By Bryce Clemmer
During digital content NewFronts earlier this month, Gawker posted a provocative piece stating that because internet video viewing measurements are flawed, the value of online video is generally null and void. The piece then goes on to point out, correctly, that traditional TV viewing measurement methods are similarly as flawed, and concludes with a screed about the state of online journalism, bemoaning layoffs at outlets like Mashable, which recently switched to a more video-heavy format.
While portions of the piece weren’t factually wrong, per se, the way in which the facts were positioned to reach the conclusion was deeply flawed. When it comes to measuring video views, because there isn’t a great system in place right this minute, goes the logic of the piece, digital video is comparable to a scam and not worth advertisers time (or money). If we take a step back and look at the macro picture, we will find that it’s simply not the case. Digital video is a growing space, and it yields valuable benefits for brands who choose to deliver more engaging content on its platforms.
For one, digital allows far greater targeting than traditional media outlets — a boon both for big brands who don’t want to waste money and smaller brands who have the opportunity to compete. There are certainly smart people, like Dave Morgan with Simulmedia, evolving the targeting capabilities but largely TV ads remain an antiquated form of advertising in which brands buy blocks of time in big markets and don’t segment beyond the programs they select.
A fraction of the audience watching any given television show will care about a product, so, in a majority of advertising situations, how is that scenario a great use of advertising dollars? In the digital world, brands can at least micro-target and present ads to customers who may actually have interest, rather than simply look away. Micro-targeting also provides the opportunity for companies to get in front of the audience they prefer, and not have to buy larger ad blocks irrelevant to most of the audience.
Additionally, the Gawker piece implies that video analytics systems cannot tell whether a viewer engaged with a video for more than a few seconds or watched with the sound on. While it is technically challenging to determine whether a viewer engages with a video for a fixed period of time, it’s not a problem limited to just digital video. Since the inception of television we have all muted ads, left the room during commercial breaks, or simply let the TV run in the background while multitasking. There are even people who leave TVs on for their pets during the day. That said, is a pet classified as an engaged viewer? When evaluating traditional TV measurement, Fido is just as valuable as a person who may actually purchase a product.
In conclusion, digital video measurement is flawed but that doesn’t mean it isn’t evolving at a more rapid rate than traditional television. Facebook and YouTube are continuing to spend substantial amounts of human and capital resources to evolve their digital video platforms in order for people to better engage with video. As technology becomes more sophisticated, there’s no reason to believe that measurement won’t continue to become more accurate.
Bryce Clemmer is the CEO and co-founder of Vadio, a video distribution platform for media companies and brands.