Hulu’s “Confidential” Ad-Selector Specs Leaked; YouTube Adopts Mandatory Pre-Rolls.

Just when you thought pre-rolls were dead, both Hulu and YouTube are embracing them in recent weeks. Hulu has officially rolled out an “Ad Selector,” where viewers can choose among several ads from a single sponsor. And YouTube, whose parent Google once chastised online-video pre-rolls for causing 75% abandonment rates, is now quietly experimenting with mandatory (unstoppable) 15-second pre-rolls before professional and amateur content.

Some brief background: When I spoke to Coke marketing executives about YouTube last year, I had the dubious role of following Hulu CEO Jason Kilar. He teased Coke marketers with an emerging ad offering that’s now officially called the “Ad Selector.” He showed how Coke could provide Hulu viewers a variety of options, where the individual could chose to watch one of several Coke commercials before enjoying a free show. I was thrilled at the model because a) it gives marketers insights, b) it provides consumers with choice, and c) the mere selection exposes the viewer to several brands.

Adweek recently reported that the Ad Selector works. The article cites research by “The Pool,” a study by Vivaki, now a Publicis Worldwide company. [editorial warning: both of the referenced agency websites are horribly annoying].

VivaKi’s research examined 29 different ad models over 16 months, and had participation from such brandsas Allstate, Applebee’s, Capital One and Nestle Purina PetCare. Overall, VivaKi officials said the group invested 230,000 hours of research, surveying over 25 million consumers.

Guess what? The Ad Selector delivered click-through rates that averaged 106 percent higher than pre-roll ads. Plus, online ad-recall scores were 290 percent higher than pre-rolls.

The Adweek/Media week prompted me to “Google” for the actual research (impossible to find on the agency’s website), and I instead found this “confidential” PDF document that outlines Hulu Ad Specifications (dated December 1, 2009).

In case the good folks at Hulu decide to “reconfidentialize” that PDF, here is a brief overview: The Ad Selector is an ad unit that allows the user to control their entire ad experience during video playback. At the beginning of their content play the user will be presented with 2 or 3 category options. Once a selection has been made, the user will be presented with video advertisements in the category of their choice. For example an automotive company could offer the user a selection of SUV, Truck or Coupe advertisements. If the user selects “SUV” the remaining breaks will playback commercials from the sponsor related to just to their area of interest (SUVs).

Yey for Jason and Hulu! Jason’s talk at Coke excited me because he revealed his primary goal was to provide online-video viewers with a positive experience, and wanted to ensure that advertisements did not interfere. Here’s another happyhulu moment: last night I discovered that neither iTunes nor Hulu had yet posted that night’s episode of Fringe (which I missed while flying to Chicago). Instead, I decided to catch Tuesday’s episode of “The Office,” and instinctively went to iTunes first. It was $2.99 (yipes) and iTunes wouldn’t let me watch it on my laptop (seems I’ve exceeded the 5-device rule). So I was pleased to find it free on Hulu, and welcomed the few short interstitial ads.

So now YouTube is imposing “unskippable” prerolls (although not yet with a friendly “selector” model). This is especially ironic since Google in 2007 cited abandonment rates of 75% for pre-rolls, albeit less so for 15-second ones. AdAge reported late last year that YouTube was experimenting with “optional” pre-rolls that a viewer can skip. But Google’s Erin Bouchier reports that viewers are enduring short pre-rolls on professional content, and lately YouTube is rolling out mandatory pre-rolls on short professional and amateur content.

Do you see a skip option on this 15-second preroll on this recent Smosh video pictured below? I don’t.

Just this week I spoke with a fellow YouTube Partner who agrees with my cautious view of these: unless they command significant revenue and are proven to not cause audience drop-off, we’d prefer to turn these off. That said, neither of us has been invited to participate in this program (our options are limited to InVideo ads or adjacent banners).

15-second preroll advertisement is mandatory to watch short comedy video.

The bottom line? I’m a marketer and we need our advertising to work. I’m also a YouTube Partner and welcome models that command higher revenue for YouTube and myself. But I’m a viewer too, and I like control. Even my kids have learned to instinctively close InVideo ads (the ones that appear over the bottom 1/4 of a video), so I’m concerned about their sustainability.

My prediction is that YouTube will follow Hulu’s lead and soon give YouTube viewers a choice of ads. I would also expect that mandatory pre-rolls, if they do endure, will only work a) before highly valued video content, b) with longer formats (like 22-minute shows), and c) in very short form with 15 seconds being the maximum for 2-3 minute videos.

And, guys, I’m still rooting for an alternative to the pre-roll ad that places the 15-second advertisement inside the show. It’s not a simple solution, but it sure would help content creators engage audiences, and encourage them to sustain through an advertisement that would work.

Avoid Regret Pixelation Hangover When Posting Videos

I’ve lost original video files before, and sometimes even the compressed versions. I’ve had to rip my own video from Revver so that I could own some version, and it’s a horrible pixelation relative to the original file (or even the compressed low-rez version). Now I have a few simple rules to save you from this agony:

1) Whenever you finish a video, export it as a FULL digital file and stick it on a backup drive (they’re down to .20 cents per gig so there’s no excuse here… don’t buy a 1 terabite drive- get a few cheap 500-750 Gigs… it’s a hassle, but the more drives you have the damage one crashed drive will inflict). Then kill the master edit file (too big) unless you think there’s a good chance you’ll have to rescore or condense the video (both are hard when the music becomes smooshed with the audio.

2) Upload the best version you can. It pains me that I was uploading 5-15 meg files (when the max on many sites were 100 megs) because it was easy… I could explort as “CD-ROM” in seconds. As a result, my old videos weren’t even taking advantage as the resolution of that time. Now I always upload larger files so they’ll look good as the potential delivery quality options evolve (YouTube feeding to Comcast or Verizon or AppleTV). Sometimes I even upload the full DV file if it’s within the 1 Gig limit.

3) Use the high-end uploader on TubeMogul (by the way, I don’t make money from TubeMogul but if you’re not using it you’re an idiot. You can upload to all the sites in one swoop. Who cares if nobody finds them on Yahoo Video or the dozen other sites. It’s worth a shot, and it helps you in search engines. The company is my favorite video startup and is always adding new features and tools. Well guess what they now allow you to do!? You can download your video in its native form (I believe). That’s huge. How many times have I ripped my own video because it was the best archive. Now I’ll always be able to at least retrieve the highest version I submitted.


Instructions for YouTube Branded Channel (pdf)

Hey, look what I found while Google searching for specifications to create YouTube channel banners (not the paid banner ads, but the branded banners that appear on the top of customized brand channels or partner homepages).

A lot of this applies only to “branded channels,” but it’s still more informative than the meager YouTube help section.

Not sure if this was a fluke or if it’s supposed to be public… Hey, YouTube/Google. You want these pulled down and I’ll do it. A Google t-shirt would expedite this request to our level 1 web support.


YouTube Channel Specifications Help

Here’s one for running contests:


youtube contests instructions

Top Secret YouTube Tricks & Hacks

Okay maybe “top secret” is an over statement, but most readers of this post will find a few surprises here. I give you some of the lesser known tricks on YouTube to optimize your experience as a viewer or creator…

  1. Find Best Videos on YouTube
    Don’t surf the homepage or most-recently uploaded section if you want to find the best videos. There are two places to go… the “top rated” section and the “most viewed.” I prefer the latter, because the community decides what’s lands there. Note that some creators live on this page because their fans rate them 5 stars without fail, so it’s not all good. There are also a few people that are “gaming the system” by artificially rating themselves 5 stars with sock accounts or autobots (boo, hiss). If you like vloggers, check the “most discussed” section of “People and Blogs.” You can also surf the “most subscribed” creators (by category) and when you find someone good (say, for example, Nalts) be sure to subscribe. Then visit your subscription page first, which is like an RSS for new videos by your favorite creators.
  2. Watch Blocked Videos.
    See previous post on this blog to see how to hack YouTube if a video’s URL is blocked by your ISP.
  3. See “Recently Deleted” Videos.
    Delutube and ReviveTube allow you to find deleted videos if you know the 11-digit URL. Source: ReelPopBlog.
  4. Make Your Videos Upoad Faster.
    Apparently SpeedBit Video VideoAccelorator makes YouTube videos load more quickly. It works for other sites as well (see site details at
  5. Upload to YouTube and a Bunch of Other Sites at Once.
    I use TubeMogul whenever I want to upload beyond YouTube on a mess ofwebsites including, currently, Yahoo!, MySpace, Metacafe, Google, Revver, DailyMotion,, Veoh, Crackle & StupidVideos.
  6. Reference a Video in Comments Section.
    You can post a URL in the comment section of videos, but you can provide the 11-digit alphanumeric code, and then people can post this before it:
  7. Get More Views on YouTube
    I’ve written a free eBook about how to promote yourself on YouTube (“How to Become Popular on YouTube Without Any Talent“), and there are other books including this 25-pager I haven’t read.
  8. Download YouTube Videos
    This is a post with some tips, but I like VideoBox from (but it’s Mac only). KeepVid can download videos as FLV files pretty quickly. I’m also using Snapz Pro or Snagit to grab short sections of videos very quickly.
  9. Upload Videos for Best YouTube Quality
    For starters, you gotta export your videos in the best resolution possible — that means making them larger files (mine are 100 megs or more) and ensuring all the specifications are YouTube friendly. Trippy’s blog covers these specs well. Some argue that it’s best to convert it to an FLV per YouTube specifications before uploading, but I don’t like the idea of sending YouTube anything compressed so tightly.
  10. Subscribe to Someone When You Can’t.
    YouTube accounts without videos don’t have a “subscribe” option. To get around this (or to make it easy for people to subscribe to you), use this code, substituting the profile name where I have “Nalts.”

What did I miss? I’m updating this!

YouTube Goes High Definition: The “Secret” Hack Know As &fmt=18

The thing that put YouTube on the map was easy file sharing — quick uploads and fast Flash-based streaming. Lately YouTube is experimenting with high definition, which is a slight improvement from the typical squished Flash format.

Here are the key things you need to know:

  1. It’s in testing, and it’s not perfect. The audio sometimes fails to synch, and not all videos work in high definition.
  2. This isn’t HDTV. It’s just a higher resolution version of Flash.
  3. You can add the code: &fmt=18 to the end of a video’s URL to see if it makes it better.
  4. You’ll see some text below videos that allow you to toggle between high and low resolution.
  5. You can update your account preferences so you have the ability to default to high definition if you don’t mind the potential loss of speed.
  6. I’m not aware of any discrimination on this feature between “Partners” and everyone else.

Charles Trippy posted a video on this yesterday and SMPFilms in (“YouTube Hack”) announced the news as well. This perhaps prompted YouTube’s Blog to post” YouTube Videos in High Definition.”

Mike Abundo (Inside Online Video), of course, identified the hack on March 4, and provided this recent update. I saw the post, but found the improvement to be of nominal visual distinction.

Charles Trippy provided this nice post for Mac users to help them export their videos to take advantage of this higher definition.

I’m working on a video that explains this, and demos some of the before/after. It will also show people how to turn on high definition as a default via their account preferences. I’ll show the step-by-step for exporting better quality (the limit is now 1 gig for all).

Another source: Wired Wiki explains formatting in great detail