Is Online-Video Catching Up to TV?

It's getting harder to make a case that TV still reigns.

Brightroll published its annual report about video advertising, and here are some highlights via TechCrunch.

This information jives with Forrester’s prediction that online-ad spending will overtake TV in 2016. And eMarketer’s statement that online-video is the fastest-growing portion in digital advertising.

Highlights:

  • The Brightroll data comes from a survey of advertisers about how they’re approaching online video and what their budget plans are for the coming 12 months.
  • 64 percent said they believe that online video advertising is equally or more effective than the ads that show up on TV. That’s a big deal.
  • Why is online-video rivaling TV?  Because 70 percent of Internet users watch video online, meaning scale/reach is now possible.
  • Most respondents see online video as more effective than both display and social media. That’s notable given the market’s increasing obsession with mobile and social-media ads.
  • 30 percent of respondents said they expect online video to grow faster than any other type of advertising. That’s actually oddly conservative. Remember eMarketer estimates that US online video ad spending will grow by a compound annual rate of 38% in a five-year span ending in 2015, making this by far the fastest-rising category of online spending. Do the other 70% feel otherwise?
  • Performance metrics continues to confound media buyers. About 70 percent said that they needed a more clear ROI and success metrics to justify increasing spend on online video. And about a third want more info about the impact their online video buys have on offline purchasing. TV has had more time to develop metrics and prove results.

As any new media emerges, there’s a dance between the evangelists and skeptics. We saw it when the web arrived. We saw it at the dawn of display. We saw it with paid search (which the survey suggests is still the favorite of advertisers). Now we’re seeing it with the ongoing debates about the merits to TV and online-video.

But now it’s hard to deny online-video and praise TV has the bedrock of branding. With apologies to Mark Cuban (who is still a skeptic of online-video). It’s time to recognize that both TV and online-video have a powerful role in advertising and marketing, and that’s why most media-buyers are savvy enough to plan, buy and measure TV and online video together (eMarketer).

Remember what Nalts has been saying for many years, kids. Eventually we won’t have terms like “TV” and online-video. We’ll just view video as a channel or media manifestation whether it occurs on a computer, mobile device, HDTV, pad or those new fangled cathode ray tubes.

Is Google Squandering YouTube’s Potential? Yes, So…

“YouTube’s future is being held back is the typical innovator’s dilemma, or rather, billionaire’s dilemma,” writesAshkan Karbasfrooshan is CEO of WatchMojo.com. I included some of Karbashfrooshan’s pieces in Beyond Viral, and he’s one of the authoritative writers about the online-video industry and media monetization.

Google's Mansion and its YouTube Slave House

Indeed YouTube is but a toy kiosk in the Google “Mall of Americas.” Before I provide my 2 cents, here are some important highlights of his recent piece (with my comments in italics). His article was spawned, in part, by a “Video Forecast 2011” piece by AlphaBird’s Alex Rowland.

  • Google is generating way too much money from its “traditional” search business ($30 billion) to care about radically owning the new video space (which is a small portion of the $2.5 billion Google counts as “display”).
  • While YouTube commands 45% of the video streams in the U.S., it is unlikely that it will generate $600 million from video ads in 2010 (or 40% x $1.5 billion). (Hulu, he says, did $240 million… and with a tiny percentage of streams).
  • YouTube correctly identified ad agencies and Fortune 500 marketers as those who would turn YouTube into a billion-dollar business.   However, since Google had little experience in selling to ad agencies before it acquired YouTube, growing video revenues took a lot of time to scale.
  • But instead of allowing content partners set prices based on actual market dynamics (demand and supply), YouTube implemented a set of obstacles and requirements that have made selling one’s YouTube channel all but impossible. YouTube did this, I believe, in an attempt to thwart content producers from owning the relationships with media planners and buyers.  After all, if YouTube opened up its site, it would lose contact with advertisers and become a mere dumb pipe. (Indeed Google has been known to dismiss the role of the media buyer as somewhat useless intermediary… however the “dumb pipe” of Google’s paid-search network isn’t so dumb).
  • Some would argue that if leading YouTube content provider Next New Networks’ indeed sold to YouTube (a rumor that spread in recent weeks, such as with this LA Times piece), it would be more of a capitulation than coup, for NNN relies so much on YouTube that it cannot possibly remain a going concern if it was not part of YouTube.

Now the WatchMojo CEO is a YouTube content provider, and has reduced the percentage of his company’s own inventory via YouTube from 45% to 15% in just the last past few months (by expanding his distribution beyond YouTube, since his YouTube audience has not contracted). He says YouTube is creating an “opening for others to win the bigger ad dollars,” and names DailyMotion, Metacafe and Facebook as potentials.

Now my thoughts: this isn’t a lone voice. I’ve heard this or similar perspective from content creators, advertising agencies, industry watch dogs and even some variations from YouTube/Google employees.

I would contend that Karbasfrooshan is more correct than controversial, and that Google is perhaps even “strategically ignoring” online-video’s near-term growth potential because it has far more critical business “levers.”

  • Google has a cash cow in search-engine advertising, and is broadening into other mediums especially mobile. I expect YouTube’s growth to continue (it’s usually the case with the market leader), but its share of online-video display dollars will decline dramatically.
  • Still, YouTube will continue to flourish via the middle market, lower maintenance, and “self serve” portion of the marketplace. This is almost certain without a significant “course correction” that does not appear imminent or within Google’s DNA.
  • If Facebook begins to display video and share advertising revenue with content creators, I would imagine most — from Discovery to Annoying Orange — would start posting on Facebook quickly, migrating their audience, and even staggering/delaying content to YouTube (the way some providers like The Onion and College Humor do… first posting on their own sites, then weeks later posting on YouTube).
  • Just as I don’t think my own content cannot survive and flourish outside YouTube (at least alone, hence my signing with Next New Networks), I do not believe Google is poised to grow or even maintain YouTube’s share of the online-video advertising budgets even remotely in relationship to its percent of video streams.
  • The exception will be small companies and middle markets, or advertisers who are prone to buying via Adwords. Currently the vast majority of YouTube advertising dollars (with the exception of individual campaigns and homepage takeovers) are almost entirely driven by Adsense Adwords. You heard me correctly, and that’s a sad statement about Google/YouTube’s ability to sell direct to brands and/or via partners and agencies.

Large content creators and brands will and should want a strong platform partner which puts the audience needs and preferences first, but theirs at a close second.

So the answer to this post’s title is “yes… Google is squandering YouTube’s potential right now.” It is almost inarguable truth that YouTube is not leveraging the strength of Google and its global salesforce, and not winning the hearts and minds of Madison Avenue. It follows, therefore, that the stewards of large digital media budgets are now seeking — and will continue to pursue — alternative online-video advertising options for innovative programs beyond prerolls.

I’d expect to see AOL and Yahoo, if not Facebook, knipping away at Google’s online-video Achilles heal. Google, after all, is not a media property at heart… it’s a sleuth of engineers producing innovative change. Given that identity, Google can’t be underestimated as a bold market force that will continue to shake the online-video industry in ways far more interesting than hundred-million-dollar media buys, which are akin to vending-machine revenue at a casino.

In the meantime, content creators should:

  • Ask YouTube to facilitate and encourage them to prevent agency buyers from feeling YouTube’s thorns. Likewise they need to aggregate to achieve sufficient strength to command the interest of digital buyers unless their niche is remarkable.
  • Maintain good relationships with YouTube people, recognizing that many of YouTube’s shortcomings are out of their control.
  • Diversify their distribution to include some of the smaller properties… especially those that grow. YouTube’s incentive to innovate for advertisers depends on market competition.
  • Derive income directly via sponsorships… which is no longer discouraged by YouTube, a video platform.
  • Pay close attention to what Google is doing with online video that has far greater potential than YouTube or any individual media property alone.

2011 Prediction 6-9 Trillion Display Ads Seen by 45 People

comScore today announced that in the third quarter of this year (3Q 2010) about 1.3 trillion Internet display advertisements were served to people in the U.S. (a 22% growth from the same period in 2009).

We were too lazy to register to download the report, but not so lazy as to avoid making “wild, unfounded generalizations and predications” based only on that one piece of data…

  • In 2011 6-9 trillion display ads will be seen, with a 32% growth in online-video ads.
  • More than 95% of the ads will never be seen by human eyes
  • Of the 5% of ads that are actually seen in the U.S., 54.7% of those won’t be in the U.S.
  • Just 45 people will see the ads: a staggering 95% of some previous subsegment of the 6-9 trillion ads served.
  • 76.4% of the remaining ads will be seen by high-school kids ages 12-18 who impact .04% of the gross domestic product.

Now here’s what the report will really offer, with italics in my words.

  • The story behind Facebook’s staggering growth (everything edited out of Social Networking: the movie).
  • New strategies and innovative ad sizes offered by publisher (words like “target” and “accountable” and “ROI” will be included, and some sample ad formats will show how to be advertisers can ride publishers like a drunk Texas cowboy on a wounded Mexican steer).
  • Category-level trends and insights (both industries covered: financial, travel AND consumer-packaged goods).
  • Advertising success stories of mid-sized and niche publishers (including data that’s so powerful it’s almost as real as the 3D Yogi Bear… but less interesting).
  • Tools to generate more sales leads and evaluate competition (tricks like “put together a white paper, demand registration, then call the person 5 times in the next consecutive 11 days”).

Oh I’m just teasing comScore. But about the lower-case C…

Can Google Sell Online Video Ads?

There’s been a lively debate recently among online-video enthusiasts about Google/YouTube’s capacity to sell display advertising. Sales people need different skill sets selling paid-search (automated, measurable, bid-based) versus display advertising (which is less measurable and more like selling television or print). To understand the distinction, see Google’s video; this is something we’ve been exploring at WillVideoForFood since Google bought YouTube in 2007. While Google has deep relationships with top companies and industries, it has only recently put emphasis behind non-search advertising.

YouTube’s display team (a few dozen) is rather small, and most YouTube ads are sold via Google Adwords not the dedicated team. While the display team sometimes lands some comprehensive ad buys with advertising agencies and brands, most monetization on YouTube is marginalized. The CPMs (cost per thousand) are so disappointing to some creators and online-video studios that some (from Next New Network and Revision3 to TheStation) have begun to sell their own inventory, or partner with ad networks that can attract better monetization for their views. Increasingly YouTube has provided creators and intermediaries tools to sell their inventory directly.

That said, there was some encouraging news from Jonathon Rosenberg, Google’s SVP for product management. According to this eWeek piece titled “Google YouTube, Android Drive $3.5B in Ads.”

Google’s display ad business… operating at an annualized run-rate of $2.5 billion. That’s counting YouTube ads, and all non-text ads running on Google’s network and DoubleClick networks, Jonathan Rosenberg, Google’s senior vice president of product management, said on the Q3 earnings call. “You guys always ask me (referring to analysts)… where’s your next multi-billion dollar business after search,” Rosenberg said. “There’s your answer.”