per thousand views] depending on the level of integration and customization,” has had success by defining targeted demographics with very specific interests. FYI charges a cost per projected view for each of various types of placement from pre-roll to content integration to midroll to postroll. “Analytics like Qantcast add color to the metrics and include info about the audience you are attracting,” Kontonis said.
Advertisers still buy in volume!
One of the inherent benefits of online TV is also a short-term pitfall. Advertising agencies are accustomed to reaching huge swaths of customers with a single TV buy. Ad agencies don’t have the human infrastructure to buy the types of targeted media that theoretically make each view of internet television more valuable.
Daisy Whitney of TV Week says that, so far, “most deals are usually done on a set fee based on a projected number of views, effectively letting the programmer and advertiser back into a CPM.”
So how do content creators ensure exposure ? For Your Imagination has developed a “leveraged content network” which places the video content on various targeted vertical websites for a fee. Though this is effectively CPM arbitrage, FYI adds significant value by targeting and building relationships with sites appropriate for a given advertiser. This function is the principal piece missing from ad agencies in a new TV distribution paradigm; I think we’re likely to see many follow this model developed by FYI.
Similarly, Ryan Barlow of Michael Eisner‘s new media production studio, Vuguru, is quick to note that it forms syndication partners for each of its productions. PromQueen saw an exclusive window on MySpace. Back on Topps was first introduced on FoxSports.com. In the future, the new media studio that sports the highest production value we’ve seen on the web hopes to build effective brand integration earlier in the production process.
Google’s AdSense for Video (which distributed Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy) and Broadband Enterprises video syndication system (which distributed DormStorm) both follow a similar principal through keyword-based algorithmic placement.
The effectiveness of all of the above is, as yet, somewhat unclear. These methods ensure exposure, but they’re much less likely to ensure the type of audience engagement that makes Diggnation such a powerful media buy.
What about downloaded views?
iTunes, Miro, Pando and other applications that facilitate video download still offer the best viewing experience , and they still represent a significant portion of video views for most series. Luckily, some strides have been made in the way these videos are tracked.
Blip.tv has developed technology to “measure and monetize downloadable Quicktime with dynamic ad insertion tracked by DART…extending the same advertising experience that you have one the web browser straight down into iTunes,” Mike Hudack of Blip.tv revealed on another recent installment of Beet.tv.
But Blip.tv’s plugin is Quicktime specific, and most of the iTunes podcast feeds are packaged as .m4v and .mp4 file format are lost without an always-present network connection.
VoloMedia‘s iTunes plug-in measures ad plays without requiring content providers to re-encode their content into a proprietary file format specifically tailored to iTunes, and can measure usage/consumption even when the device/PC is disconnected from the network. It reports the data at a later time when a network connection is sensed. It can also dynamically change and rotate ads whether the media is in a connected or disconnected state.
The bottom line.
Advertisers don’t necessarily understand what they’re buying when they delve into online video. That’s partially a function of the newness of the medium, but I think it is also related to a lack of cohesive language and industry standards. Idea-sharing and agreement on standards will help to grow the pie for everyone.