Seven Secrets YouTube Doesn’t Want You to Know!

Seven secrets YouTube doesn’t want you to know. Revenue, profit, editorial versus algorithm, Steven Chen’s latest.

Man that headline will sell. Truth is, I am very careful about NOT revealing confidential information on this blog that I learn from Google employees, as a YouTube partner, or through my conversations with industry colleagues or creators.

But most of this is public now, or based on educated assumptions topped with a saucy tabloid-like flare. On a similar note, YouTube’s Business Blog published a refreshingly transparent POV about some YouTube myths recently. Did you know that 70% of Ad Age top 100 marketers ran YouTube campaigns in 2008?

Here are the secrets the YouTube PR folks won’t reveal:

I've got a secret
"I've got a secret" -Cindy Brady

1) YouTube is Monetizing Fewer than 9 Percent of Its Videos. But Who Cares? Kudos to Jason Kincaid for doing fancy math to figure out what percent of videos YouTube is monetizing (meaning the site is making money instead of paying to stream and bleeding money). The answer was 8.5%, which is close to AdAge’s 8.7% estimate (CNN Money claims 13%). Of course, monetizing could mean shitty lil’ penny banner buys, decent InVideo sponsorships, homepage takeovers, or premium rev-share deals. It’s long been rumored to be 3-5 percent monetization, but let’s get real. Google could turn that number to 100% by simply running Adsense indescriminately on each page. So I’d be less concerned about the percent than the profitability.

Thanks to YouTube my videos are seen 200-250,000 times a day (yey, Uncle Google). That wouldn’t happen any other way, and I’m only hoping the biz-dev folks enhance the average profit per-monetized video before it bothers chasing the impossible-to-monetize-well long tail. This is happening as we speak with new revenue boosting options.

If I got a penny per view, I’d earn $730,000.00 this year. I’m not, mkay?

2) Algorithms Squashed the Editors. Almost nothing you see on YouTube is by accident… or an editor anymore. While YouTube editors once possessed more power than most network executives (creating instant celebrities by homepage feature pixie dust), the model is now driven almost exclusively by relevancy and economics. Recently, YouTube announced content creators and small advertisers can get their videos promoted for a fee… and not just against search results. Editors continue to serve some role on the “spotlight” pages and community relations, but are not the Titans they were in 2006 and 2007. That said, we still love them deeply because our love was unrequited. Especially when they put us on Partner showcase pages.

Google-Data Robots Eat YouTube Editors' Brains for Fuel
Google-Data Robots Eat YouTube Editors' Brains for Fuel

3) YouTube Still Plays Favorite, and especially for “TV Shows.” Lately, YouTube has worked hard to pimp its “shows,” a collection of retro TV that lost its charm faster than Bazooka loses its taste. Ba-boom. There also are some YouTube partners that live on the home-page (CommunityChannel), the recommendation section for new registrants to YouTube, or are “micro-featured” everywhere. We don’t know whether the editors are doing this, or the algorithms are saying: “these guys are good YouTube-addiction starter drugs.” But we do know that if a human does have any input to this “favoritism,” the person is probably really smart, attractive and has good breath. Man I’d like to meet ’em!

4) It’s All About Your Relatives: Not Keywords and Viral. Think viral-views is the engine behind YouTube? Wrong. It’s about having a steady daily audience (like many, but not all, of the top 100 most-subscribed) and having your videos appear as a related video to popular videos… in other words, via ad, editor or algorythm, getting next to watched videos. Just like being next to a pretty girl makes you look cooler.

A visit to YouTube is often a chain reaction. You start to watch one video, and several related videos draw you deeper. Metacafe was once the master of this, and now YouTube is drawing upon its data-oriented parent, Google, to facilitate what I call the “video roach motel” model. This will get better with time, as we move from “title, tag, description” as being the view driver, to that mystical thing called “relevancy.”

What’s relevancy? I’ll give you two examples: if someone searching Google returns instantly after clicking on a result, that page is penalized on the rankings. Presumably it wasn’t what the searcher wanted. On YouTube, if a video is poorly rated and/or is viewed for a percentage that’s far below average for its total duration, it will eventually be penalized. Example two: on Amazon, there’s a high correlation between Wayne Dyer and Dr. Seuss book purchases, then those two books are related. The machine is getting smarter based on universal behaviors and your own preferences. Soon enough, my audience will be a smaller percent of YouTube but hopefully larger and more appropriate. That’s because we’ll see more of “people who like Shaycarl may also like Nalts.” (And although I may not be as funny or cute, I’ll look thinner to those viewers).

Neither of these models requires indexing the content, mind you. So in theory a video could be relevant to you without the algorithm even knowing what’s being spoken (remember years ago we thought all video would be transcribed to facilitate SEO… and that we’d be driving space cars by now?).

5) YouTube May Not be Hurting, But it’s Hungry. Google was the first to abandon banners and move entirely to a bid model. But YouTube, in a Yahoo-like move, has blitzed in past few months with homepage takeovers. Folks, there’s no reason for ads to represent 50% of the site’s homepage (above the fold) unless you’re trying to show fast revenue. It’s not Googlesque (even if CNN Money maintains that Google hearts YouTube). Of course the rice-sized brained media buyers are using this precious space to simply drive awareness instead of engagement: most of the homepage takeovers are for films, and there’s usually nothing more than a trailer to compel interaction.

CNN Money suggests all is zen-like between YouTube and Google. Hey, even if YouTube captured as much as 1 billion in annual revenue, that’s 1/30th of what Google does. Meh. So if YouTube bleeds a few hundred million to run itself ($83-$350 million in infrastructure/hosting alone, and — who knows — $250 million to maybe $500 million in a year), who cares as long as it has strategic long-term value?  Online video is white hot, and it’s just a matter of expediting the future and reducing the blood loss. Of course, all of this is speculation, and Google/YouTube aint talking.

YouTube ad

6) Why YouTube Can’t Discuss Real Profit/Loss. No, YouTube doesn’t want you knowing about its economics, but I have 3 words for the curious: stop asking, idiot. YouTube can’t over or understate financials, yet journalists whine about the company’s decision to not publish profitability (or even costs or revenue specifics). Imagine the channel conflicts disclosure would create! If it’s horrible, YouTube has dimished street credibility with media outlets, downstream distribution partners, and advertisers… not to mention shareholders. If it’s schweet, then it attracts copyright attorneys like watermelon at a picnic. But should YouTube reveal case study ROIs (with permission of advertisers) to legitimize the medium to marketers? Uh- yeah. Glad you asked. I give YouTube a D minus on this.

7) Steven Chen’s Latest Contribution. YouTube won’t likely be issuing press releases about Steven Chen, who has continued to vanish from the public light. But thankfully, Chen disintermediated his employer and shared his latest project — which includes a golf swing. Hey, he’s got billions in the bank. What would you do? Probably build a coffee bar. Or buy the car you’ve saved up for since 2005. For nostalgia, check out Chen when Google bought in.

steven chen

Shit. This post took me hours of time I could have otherwise spent trying to, um, make money. At least there will be a few comments from the back row. Right?

Geico Misses Value of YouTube Star’s Audience

Geico fails by tapping a YouTube star without tapping into his embedded audience?

Before we armchair quarterback Geico’s YouTube spend today, let me share a secret story. The names will be changed to protect the innocent.

An extremely popular YouTube star (let’s call him Spiffy) last fall mentioned something fascinating to me in private. A major consumer-products good brand (let’s call them “Yummy Snack”) paid him handsomly to create an enteratining video incorporating Yummy Snack. A member of the Yummy brand team had shared the success story at a conference I attended, but left something critical out. It seems Yummy’s agency hadn’t asked Spiffy to post the entertaining/promotional Yummy video on Spiffy’s channel!

The talented Spiffy voluntarily posted it on his channel, and THAT was the Yummy video that popped. Not one posted by Yummy Snack on some branded YouTube channel page. Not because media dollars drove views. I thought that Spiffy’s generous move was so cool, I’ve decided not to call out Yummy’s agency on this horrible oversight.

YouTube might have saved Yummy, but can you blame them? Google is more concerned about selling media dollars than tipping off agencies to the organic power of a star’s audience.

YouTube doesn’t make money when a promotional video goes viral… only when there’s an ad buy.

Geico Gecko and Numa Numa kid

I like to think agencies have learned something in the past year, so it’s sad to find history repeating itself even today. Geico insurance purchased the expensive YouTube homepage spot to boast its “Gecko & Numa Numa kid video,” which prerolls (without audio). Today’s ad spend cost the Geico more than you or I make in a year, and Gary Brolsma (NumaNuma), the online-video sensation, isn’t posting the video on his own channel concurrently.

Are you kidding me? Much of the value of the YouTube stars is his or her embedded audience. Most stars have fans that will propel the video to the top of the “most watched” and “highest rated,” and share it with friends (assuming it doesn’t suck).

As an example, if Fred made a video endorsing Poprocks, his video would get million of views. If the agency posted it — even with some advertising dollars promoting it — it would get far less.

For a moment, let’s put aside the debate about Geico’s agency associating itself with the NJ kid who is mostly a “one-hit wonder” lacking a recurring audience.  Numa only has 35K subscribers and his recent videos are fetching just a few thousand views. Even so, Numa dual posting the video would certainly attract views for an ROI that’s as good as any media spend. The agency gets credit for driving homepage views to its own “Its the Gecko,” channel instead of Numa Numa’s… but one can’t help but wonder if there’s a longer vision for that branded channel or if it was an afterthought.

Why on EARTH would Geico not pay Gary a few clams to post it on his channel? Even without a lot of daily views, Gary could have posted it on his channel concurrently, and gotten views by:

  • Showing us a “behind the scenes” footage
  • Featuring the video on his channel page
  • Making the Geico spot a video reply to his big hit, where it would get residual views

I’d love to know if this was an oversight or a thoughtful decision because, for instance, Gary wanted more coin to distribute it than made sense for the agency. But absent that, it’s going to be my case study for being “half pregnant” on YouTube– smart enough to tap a star and invest in media, but not savvy enough to tap into the creator’s audience as well.

The lesson: It’s not smart for brands to tap into know YouTube stars without buying media, and it’s not smart to buy media without getting some “street cred” from a known YouTuber. It’s smart to do both. Who’s going to help brands figure this out?

(I’d like to use the case study I referenced at the beginning, but the star would get tainted by the agency for mentioning this slip and “Spiffy” doesn’t deserve it).

Dangers of Mobile Advertising

A video parody of what might happen as mobile advertising starts targeting you based on your location, and sending you instant offers to lure you into retail stores.

Wired magazine reports this month that it’s the GPS revolution in 2009. Remember a decade ago, when we heard stories about how you’d be passing Starbucks and suddenly receive a text/sms offer via your mobile phone? Yeah, that and the space cars I’m still waiting on.

Well here’s a glimpse into the dangers associated with GPS-based (location based) text advertising. Jo and I depicted the sad reality as we see it. We’d be passing stores just to get the discounts retailers would use to lure us back. Mind you this isn’t a sponsored video, so the Borders, Starbucks and California Tortilla appearances are just to make it more realish.

I’m not sure if other countries have introduced this technology, but I sure can’t wait for it in the US. That’s what I love about those free 411 services. You suddenly get text junk mail. Eww. And how creepy would it be to have an advertiser know exactly where you are at a specific time. Here’s hoping for opt-outs.

I’m posting the blip.tv version first because it’s a bit better resolution:

And the YouTube version…

You Tube – Clean Up or Censorship?

hot off the press…

A YouTube for All of Us
As a community, we have come to count on each other to be entertained, challenged, and moved by what we watch and share on YouTube. We’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to make the collective YouTube experience even better, particularly on our most visited pages. Our goal is to help ensure that you’re viewing content that’s relevant to you, and not inadvertently coming across content that isn’t. Here are a few things we came up with:

* Stricter standard for mature content – While videos featuring pornographic images or sex acts are always removed from the site when they’re flagged, we’re tightening the standard for what is considered “sexually suggestive.” Videos with sexually suggestive (but not prohibited) content will be age-restricted, which means they’ll be available only to viewers who are 18 or older. To learn more about what constitutes “sexually suggestive” content, click here.

* Demotion of sexually suggestive content and profanity – Videos that are considered sexually suggestive, or that contain profanity, will be algorithmically demoted on our ‘Most Viewed,’ ‘Top Favorited,’ and other browse pages. The classification of these types of videos is based on a number of factors, including video content and descriptions. In testing, we’ve found that out of the thousands of videos on these pages, only several each day are automatically demoted for being too graphic or explicit. However, those videos are often the ones which end up being repeatedly flagged by the community as being inappropriate.

* Improved thumbnails – To make sure your thumbnail represents your video, your choices will now be selected algorithmically. You’ll still have three thumbnails to choose from, but they will no longer be auto-generated from the 25/50/75 points in the video index.

* More accurate video information – Our Community Guidelines have always prohibited folks from attempting to game view counts by entering misleading information in video descriptions, tags, titles, and other metadata. We remain serious about enforcing these rules. Remember, violations of these guidelines could result in removal of your video and repeated violations will lead to termination of your account.

The preservation and improvement of the YouTube experience is a responsibility we share. Let’s work together to ensure that the YouTube community continues to thrive as a positive place for all of us.

The YouTube Team

Brief Editorial:
by Zack Scott

1. Why should videos be demoted on profanity alone? Why not just hide them for people not logged in and are 18 or older?

2. Some of YouTube‘s most popular stars…Bo Burnham, Charles Trippy, sXePhil, Chris Crocker, Mark Day, etc…(name as many as you want) all have used profanity.

3. The new thumbnail idea sucks. Now what if none of the thumbnails are good?

4. YouTube sometimes features videos with profanity.

—————–

OK, now I finally understand YouTube’s “Stricter standard for mature content”

“Videos that are considered sexually suggestive, or that contain profanity, will be algorithmically demoted on our ‘Most Viewed,’ ‘Top Favorited,’ and other browse pages.”

They must not like sXePhil.

On NBC Today Show… this morning. maybe.

Greetings boys, girls and willvideoforfooders!
I’m your substitute, I mean “GuestOfNalts (.)” today 🙂

As you know this self proclamied viral video genius, Kevin ‘Nalts’ Nalty, started talking to himself early on, as we see in several of his more delightful films: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, AND here!

WHEEW!

Kevin has developed a number of personalities, alter egos and of course clones over the years. This is me here in my pre-natal state along with my other clone brothers and sisters. And here is the first generation of a Nalts’ Clone. As you might have guessed he didn’t quite make it. Unfortunately, he was unable to grasp the finer points and magic of editing and fell into a very tragic incident involving a can, the local trash collector and the very large trash collector’s truck. Since, much progress has been made and as you can rightly read I am one of the current generation ‘CloneofNatls’. However, we do prefer being called ‘Spawnsof Nalts’. We have advanced far more than the initial copy, even though we still titter on lame.

As a copy and a real live SpawnofNalts it is my position to make sure that anything Nalts does or thinks when indisposed makes its way to the beautiful eyes of his darling readers, fans, lurkers and all the rest of you, ASAP!

Tomorrow (July 9), on NBC’s Today show in a segment called “Frustrated Fliers.” The interview was shot in NYC yesterday and prompted by “USAIR Sucks” and not “Crawling Through Airport.” See if you can spot the original Nalts at the airport. If not, enjoy these little vignettes to make up for the possibility of a brown out we predicted in NYC. If you missed it because you just couldn’t drag your lazy ass out of bed before 11am, you know who you are, and barring some possible genetic or technical malfunction, me and all the other SpawnsofNalts will try our best to accommodate Today the day after yesterday or sooner right here!

Oh, and bring a clothes pin!

Nalts at the airport Today!

Be glad smell-a-vision never took off!

END TRANSMISSION

The Secrets of Viral Video (draft presentation)

As I mentioned previously, I’m presenting “The Secrets of Viral Video Marketing” at a Yahoo! event called “Big Screen, Little Screen.” It’s this Wednesday,  July 9 in Toronto, Canada.

Want to review the deck and provide any suggestions? Obviously it won’t be self explanatory, but I thought I’d give you loyal WVFF readers a sneak preview. Here’s the Powerpoint deck in Flash via Slideshare.net.

Any suggestions?

Oh- and thanks to David Bridges for designing the Nalts flavicon (that little icon on the left of the browser window before the WVFF URL). Thanks also to Jan for installing the little booger!

Kevin is a poopie head

!

discuss!

Three Golden Rules of Online-Video Creation

Nalts is Moses (not God)For years I’ve written countless words about “do this” and “don’t do this” related to online video creation. Some of this applies to amateurs or pros, and some to advertisers and brands. Today’s advice pertains to three “Golden Rules”, and it’s important for all of us- but especially creators.

Let’s look at the Three Biggest Mistakes made by online video creators (and that does include “viral campaigns”):

  1. Emphasizing quality over cost.
  2. Believing good content will get seen.
  3. Caring about what the audience thinks.

Now you skeptics just mentally formulated the three following counterpoints while reading the Big 3 Mistakes above. I’m right, aren’t I?

  1. Higher production value generally means the content is better
  2. The social aspect of the web means good stuff rises and bad stuff dies
  3. The most savvy creators listens to audiences and predicts them, thus creating content that’s more popular.

The good news is that your counterpoints are indeed accurate. The bad news is that if you live by them, you’re going to be broke, frustrated and unsatisfied in your work. I promise. And a promise is a promise. So today, Uncle Nalts will serve up the 3 Golden Rules that shall guide you on your path to online-video sustainability. They’re subject to change as the market matures, but who cares?  If you succeed you’ll find your own reasons to explain it. And if you fail, you won’t soon return to this post because it will piss you off.

Golden Rule #1: At all costs, manage costs. There STILL isn’t a safe online-video monetization model (advertising, purchase, rent) for the majority of video content online. This is actually good news for amateurs like me, because we’ll sustain while better creators come and go — studios simply can’t justify a team of writers, producers, directors, actors, editors on the hopes of finding an audience (that day will come perhaps). I certainly am not the best video creator, but I’m probably one of the most profitable. I write, shoot, edit, and act… So I don’t have costs beyond my excesive time (which I justify by joy, not an hourly wage) and the nominal amount I spend on equipment and variable fees. Most of the people in my videos are acting for fun like I do, and occasionally I’ll pay them with bribes and gift cards.

Golden Rule #2: Good Content is Not Popular. It’s time you separate your notions of what’s good and what’s popular. You couldn’t have predicted 10 years ago that a cup of coffee would cost more than a gallon of gasoline — and that you’d bitch about gas prices while sucking down your overpriced moca frapolati venti with vanilla sprinkles. Good isn’t popular, and popular isn’t good. Does that mean you strive for popularity? Nope. That’s like trying to change the direction a boat is taking by hoping the wake shifts direction. But don’t lose hope here! Nalts doesn’t drop crap on your desk without telling you how to clean it. The lesson is that you’re responsible for getting your videos seen if you want your videos to be seen. I’ll bet you’ve been obsessing on what you do before you hit upload, and subconciously starving everything that happens after that (as if it’s beneath you). Don’t pimp and spam it (I know some video creators that should be Amway reps), but invest in some gentle efforts to get the video to a relevant audience. If the video is about cheese, did you remember to send it the cheese blogger? He’s got an audience of cheese lovers, and not much else to write about.

Golden Rule #3: Screw The Audience. I’m serious. This is really, really hard to do. There are times where you’re hypercharged by the feedback and audience interaction. It’s validating, it helps hone your storytelling, and it’s instant gratification. But almost no online-video creator is at risk of losing touch with their audience — the medium consumes them. Rather, most popular creators lose their steam because they focus on feeding the audience instead of instinct. What began as a fun outlet becomes an obligation. Experimentation becomes repetition of a formula that seems to work (Zipster08 and SMPFilms have, interestingly, spun off LocoMama and a Sparta the Cat channel the same week — these were recurring bits that grew and sustained much of their audiences, but fatigued others). By focusing on the audience above all, desperation and frustration sets in. The remedy for artistic sustainability is caring less. Get back to doing what’s fun and ignoring the “you’ve lost your edge” cold-prikly comments but also the “that’s the best video you’ve done” warm fuzzies. Every video creator I know (and I know a lot of you) pays too much attention to feedback, and I’m quite confident it’s the root cause of death spirals (including my own). For you advertisers, I’d adapt this rule as follows: don’t follow the formula because it’s already been done. The best judge of future viral failure is past viral success.

Moses has spoken.

Video Sponsorship Trends: “Cashing In” or “Selling Out”

I like this “Viral Video: Cashing In or Selling Out” by Jennifer Hollett (Canadian Globe & Mail), and not just because I’m featured in it. It’s actually a well-balanced view of the issues surrounding paid sponsorship and product placement.

dixie chicks sellout like charles trippyAs you may know, there are two different ways to make money via online video. You can share in the percent of ad proceeds based on the publisher (Revver, Metacafe, and now YouTube’s Partner Program). This is easier, but low margin. And you’re at the mercy of the publisher. Currently it would appear YouTube is selling fewer InVideo ads associated with amateur content, and I’m seeing more Google Adsense copy ads or display only. InVideo ads are far, far more profitable to YouTube and creators — selling at about $20 per thousand impressions. Advertisers get much more exposure, since the ads peek up at the bottom and are interactive (a far cry better than banners that we tend to tune out). The second way a creator can profit is by working directly with brands to feature products and services for a fair fee.

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll recognize my POV on this article (worth a scan). I satirize “selling out,” but I actually think you can find a balance between helping an advertiser and entertaining. I even contend that promotion need not come at the expense of the entertainment and vice versa. That said, I do respect the opinion of Kalle Lasn, editor in chief of Adbusters magazine and author of Culture Jam. Kalle, according to the piece, feels product placement on YouTube is a sad development. Lasn says there are already between 3,000 – 5,000 marketing messages coming into the average North American brain everyday. “I don’t think we really need 5001,” he says.

The article highlights (oh I hate that word) Brandfame, which helps facilitate the interaction between creators and sponsors. I’ve also met with Placevine, which represents a number of different brands interested in tapping creators. This article references a video I made called “Viral Video Broker,” where I spoofed this industry almost two years ago exactly. (Another one of those videos I wish I had shot with a better camera, but at least I was somewhat ahead of my time… the voices were, of course, people in my offices at J&J not real weblebrities).

fortune teller

Watch for five trends in this area in 2008:

  1. Creators are going to cross the line by pushing the advertising too hard, and alienating their viewers. It will feel right for them and their sponsors, but ultimately make for a jaded bunch of viewers.
  2. Brandfame and Placevine are the signs of an emerging cottage industry that will become more vital than the labor intensive machines helping broker product placement in television and films. Online video will give brands more inventory (it’s not called the “short tail” folks), access to niche audiences, and — here’s why the legacy firms will struggle — easier scalability. You’d better make it easy for brands and creators, and take a fair portion but not excessive. Product sponsorship is the only way many brands will penetrate the vital medium of online video, because it’s a fairly ad resistant one. In the “lean forward” generation of online-video, we’ll only watch your advertising if it’s interesting or if you force us. I’d content the sustainability of the latter is weak, and you’d have trouble arguing otherwise. Enter TiVo bloink sound, or the sick delight we take shutting a browser window that “serves” a pre-roll advertising with all the tact of a bad-breathed vacuum cleaner salesman. As David Spade said as a flight attendant on SNL, “Buh bye. “
  3. The online-video sites will struggle in this area. Currently mama Google doesn’t profit if I cut my own deals with Mentos (except when Mentos flighted my video as a 30-second ad). But it’s not an area of high concern since YouTube needs to focus on scalable revenue. What happens, however, if creators join forces and agree to sell prerolls embedded in the video file… a Toyota ad pops up gently in the intros or before the “Next New Network” bumper at the end of a clip? Does YouTube take issue with this advertising that they facilitate but don’t profit on? Or is it analogous to a producer selling his show, but retaining rights to a fixed amount of the ad space (I’ve heard Ryan Seacrest does this with his show).
  4. There will be no trend four. Trend four is often wrong, which itself is a growing trend.
  5. The backlash associated with hidden sponsorship is far from over. I wish there was a law that required film makers to disclose any paid advertisers, even though I know much of the “product placement” is offered free by directors. Federal Express, for instance, does not often pay to have its boxes appear in a film. The directors want the film to feel authentic, and seek permission not pay from FedEx to avoid needing to distract viewers with a Garbagepatch Kids-like bastardization of FedEx (FoodEx). In the end, however, I feel like the video creator owes me, as the viewer, disclosure. If you’re getting paid to hold a Mountain Dew, more power to you. Just let me know, so I don’t feel like you’re being sneaky every time your camera pans a mall and I see logos.

Why Media Buyers Are Stunting the Growth of Online Video

Balding white marketer desperately wants to meet smart, strategic media buyer. If you’re one, please recognize you’re not the target of this rant. But the rest of  you are just so friggin’ short sighted and clueless.

There are some amazing online-video series that could be incredible opportunities for smart brands wanting to engage with early adopters of a medium that is changing the way we relate to content and brands.

Brands can reach depth and relevancy with their target, even if it’s not driving total significant awareness and immediately creating ROI through driving intent, store visits, and trial.

I give you exhibit one. iChannel.  A mere 8000 people are subscribed to this series on YouTube, but the views of the weekly series are roughly three times that (I’m the inverse of that with 30,000 Nalts subscribers, but some recent videos ranging in the 8-15K views). So it’s a healthy and highly devoted and interactive audience. Episode 31 had 180K views alone.

And it’s deeply philosophical, well acted, intelligently scripted and short and addictive.  I had the pleasure of appearing in one last May.

These guys spend more time setting up one shot than I do on my entire post production. The audience is like a microcosm of those watching Lost. Or The Office. They’re engaged, passionate, and hold their breath waiting for the next episode.

So why would a media buyer pass on this?

  • It’s not a big media deal. No hot AOL ad reps are pushing it.
  • The audience isn’t big enough. No scale yet.
  • The conversion from the episode to a bloated brand microsite wouldn’t be great.
  • They can just advertise on YouTube’s invideo ads and get there.

Why should an electronic manufacturer dye to have sole sponsorship?

  • They could probably own it for the equivalent of pocket change they dug from the back of their marketing budget couch.
  • It would be ground breaking.
  • The audience is perfect, and the level of product engagement would be far richer than an ad we’re trained to ignore.
  • It sets the stage for a new model where advertisers contract directly with creators of content (who carry fixed audiences). No worthless intermediaries clogging the pipes between.

What’s the solution to grabbing these types of opportunities? Have these deals championed by someone outside the regular media-buying job. While I was at Johnson & Johnson, the big deals between media players (networks and magazines) were done by folks that weren’t inline marketers like me, but had influence over the way media budgets were set across the many brands. After all, J&J couldn’t get interesting deals if each brand fended for itself, and the interesting partnerships required someone that could step outside the short-sighted world I live in when charged with P&L of a brand.