Pay Closer Attention To YouTube

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It’s not just about the views anymore.

There are two strikingly new(ish) things happening on YouTube that could very well position it to be one of the most interesting developments in how television (and eve movie-like) content gets consumed and monetized. At this moment, marketers have one of the most compelling platforms to better understand which of their messages resonate. Prior to jumping into the two new(ish) developments that are worthy of your attention, it is still somewhat fascinating to note how few brands leverage YouTube to better understand their consumers. Simple multivariate testing is one way: posting different television ads on YouTube and seeing which one gets more views, ratings, shares and more. Search is another fascinating domain. YouTube remains the second largest search engine (after their parent company, Google). From tutorials to product demos and reviews, it’s amazing how few brands actually leverage the channel to extend their brand narrative and give consumers more in-depth understanding of their products and services. Without question, there are countless other imaginative and innovative ways that brands can use YouTube, sadly we’re still seeing a vast majority of brands simply pumping and dumping their videos on YouTube as if it is one big and free receptacle for all things video. The prevailing attitude still seems to be, "hey, just post it to YouTube as well… it’s free!" as some kind of after-thought.

Two new developments on YouTube to pay attention to:

  1. TrueView. TrueView is YouTube’s way of understanding how consumers feel about the pre-roll video ads that happen before a video starts. You may have noticed that some of these ads now feature a button that allows consumers to click and skip an ad after five seconds. There is little doubt that regular YouTubers lament the day that the company started running pre-roll ads on videos. Now, with TrueView, YouTube can have a better understanding of which ads get zapped and which ads work. It’s interesting to note that TrueView forces brands to not simply run their 30 second TV spots on YouTube, and that the brands who are getting the most efficacy out of TrueView know that they have less than five seconds to keep the viewer from zapping them. The business model for TrueView is also similar to that of Google AdWords. If a consumer clicks the "skip this ad" button, the advertiser does not pay. You can well imagine that Google will soon be kicking off advertisers who don’t get the full view in a bid to create a better consumer experience. Much like AdWords has matured as a performance-based marketing engine, you can see a time – in the not too distant future – where TrueView offers the same type of performance and analytics to TV ads. Just think about that: TV ads may get better and more relevant over time if advertisers are forced to create content that actually performs.
  2. Paid channels. YouTube is planning to allow video makers to charge a monthly subscription fee on channels. Don’t panic, everything you’re seeing for free will remain the way it has always been, but giving the video makers an opportunity to charge for access to certain types of content creates a fascinating new layer to the YouTube story. If you look at some of the massive success that mobile app developers have with the freemium model, you can see how compelling of a business model this could be for YouTube. Take, for instance, Joan Rivers. Currently, she is building an audience for her new video podcast, In Bed With Joan. In theory, she could produce 4 episodes a week and offer up only one of them for free as a compelling and consistent ongoing show, but for her more adoring fans, she could charge a monthly fee of five dollars for access to the other three episodes. Brands could use these paid channels to offer heavy users more personal and in-depth content that is worthy of being paid for.

The new, new media model.

Both of these YouTube business strategies help pave the way for business leaders to better understand the true dynamics of digital media. We started off in the raw terrain of selling advertising online much in the same way that traditional media was bought and sold. Now, close to fifteen years after the first paid banner ad appeared, we are still at the very early stages of seeing how digital can actually transform and improve upon the old model. Whether it is turning a TV ad into a performance-based marketing engine or allowing brands to create their own paid subscription channels to see if consumers would actually pay to be connected to said brand, we could well be entering into a entirely new domain for how video content and advertising is produced, consumed and engaged with… across multiple consumer experiences (think YouTube on traditional TVs, Apple TV models, computers screens, tablets and smartphones). Ultimately, this means that media could be shedding its reliance on advertising as the sole income earner.

The one screen world never felt closer.


  1. I am really excited about the paid model. I’ve long used YouTube for music discovery and curation and something as simple as a ‘download now for $’ is a really easy to way for me to honour musicians I care about by buying their product and still see it in a channel I prefer.
    The methods described above might not translate to my exact vision for music videos, but it makes a helluvalot more sense than creating content, then advertising and/or sharing it within arbitrary rules. That leads to total disaster when the audience actually engages with content by sharing it.

  2. The new paid channels could really change YouTube. If creating content for YouTube is a legitimate way to make money, then the quality of the content is likely to improve. It will be interesting to see how this develops and if users are willing to pay for YouTube content.

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