YouTube’s New Content

The New York Times “Critics Notebook” came down hard on YouTube’s attempts to create TV-like content. See the full article here, and now some highlights…

Do you agree, or have a different thought?

  • With regular weekly shows and viewer-friendly playlists, they are indeed slightly more televisionlike than the millions of mostly homemade videos that surround them.
  • But the harder they try to resemble television, the less interesting they are.
  • All of these shows could, with minor modifications, look at home on television, and the production values on many of the new channels are comparable to those on the lower and middle regions of cable.
  • On the other hand, entire categories of these new YouTube channels — on pop culture and gossip, music, sports, women’s topics — mostly feel like imitations of what cable outlets like MTV, Spike and Bravo already do… There is also a sameness to them
  • Watching these channels, in their bland uniformity, underlines a continuing reality… there are unbridgeable differences between YouTube and television.
  • The shortness and vast abundance of videos, along with the easy but largely random nature of navigation among them, make YouTube an oddly static, timeless experience, no matter how quickly you click from one video to the next. Its channels are video archives, not places where one show follows another.

Sorry Weblebrities. Traditional Media Has Ad Value Density.

YouTube is betting that stars like J-Z can attract audiences and "ad value density" (advertisers will pay more per view than amateur webstars)

Weblebrities, also known as amateur “web stars,” are like the Gaddafi loyalists. They’re not done fighting, but odds favor Libya’s National Transitional Council headed by Abdurrahim el-Keib. (Sure he’s a former electrical engineering professor from the University of Alabama, but he’s the country’s interim prime minister).

The new regime of YouTube is The National Transitional Council of Professional Content, and it’s fortified by something more precious than allies, arms and cash. It has the online-video equivalent of nuclear weapons: “Ad Value Density.”

“Ad Value Density” is a phrase used by Michael Humphrey of Forbes when challenging some conclusions in Revision3’s Jim Louderback AdAge article (the piece gave some “watch outs” to old media entering new media land). Ad Value Density means the content can command a premium spend by advertisers, who are skittish about having their ads surround “consumer generated content,” and feel warm ‘n safe placing ads adjacent to content by real celebrities and network content.

Ad Value Density means, from a financial standpoint, a view’s not a view’s not a view. YouTube’s financial interest is to propagate content that meets the following criteria:

  1. It generates the most revenue: the high ad-value density for professional content means advertisers will pay a premium to surround that content… making each view on YouTube more profitable.
  2. The content will draw larger audiences who return frequently. If they follow the Golden Rule of web content: create constant content.
  3. It generates the most revenue.

Repetition by intent. Professional content will increasingly dominate YouTube, and that will draw larger and more profitable advertising spends. It makes good business sense for GoogleTube. As online-video begins to merge with television, Google wants to be The Distribution Platform. That means it needs content sought after by the unwashed masses who don’t yet use YouTube daily.

What’s not clear is how cable TV will respond. It turns out they’re the current platform, and have a strong-hold on most households with proprietary boxes and bundled channels that would be cost-prohibitive if sold “ala cart.”

In the meantime, it’s a continuous gentle fade for the weblebrities, except the fierce ones who morph with the medium… aligning with studios, securing cash from Google’s $100 million paid to professional content providers.

YouTube's Content Priorities

We’re seeing four tiers of content providers emerge, and YouTube placing a sharp emphasis on the top of the pyramid…

  • Pro: Celebrities and professionally produced content (premium advertising due to “ad value density”)
  • Top 100 Weblebrities: The leading YouTube stars (decent ads, and placement for a while)
  • Partners: Declining emphasis as documented in my previous post (lower ad value)
  • Consumer content with monetization: This is the “long tail,” and YouTube in past months has been working aggressively to monetize even tiny accounts (see proof). Here we’ll see mostly tiny CPMs and CPCs from some of the lesser known advertisers looking for cheap leads.

Nobody’s going to die quickly, but all signals suggest YouTube/Google is shifting its emphasis — from web originals and amateur “weblebrities” to celebrities and large content providers. Why? The latter has the potential of attracting people who aren’t using YouTube, and Google apparently believes it will have them coming back again (if they heed Louderback’s suggestion about creating content frequently). Simply put, higher on the pyramid the higher the “ad value density,” right?

Finally don’t underestimate the Gaddafi Weblebrity regime. Sxephil and others have already secured placement in the pro camp. The fierce creators may be able to segway their web fame into long-form content.

YouTube Offers Advances for Scheduled Content

Content creators and currators are getting six and seven figure “advances” from Google/YouTube, reports the Wall Street Journal. YouTube allegedly is planning to schedule content starting in 2012, and topics range from fashion to sports (I’m guessing travel, cooking and “how-to” are among them).

Let’s look at how this works, and then what it means to independent creators that are not being bombarded with YouTube/Google checks.

Here’s how it would work: Howcast, a creator of instructional-videos, would collect a series around, say, planning the perfect vacation. The company gets a big ass check (advance), and nothing else until the ad revenue (from ads adjacent to the content) surpasses that big-ass advance. Then, like traditional YouTube Partners, the ad revenue is split almost 50/50 between YouTube/Google and Howcast. Howcast, which traditionally pays creators a “flat” fee (a couple hundred per episode) makes the difference. Not too shabby.

The WSJ reports that dozen “channels” are in the works, and that YouTube has requested some content for the channels within the next 60 days for a 2012 launch.

This marks a significant shift in YouTube’s evolution. YouTube, which has taken great care to call itself a “platform,” is now playing the role of a network by funding content and “slotting” it for scheduled and premium visibility.

What does this mean to independent creators?

  • Mostly it’s a shift away from independent creators, which is consistant with the past year or so.
  • However if it brings more mainstream viewers (and presumably frequent and predictable viewers), it’s another way to get your related videos seen (in “watch” pages).
  • A better approach would be to package your independent creation in the format being popularized. Even if Google/YouTube doesn’t track you down with a few hundred thousand, you’ll be ready to be dropped into this scheduled series when the bar drops.
YouTube Dials Down Spontaneity, Raises Volume of Scheduling

Your Blog Voice is Hoarse

Your blog sucks. Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but if it’s any comfort… mine does too. So let’s together learn “the art of storytelling and the science of journalism.” A new book promises to help us find our authentic voice and “craft bold content that will resonate with prospects and buyers and encourage them to share it with others.”

Content Rules (part of the "New Rules of Social Media") addresses content strategically and broadly -- from text to videos

Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman just launched “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business.” Here’s the book site, and the book on Amazon.

Disclosure: It’s part of David M. Scott’s “New Rules of Social Media,” and my Beyond Viral is part of the same series, although its name is slightly shorter.

I quite like this truism from a review on “Convince and Convert” by Jay Baer:

The inherent tension in marketing is that companies always want to talk about themselves and their products or services. Everyone else, meanwhile, only wants to know what those products or services can do for them. Creating content as a cornerstone of your marketing allows you to truly place yourself in your customer’s shoes, to adopt their vantage points, and to consider their thoughts, feelings, and needs. In short, it allows you to get to know the people who buy from you better than any customer survey or poll ever could.

Here’s a paragraph from the book to which I most relate.

ann hadley
True dat, yo.

But a few nuggets regarding video from chapter 16’s “Video: Show Me the Story”:

  • Video content is 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of search results than your standard text-based content (citing Forrester Research)
  • Stop thinking that you need to make a viral video to be successful… focus on the story you are going to tell
  • When creating videos say yourself, “why would the people I want to reach want to watch this?”

Advertisers Like “YouTube Safe” Content: So…

Advertisers like safe content, and it won’t be long before media buyers restrict certain YouTube ads to “safe” videos to protect their marketing clients and brands. So now that mama Google allows YouTube partners to note that the video is “safe” (no drugs, no violence, no sex, and no drugs), I’d urge you to code yours accordingly.

I just found my three most-viewed videos representing 50 million of my 160 million views (one is a scary prank, one is “funny“, and the third is “cute“). Then (see below) I rated them “safe” via the content-rating tool YouTube rolled out recently.

YouTube allows advertisers to target videos to ensure ads aren't displayed near strong language, nudity, sex, violence or drugs.

Are advertisers yet targeting content, and serving higher “CPMs” (the cost per impression metric that is the lifeblood of YouTube) around these videos? Don’t know yet, but it seems inevitable. And it took just a few minutes.

I can’t hurt since I am not so ambitious as to stray from generally family-safe content… I think I’ll survive if I just lost some high-CPM preroll ads featuring porn and crack ads. Yes I just said crack.

Hey this post will be good for search-engine discovery. Watch it become one of my most-f’ing viewed posts.

A Blog Post That Doesn’t Mention iPad (Video SEO)

Via Larry Kless, here’s Mark Robertson, the King of Video SEO, sharing some tips about video codecs, encoding, and other things we don’t quite understand… but know are important.

Until you or your agency are doing all these things as prescribed by Dr. Robertson, we recommend getting all of your content on YouTube. Turns out Google indexes YouTube videos, um, pretty darned well.

Social-Media Monitoring Problem: Dredging Up Ancient Garbage

I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with social-media monitoring tools, and their inability to filter out old content or spam bots using my old content. It’s very easy for me to assess a social-media tool by querying my own name (Nalts). I know instantly what content about me is new, and can recognize old content that has been repurposed by spam sites, which often grab my old blogs and video descriptions to fool search engines and people into thinking they’re not autobots.

Here’s an example from my Google Alerts, which I am about to discontinue. None of this is new! Even Google can’t determine what’s old anymore... and some of this links to my own blog posts that are ancient. This makes me question the prevailing myth that Google will overtake the social-media monitoring landscape with its own free solution.

Is there a solution? Even the best social-media tools can’t seem to discern between legitimate recent posts (of me anyway) that are on my sites or others.

What Are the Early Tech Adopters Doing Now Online?

I’ve been writing a bit about currated content, and now I remember when this caught my attention. Daisy Whitney reports on Hitwise’s Bill Tancer (author of Click) and how he answers the question:

What are the people who were early adopters of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube doing NOW?

Hitwise tracks tens of millions of people via ISP data, and could identify a collection of those who were early to social media. By watching their recent ISP data, we can fairly accurately predict the next big thing. I’ve searched but can’t find the information about this that Tancer provided at the iMedia Connections event in Vegas.

But if you’re interested in whether Twitter has a future and should worry about Facebook, Tancer puts that question to an end.

Amateur Versus Professional Video on YouTube: What’s Next?

Slowly the top 100 YouTube “most subscribed” channels are professional content providers. But sxephil (a YouTube amateur who blogs about daily news) maintains that the amateurs “are the future” and YouTube should pay more attention to them, rather than become a Hulu.

I explore this debate in my video today… Also note a new trick I’m experimenting with at the end of the video. I run a few seconds of black and then add some links to other videos that are related or that I want to promote. You won’t see those unless you have “annotations” turned on.

A few of the links at the end of this video aren’t mine. But this technique is a smart way to keep people viewing your content, rather than selecting the random video that might appear over the player as “related.” One of the easiest things to do when you’re lost in a YouTube binge is select the next video it recommends.

So whatya think? Amateurs versus Pros. What’s ahead?

Why Taking Online-Video Polls is Important

It’s unfortunate that most online-polls don’t provide an incentive. But if you do see a poll invitation surrounding an online video (on YouTube or other sites), I encourage you to participate, and do so thoughtfully and honestly.

I’ll briefly explain how they work, and why viewer feedback is so important to sustaining online-video model.

  1. As you know, ads fund our online-video experience.
  2. Content creators and YouTube don’t make a dime from viewers, so selling viewer eyeballs back to advertisers is the only way for them to cover costs and, daresay, profit.
  3. But advertisers have to know if their ads work. Since few people click ads, we marketers are interested in if the ads changed people’s perceptions about our products or services (and if they’re more likely to buy).
  4. It’s extremely difficult to get reliable data from a consumer about what drove their decision (they can’t accurately attribute the element of the marketing mix that was most influential). For example, most of my target consumers will claim television was the most influential, and we haven’t bought a television ad in a half-dozen years. Coupons are measurable, but usually “attitude and attribute” trackers are how we determine which half of advertising is working.

Typically online-video polls (through such vendors as Insight Interactive and Dynamic Logic) survey a test and a control sample. Simply put, those who have seen the ads and those who haven’t. They’re usually too long, and I have a hard time completing them myself.

How do we use the data? If the viewers who saw the ad like the brand (or better yet have increased “intention to buy”) more than the viewers that haven’t seen the ad, then the ad presumably was effective. A big difference between these ratings and we feel more confident that we’re driving sales. Since the investment in online-video ads is relatively paltry, then the ROI is likely to be positive.

Then, and only then, is the website and creator compensated beyond a pilot. As a result, the viewer can go about watching free content (and, of course, spending on the advertisers’ products or services). If ad-supported video content languishes, then creators will eventually fatigue (unless they’re OCD like me, and don’t seem to care that their hourly rate would be better at Taco Bell).

Bottom line: I encourage you to take polls. Don’t try to trick them, because they’re pretty savvy. But spend the time on them and consider the questions. Your incentive won’t be a free gift certificate, but you’ll know that you served your part to sustain the free-viewing model. Who wants the Cable TV model (fee for select programming) to hit online? Not me.