Google uses brain science to prove overlay ads work

October 27, 2008

Although this study was released last week in hopes of bolstering the case for video overlay ads, it actually comes across as a confession to the market: CPMs on overlay ads are not as good as Google/YouTube wants them to be. Now I’m not poking fun, because that’s generally the case with a new form of online advertising, especially one that’s competing with TV-like 30-second spots running on Hulu.com, which advertisers understand and are ready to spend big bucks on. But overlay ads are not popluar with advertisers yet. 

Google’s solution to this dilemma was to work with NeuroFocus, a recently acquired part of the Nielsen family, to measure how people respond to overlay advertising at the deepest level possible: in the brain. Or in the trail the brain leaves behind, namely the peripheral nervous system. It’s a topic I’m way into, but I’ll spare you the nerdy details. This is similar to work Innerscope Research is doing, which I blogged about before

If this is all too spacey for you, you better get used to it. You’re going to see a lot more of this going on as advertisers and content providers want to show that they are engaging people. Funny how we used to trust Nielsen audience numbers for that, and were comfortable assuming the rest. Not anymore.

The science is actually solid, in case you doubt that. It’s just not very scalable because each person involved has to be hooked up to a machine, so it will likely remain specialized and custom (don’t expect any NeuroFocus nightly ratings anytime soon). Innerscope reduces that burden a little bit with vests that make measurements relatively unobtrusive and communicate results wirelessly. But that still means there’s a cap on the likely number of participants that can be in a study.

What do you think about measuring the nervous system for engagement? Would you wire yourself up for a study like this? Have you?

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YouTube joins the online TV game late

October 11, 2008

As widely reported yesterday, Google is now going to add full-length TV shows to YouTube. It’s about time. Finally, we can all watch what we really want: MacGyver. See the pilot episode below. Actually, this episode has been online for a month already, and has amassed a whopping 1,023 views. Let’s give MacGyver the Rodney Dangerfield award for Least Respect For An Online TV Debut.

(Note about above video window: this is the pilot episode of MacGyver. But YouTube embedding doesn’t seem to work for full-length episodes so you may get a message saying the video is no longer available, even though it is. Hmmm, YouTube is playing a little catch-up to Hulu.com.)

This is one of those full-circle moments. Remember when the press erroneously labeled Hulu.com (before it was even called Hulu.com) a YouTube killer? This article I dug up from Reuters from March 2007 stopped short of saying “killer” but definitely pitched them as rivals. I went on record in that article disputing that idea:

“It’s not actually going to take away from YouTube because it’s as much about the social experience as the video. So YouTube is going to be fine,” said James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester Research.

I stand by that statement. Clearly, at 5 billion videos a month, YouTube is doing just fine, responsible for 44% of all videos streamed in the US (according to that NYT article above, but probably closer to 25% of minutes, given the short nature of its clips).

But with the tremendous growth of Hulu.com, ABC.com, and the rest, it’s no surprise YouTube would finally give in and put full episodes on; in higher quality than normal YouTube fare; and with ads before, during, and after (what good are those? as Michael Eisner said on stage last week, “Those aren’t commercials, those are credits”). 

The question I got Friday from a major news outlet was: Can YouTube dominate the online TV space? It’s a valid question but the answer is this: No. 

Certainly not as long as CBS and its properties are the primary TV content featured. It’s not a knock — CBS content can rock — but CBS content is everywhere. You can see it on Joost, you can even come across it on IMDB when searching for “MacGyver” (which I’m sure you do nearly daily).  Oh, yeah, and on CBS.com.

The answer is still no even once other network content shows up there — which I’m sure it will eventually, remember Hulu.com offered itself to YouTube from the beginning, an offer which Google CEO Eric Schmidt smugly declined.

There’s little reason for people already on YouTube to interrupt the site’s social, clip-focused experience to watch a full-length episode. And if you hit the Web knowing you want a particular TV show, you’re as likely to go to its home page as you are to go to YouTube.

I’m not saying YouTube won’t stream millions of TV shows. It will. I’d guess at least 25 million in the month of December, roughly half of what NBC.com or a similar site streams in an average month. But it won’t dominate. So put it this way: YouTube won’t be a Hulu.com killer…

Add your thoughts: will you watch full-length episodes on YouTube? (Other than MacGyver, of course, which we know you’ve already watched there).


So YouTube Will Make Money With, um, Retail?

October 8, 2008

For those of us who have been waiting impatiently for YouTube to effectively monetize its traffic, it came as a bit of a surprise that the the most recent effort to cash in on millions of video views is, surprise, to sell MP3s and videogames. The official Google Blog announced this yesterday (with a teasingly apropos title, by the way, “I clicked to buy and I liked it”).  

It works like this: For content provided by EMI, Electronic Arts, and others, these partners will be able to add “buy this” links for sites like iTunes and Amazon. Easy enough.

Where this really gets cool is if the music labels use Google’s automatic Content ID system to identify and monetize when someone uploads a video with a label’s music as a soundtrack. 

Google/YouTube’s goal is to train content providers to think, “user-generated content=source of revenue” instead of “user-generated content=evil pirates who should be cast down to infernal realms.” This is the right idea. But, sadly, it’s not something content partners are excited about, precisely because rethinking UGC is tough for the media companies, whether on the music side or the video side. The anti-piracy vigil is strong, rightly so, but it’s also unreasonable from time to time.

The next step for automated Content ID is in video: once media partners allow Google to identify user-posted versions of its video content, they will hopefully see the wisdom in letting Google place some ads adjacent to or on top of the videos, sharing the revenue with the content provider. That’s when YouTube will really make money off these millions of viewers.