Tag Archives: YouTube

Misaligned Interests

Did you happen to hear about (or read!) the NY Times article on how a young man got “sucked into the vortex” of radical videos on YouTube? It’s an interesting and scary read. It’s about how a person goes to YouTube to watch a video on one thing and ends up multiple videos later watching something completely different and often dangerous.

As the article says:

YouTube has been a godsend for hyper-partisans on all sides. It has allowed them to bypass traditional gatekeepers and broadcast their views to mainstream audiences and has helped once-obscure commentators build lucrative media businesses.

As usual, we’re not here to rant about the politics of these videos. It’s just as easy for the videos to be dangerous and non-political and even though YouTube specifically bans harmful or dangerous content, they can’t catch everything.

The real issue here is YouTube’s – and many other platforms’ – business model. They make money by keeping you engaged and the way that they do that is often via a recommendation engine. That engine uses an algorithm that rewards videos that have lengthy watch times by promoting them more often. Of course, the more engaged you are, the more ads you’ll see and that’s really the problem. Most of the popular platforms follow that business model and their interests don’t necessarily align with yours. They all have some sort of algorithm which on YouTube, as the article says, is

the software that determines which videos appear on users’ home pages and inside the “Up Next” sidebar next to a video that is playing. The algorithm is responsible for more than 70 percent of all time spent on the site.

Of course, you can turn off the recommendations. You can also delete your search history, pausing it going forward, and your watch history which will prevent the algorithm from determining what you usually watch. If you haven’t hidden the video suggestions (it’s in your settings) at least you’ll see lots of pretty neutral offerings. More importantly, you’ll take back control and realign their interests with yours.

It would be easy for YouTube and others to prevent a host of problems by killing off the recommendation engine but they never will because it’s the thing that drives their business model. In a perfect world, every business’ interests would align perfectly with those of their customers. Maybe it’s because the big platforms are out of alignment with us that there is so much anger directed toward them?

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Filed under digital media, Huh?

The Ludovico Technique

One of the most uncomfortable scenes in all of film is the scene in “A Clockwork Orange” in which Alex is made to watch scenes of horrible violence for an extended period of time. His eyes are held open and his head is immobilized. This is part of the fictional aversion therapy known as The Ludovico Technique. It’s forced attention to something.

That’s what a good chunk of marketing has become today. What got me thinking about this was the announcement by Snapchat that they will test a new ad format called “Commercials”, which will be unskippable six-second ads that run in select Snapchat Shows. You want to see the show? Then you WILL watch the ad. It’s not all that rare anymore for various media to force your attention. Been in a taxi lately? Maybe you were subjected to TaxiTV. Nonstop noise and motion that, unfortunately, we humans are wired not to avoid. Maybe your attention was grabbed at the gas pump. $15 of gas and a headache from the TV screen blaring the latest headlines and ads. Or perhaps you didn’t have your headphones on as you waited for your flight to leave and the sound of the overhead TV (and the ads) interfered with your reading. YouTube has a “skip” button after 5 seconds for longer ads but also sells unskippable 6-second ads.

All of these things as forced attention. Disabling the fast-forward button during VOD playback is another. I am well acquainted with the attention-value exchange. We give you free content, you give us your attention which we then sell to sponsors. I made a career in TV and media based on it so I’m a fan. I’m not, however, a fan of taking that attention without consent. You can always change the channel or flip the page if you want to skip the ad. The examples above don’t give you that option.

So where is the issue? Not with the media. Our job is to provide the sponsor with the opportunity to sell something. If the creative is awful, people leave. The focus needs to be on making ads that people want to watch. There is an ad running now with bulldogs substituting for bulls during the Pamplona run. I watch it every single time. There are many other great examples of ads you wouldn’t skip even if you could. Forcing consumers to watch is stealing their attention. It’s subjecting them to a bombardment of crap with any shelter available. Does that sound like a great way to do business?

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The End Is Nigh?

Walk around any big city and inevitably you’ll come across some person wearing or carrying a sign proclaiming that the end is nigh.  They’re warning about an impending apocalypse.  While they’re generally seen as a little odd (a polite way of saying nuts), I suppose at some point they’re going to be right.  Hopefully, that time isn’t close.

With that preface, and with the recognition that my timing might be off, I think we’re seeing signs that the end is nigh for the TV industry in which I grew up as a businessperson.  If you’ve been paying any attention to the media landscape over the last decade, you’ve seen some changes in what I’ll call Big TV (cable and broadcast).  To a certain extent, TV has adapted and their basic revenue model hasn’t changed a whole lot.  Sure, broadcast TV has done a good job of mirroring the cable model of dual revenue streams by gaining carriage fees, but the ad model – dollars for eyeballs – is pretty much the same as when I sold, even though the demographics are a bit more precise as the industry adopts additional data sources.

So why is the end nigh?  Let me offer a quote from YouTube’s CEO as presented at their “newfront” and quoted by Cynopsis:


To make her case, CEO Susan Wojcicki rattled off a startling statistic: “YouTube now reaches more 18–49-year-olds than any network ­ broadcast or cable,” she said. “In fact, we reach more 18–49-year-olds during primetime than the top 10 TV shows combined.” Her assertion is backed up by a Nielsen study of US viewers that Google commissioned. Wojcicki also confirmed news that broke earlier in the week: Between 2016 and 2017, Magna Global,Interpublic’s ad-buying unit, has committed to spending at least $250 million on YouTube instead of TV.

It’s a truism in media that dollars follow eyeballs (eventually).  Other than live sports and breaking news, those eyeballs have been departing the BigTV guys for a while, at least in the traditional form via the traditional channels (we program, you watch when we offer a show). While the digital dollars have been increasing (and will pass TV spending this year), very few marketers admit to cutting TV for digital.  Magna has because according to them, 18- to 49-year-olds watch an average 26 hours of linear TV per week, down from 32 hours in 2009.  Dollars follow eyeballs. As Adweek reported:

Magna Global’s $250 million investment in YouTube advertising will come straight from its TV budget. The $250 million investment is four to five times Magna Global’s typical YouTube budget. As a result, the firm will spend less on traditional marketing overall this year as TV ratings dip.

So you tell me – is the end really nigh for Big TV or am I just another nut carrying a sign around?

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Filed under Consulting, digital media

Get Out Of My Face

I’m sure you’ve had the experience of going to a web page and having a video autoplay. It’s one of the most annoying things publishers do, in my opinion. Putting aside that it can be a bandwidth hog, chew up your mobile data plan and hang a page as it loads, inevitably you’ve forgotten to mute your machine or phone and a blast of unanticipated noise can be startling at best and embarrassing at worst. Yecch.

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(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s in that context that I read something this morning from an AdAge and RBC study on marketing. I’m sure you’re aware the Facebook has rolled out autoplay video ads. Oh joy. Well, according to the study (as reported via eMarketer):

While just 9% of US marketers said they already purchased autoplay video ads on the social network, the majority were somewhat (33%) or very (21%) likely to purchase such placements in the next six months. This put the percentage of respondents who viewed autoplay video ads positively at nearly two-thirds. The strong interest supports RBC research released at the end of August 2014, which estimated that Facebook would sell $700 million worth of autoplay video ads this year alone.

I love that 2/3 of marketers view the ads positively.  Where is the research on how consumers feel about them?  Yes, I’m aware that you can turn off the autoplay (click here to learn how) but the default on both the web and the app is to let them play.  It’s not just Facebook either.  Twitter, YouTube, and others are testing the same thing, albeit just autoplay videos (no ads – yet).

Maybe it’s my New York attitude but to publishers offering autoplay content or ads and to the marketers who buy them I say “get out of my face.”  Make your content interesting and engaging, not intrusive and annoying.  Romance me, don’t assault me.  I’m sure I’m not the only person who longer visits certain sites due to their use of autoplay nor the only one who has disabled the feature wherever I can.  I’m still not sure why I should have to do that in the first place.

What are your thoughts?


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Water Everywhere But…

I know – you were thinking about Coleridge when you woke up this morning.  Hey – me too!  In particular, the line from the Rime Of The Ancient Mariner about “water, water everywhere but nary a drop to drink.”

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

OK, I didn’t wake up thinking that but I was reminded of it when I read some data put out by the folks at Outrigger Media.  They measure how brands use YouTube.  The top 500 brands generate 442 million views every month – a bit less than a million each on average, which is pretty good.  But there are some other data which are a little concerning that I thought you might find interesting.

If you’ve spent any time on YouTube (go ahead, admit it!) you’ve probably noticed that much of the branded material is just repurposed TV ads.  In fact, in some brands’ categories (food & beverage), 15% of the videos are just that.  The technology, automotive, and apparel brands (who seem to do a lot of original content – demos, mini-movies, etc.) on YouTube are attracting the largest audience, more than half of the Top 500 brands’ monthly views.  However, the top brands channels are averaging just 35,000 subscribers, which is way less than their number of Twitter followers (more than 200,000).

Many clients have mentioned “going viral” as a goal with some video content.  I caution them that it’s a lot easier to capture lightning in a bottle.  Basically, there’s research that shows you’ve got about three days to make that happen, and if the content hasn’t been shared a lot by then it’s probably not going to happen (even though it can keep growing for a few months).  That said, the Outrigger data shows that we have a fertile field – YouTube – that’s one of the biggest audience areas on the internet and yet brands can’t seem to make anything grow there on a consistent basis.  If consumers had a strong interest in what the brands were planting, why wouldn’t they be asking to be updated regularly by subscribing?  Apparently, not enough fear of missing out in this case.

YouTube is the ocean – there’s water everywhere in the form of consumers from which thirsty brands are trying to drink.  Look like Coleridge was right.

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10 Years After

I was thinking over the weekend about what a very different place the world is going to be from a technical and media perspective in just a few years.  Of course, if you take a few minutes to think back and recall how the world was in 2002, just a decade ago, you’d be missing YouTube, iPhones, Facebook, Twitter, and hybrid cars.  Every one of those things is a daily part of my life and probably yours as well.

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

What got me thinking about this was this:

New research from Leichtman Research Group finds that 38% of all U.S. households have at least one television set connected to the internet via a video game system, a Blu-ray player, an Apple TV, a Roku set-top box and/or the TV set itself. This number is up from 30% last year, and 24% from two years ago. Game consoles are the key devices within this category, as 28% of all households have a video game system connected to the web.

I spend some time each week watching Hulu+, Netflix, YouTube, and other services through my Xbox.  That time spent is not incremental to normal TV viewing – it’s content I find more interesting than what’s available.  That behavior ties in with the research:

  • 13% of Netflix subscribers would consider reducing spending on their multichannel video service because of Netflix, down from 21% last year.
  • 16% of all U.S. adults watch full-length TV shows online at least weekly, up from 12% last year.
  • 19% of mobile phone owners watch video on their phones on a weekly basis; while 9% of all U.S. adults watch video on an iPad/tablet.

So I sort of had this flash forward.  If traditional cable boxes become anachronisms, what else goes with them?  I think desktop computers will be history soon, as tablets and other mobile devices access cloud-based services and data.  Even though I have many computers in my home, I spend nearly all my time on a laptop and could very easily transition to a tablet with a keyboard.  Skype and Google Voice could replace my landline and just may shortly.  I’m sure you can add a few legacy technologies/services that need either to pivot or die.

In only 10 years, a lot of our behavior has been changed by a few services and technologies.  In another 10, it will all be different again.  Are you ready?  Is your business?

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Filed under Thinking Aloud

Split Personalities

All of us who are active online face, from time to time, digital overload.  As individuals, we might be active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google + and a host of smaller or emerging social sites such as Pinterest.  It can be exhausting – remembering to check-in, write a review, etc.  Companies and brands face a similar situation which is magnified many times over.  The big difference is I only have to worry about one account per platform and I’m…well…me!  I don’t have to monitor anyone else posting on my behalf.  The issues of social media guidelines, who owns a brand online, and how an employee’s activity online reflects on the company for which they work are big issues.

All of these came to mind as I read a new study from The Altimeter Group the other day.  Let’s see what you think. Continue reading

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