Make no mistake about it, you can do many social things with online video, but we have to change our mindset about it first.
I was excited to be asked to give the luncheon keynote presentation at this past week’s DigiDay: On Video in New York City. While I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about online video and the future of video, it’s still one of those areas within the digital platforms that puzzles me. While there are many new and interesting companies experimenting with ways to make video more social, the bulk of presenters, speakers and case studies were showing amazing and different types of online video campaigns, but they were using very traditional and very mass media-like analytics and metrics to validate either the success or failure of the campaigns.
It’s still about the eyeballs.
One of the distinct parts of the Web is how it enables and empowers brands to not focus on "how many" people are connecting and following them, but to "who" they are connected to. And, in a world of micro-content and micro-niches of interest, you would think that the metrics have to look somewhat different from GRPs, total views, and the ability to put a commercial in at the front, middle or end of the video. Is it just me, or does that sound boring and uninspired from a Marketing perspective?
Where is the innovation in making videos more social?
It’s a tall order. Video – in and of itself – is a passive action. You click the button and then you sit back and watch. You consume it. That’s sort of true, but not really. YouTube – arguably the defacto brand when you think of online video – is also known to be the second largest search engine on the Internet. When people look for information about anything, they’re looking to see if there’s a video about it. YouTube announced this week that over 35 hours of video is being uploaded to YouTube every sixty seconds (and that’s just YouTube). The consumer’s appetite for online video is voracious – both in the watching and creation of it. And, while it is still not comparable to that of television, you can look at the speed of adoption, and quickly extrapolate that as soon as we can get video to stream the way television broadcasting does, the game could change in a blink of the eye. What YouTube also proves is that adding in social functionality makes a huge difference. Google bought YouTube for $1.68 billion dollars in 2006 not because they didn’t have any video technology (Google Video was doing just fine). They bought YouTube because they had a community.
Social features are just the beginning.
If you take a look at any YouTube video, you’ll note that you can rate it, comment on it, share it (by email, on your favorite online social network, etc…), embed it (on any other website) and you can see information about it (views, likes, etc…) which does make a person consider if they’ll spend time with it. While these functionalities have evolved over the years, the actual content (the video itself) is still a very traditional broadcast. The odds of someone figuring out how to make the actual video more "social media-like" is challenging. I’ve seen videos that allow people to drop comments in it or links within the video to others videos where people are responding to the comments, but those have not received a ton of traction from the mass audience.
There are two paths we go down…
The first path is accepting that online video is (and will be) just like any other type of video format. If that is the case, we have to use the exact same forms of measurement and analytics, and sell advertising in a similar fashion (which is kind of where we’re at today). The second path is to see online video (and let’s lump in videos you’re dragging down on your smartphones and tablets in this lot) as something different. It’s not a mass broadcast, they have social-like features built into them and they don’t bend to the same types of rules and regulations as traditional video, movies and TV broadcasts do. We can also make a bolder statement that online video will evolve. It will become more social as more people create, respond and engage with one another in this medium. It will become less of a passive media and much more active and creational. If we agree that path number two seems more interesting and likely, we now have a huge challenge ahead of us. We can no longer use the traditional measurement and advertising platforms as an indicator of success. We now need new models and a new vision for this new media.
In essence, I’m looking at you and wondering: what do you think online video can/should look like? And, can we ever move away from the pre-rolls and post-rolls?