online video

Why Bots and ‘Cord Cutters’ Are Bad News For Video Advertising

video advertising

The more social media matures, the bigger the focus on video content — more specifically, the focus on video advertising. YouTube makes billions, Facebook wants video ads and Yahoo may be trying to poach YouTube stars. But according to an RMG post on AdWeek, there are seven statistics that don’t bode well for video ads, on TV or online.

In the last 12 years, broadcast ratings have declined 50 percent, according to RMG. “The networks are in viewership freefall, yet they’re charging marketers more than ever.”

Five million people have cancelled cable subscriptions since 2010. Despite all that, broadcast and cable CPMs are up five percent compared to last year. Apparently that’s because “[advertisers] think there’s no other option,” according to RMG.

Online video doesn’t fare any better. Not only do consumers skip 94 percent of pre-roll ads when given the choice, but in many cases, ads are not seen at all. Online advertising is already a mess, as Veritasium exposed in a video about Facebook’s useless ad infrastructure recently.

The increasing bot presence online is a big part of the problem. According to RMG, “54 percent of online ads are seen by [a bot].” This means that by default, advertisers are missing more than half their audience just because of the nature of the system.

In fact, as much 36 percent of its impressions will be fraudulent, because online ads are served to useless bot traffic. And what can advertisers expect to pay for these fake, missing views? Pre-roll ads carry an inflated 300-400 percent CPM premium, which is a hell of a markup.

If online video continues to be such a drain on resources and the returns don’t line up, then video advertising could crash. And Facebook’s video ads plan may have been a complete waste of time.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

TED And The Art of Loyalty

People don’t like to admit just how addicted they are to their smartphones.

I won’t be the first to blog about how many people are quite sensual with their devices. Don’t laugh. Think about the way you caress, touch, and engage with it. What is the last thing that you touch before you go to bed at night, or the first thing that you pick up when you wake up in the morning? What, too personal? Be honest: what’s your time to device in the am? Now compare that to your time to spouse? There is an ongoing debate about just how loyal consumers can (and should) be in such a fragmented world, but I’m here to tell you that loyalty is alive and well. Real loyalty (the stuff that transcends data sets, points accumulation and redemption strategies) is the stuff of legend. What if a brand was able to create such a sense of loyalty, that the urgency with which the consumer responds to an email is similar to the “time to device” reality outlined above?

I’ve got a thing for TED.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. The origins of this annual get-together took hold in 1984, when Richard Saul Wurman (famed architect, book author and renaissance man) decided to pull together an exclusive group of guests for his vision of the ideal dinner party. Today, TED is curated by Chris Anderson through a charitable foundation, and is best known for the TED Talks that gobble up audiences by the hundreds of millions via online video channels (their own, YouTube, podcast, and more) and their 18-minute presentations on topics as diverse as creativity and education to how video games can save you and why every adult needs a LEGO collection. The event/gathering/conference now has a global event (held outside of North America) and is also associated with TEDx events (local organizers leveraging the TED brand and blueprint to create their own event around a specific geography or topic).

On March 17th of this year, I made my annual pilgrimage to the TED conference in Vancouver, British Columbia (like I have been doing since 2009).

I am loyal to all things TED. “Loyal beyond reason,” as Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Wordlwide, Kevin Roberts, called it in his book, Lovemarks (TED is a lovemark). And, the reasons why act as a truth serum to other brands. My time to respond to TED emails over the years has become more like a “drop everything and pay attention,” type of experience. Those emails are right up there with my pathetically quick time to device in the am. In a connected world, where consumers have access to anything and everything at the touch of a connected device, the brands that make us most loyal have to do a lot more to rope us in. TED does this is so many profound and powerful ways.

What is it about the TED experience that makes the TEDsters so loyal, and what can brands learn from organization?

  1. You don’t buy a ticket, you join a movement. Some think it’s elitist, but I don’t. It’s exclusive. To take part in a TED experience, you can’t just buy a ticket to the event. You apply to become a member and, if accepted, your membership fee includes a ticket to their annual event. Along with that, you get access to an online social network with other members. Membership also includes a book club. Throughout the year, physical books are shipped or digital versions can be grabbed on your Kindle. TED is not an event, it’s a year-long build up of conversations and connections, so that the event becomes the crescendo.
  2. It’s not cheap and it’s limited. By having a hefty price tag, TED is able to create a level scarcity. The scarcity is built not just on the fee, but in the physical limitation of the seats available for their annual event. A total of 1500 people are accepted. This is more limited than you might think, because people (like me) keep attending year in and year out, so as the popularity increases, the scarcity increases as well. They’ve managed to add on events to compensate (like TED Global) and to have satellite events (like TED Active, which is a live simulcast of the event in another city).
  3. It’s not about the stage. It’s about the audience. TED releases all (or most) of the presentations for free online for everyone to watch, share and discuss. What everyone fails to realize is that the TED Talks account for only a small percentage of the TED experience. Because of the components mentioned above, the audience members are often just as (if not more) impressive as the people on the stage. The ability to rub shoulders, engage in discourse and have candid conversations with these types of luminaries from the technology, design, entertainment, business and the non-profit sectors is the real show. The curation of the audiences members is just as rigid as the speaker selection process.
  4. TED is gymnastics for the brain. Because TED curates the content and experience in such a tight and military-like fashion, it is designed to keep even the most Type A of business leaders on their collective heels. It is a full week of visual and mental immersion. It’s the type of experience that is hard to express in written or verbal forms of communication. I often tell people that talking about TED is like dancing to architecture (to spin the old Martin Mull saying that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”). It’s that type of muscle confusion-like experience that keeps everyone coming back, and attempting to explain it to anyone who will listen.   

How does your brand build that type of loyalty?

Are you getting people to join a movement, instead of simply buying a product or service? Can you create a sense of scarcity and exclusivity for your customers by creating an experience that everyone will want and talk about and share? Are you building something that will have your customers begging to be more connected – not just to your brand, but to other customers that you serve? Is what you’re doing creating a sense of business muscle-confusion, (in a good way) for your customers? Is every interaction with them adding value to their experiences and making them smarter at scale?

Tough questions to answer.

It’s not as simple as getting a customer’s email address or engaging with them on Facebook. It takes more than getting them to hand over some personal information in exchange for a card and some type of points/coupon plan. That’s not the true essence of loyalty. That’s a loyalty program. The powerful brands – the ones that really connect – are the ones who are deeply focused on creating a TED-like experience for their consumers… year in and year out.

It’s a higher calling for the brands of today.

The above posting is a column that was published to day in Colloquy. I cross-post it here unedited, with all of the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:


It’s Good to Be on YouTube: AwesomenessTV Acquires Big Frame



You know it’s a good time to be a multichannel YouTube network when you’re acquired for millions by another multichannel YouTube network — which, incidentally, was itself recently acquired for even more millions.

Big Frame was picked up Wednesday for $15 million by Awesomeness TV, which last year was bought by DreamWorks Animation for $33 million (and considerably more, if it hits certain incentive targets).

SEE ALSO: Disney’s Doing Great, So Why Buy a Bunch of YouTube Channels?

It’s hardly the first MCN deal to resemble a Russian nesting doll: Last week, Disney dropped what could eventually amount to nearly $1 billion on YouTube multichannel leader Maker Studios, which last year picked up online-video distributor Blip. Read more…

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The Secret Life Of Social Media

Shhhh, don’t tell anybody anything (even though I just posted this secret online for anyone to see).

It has been brewing for some time, and it’s a difficult trend for businesses not to understand and embrace. As much as our social lives are now made public in everything from 140-characters of text on Twitter to long-form videos that we post of ourselves on YouTube, there is a growing mass audience (and developers behind them) that are creating an entirely new (and private) layers to social media. And, if all goes according to their plan, it could very well be the proverbial needle to pop the balloon of how brands have attempted to market to consumers using modern technology.

What’s the hottest thing happening right now?

It’s Snapchat, of course. Isn’t it? Lauded by the younger generation because they can send each other photographs/mini videos via smartphones and tablets that are incinerated once viewed (leaving no trace for parents, etc…). The app has become so formidable, that Facebook offered to buy them late last year for a reported $3 billion, which Snapchat turned down. Turning down $3 billion dollars buys a lot of attention and street cred. The private online social network continues to grow, as brands like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Acura and others have been jumping on board to figure out if Snapchat’s community of 30 million-plus users (and growing) cares to get this type of micro-disposable content from brands. Maybe, it’s not Snapchat that is the hottest thing anymore. One could argue that the hottest thing happening right now, is the fact that Facebook bounced back from this rejection and managed to acquire the cross-platform mobile messaging platform WhatsApp for an astonishing $19 billion two weeks ago. With close to 500 million users and growing, WhatsApp is, in its purest form, BlackBerry Messenger (which, of course, is now available for Android and Apple users as well) that works on any mobile device and any mobile carrier. In fact, the deal was so massive that it completely over-shadowed the fact that a similar messaging platform, Viber, was also recently acquired for $900 million by Rakuten (a Japanese online commerce platform).

Think about it: private pictures, videos, messages and more. That doesn’t sound very social, does it?

While companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter monopolize the growing areas of online social networking, what we’re beginning to see is continued growth and interest in private online social networking. The types of content, conversation and sharing that is done outside of the public limelight. Sometimes anonymously. Sometimes between two friends. It just doesn’t feel like the place that brands can insert themselves to monetize a growing user base, does it?

I have a secret to tell.

While they have not been acquired for hundreds of millions of dollars (yet), the San Francisco based startup Secret (that was founded by two former Google and Square employees) is getting tons of attention, followers and fans. In short, you can write anything that’s on your mind, add photos or colors to the background and customize this content while being able to share it – free of judgment – and without attaching any of your personal information or profile to it. It feels like a more modern, mobile and more social version of Post Secret (where individuals physically mail their anonymous secrets on the back of a postcard to a group that then scans and shares the most creative ones online). While Secret isn’t the first or only app like this, it is currently getting the lion’s share of media and consumer attention. Do you really want brands to share secrets with you? Does that even make sense? Secret follows in a long line of increasingly popular platforms that are moving towards more private, restricted and personal interactions. Path (which launched back in 2010) seemed like a more mobile version of Facebook with one major distinction:Path only allowed a maximum of 150 connections (which followed Dunbar’s number theory that human beings can only maintain a total of 150 true relationships). Small stuff, right?

What matters most to you: Public life? Professional life? Social life? Personal life?

What we’re now seeing is motion away from all of this publicness that we have been experiencing at the hands of social media for the past decade, or we’re simply seeing the mass development of a completely different type of private online social networking. In fact, if you look at where the venture capital dollars and user growth is currently happening, we could well arrive at a juncture which finds consumers much less interested in the public chest beating of their semi-consequential day-to-day accomplishments on social media, and a much more focused desire to use technology as a communications platform to add more personal meaning. Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp could substantiate this (why wouldn’t they want to own both the public and private online social networks of consumers?). So, while Ellen may have broken Twitter with her a-list selfie stunt from the Oscar’s, we may be at the nascent stages of seeing a brand new type of social media play that is small, intimate and, seemingly, impermeable to brands, advertisers and media companies. A place where twerking could well find it’s perfect home… behind closed doors and not out in public.

Are private online social networks the future of social media? More interesting will be how brands will react and engage with this new reality. 

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:


Hulu is selling its Japanese service to Nippon TV

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Ustream: We Have the Power to Change the World


2013 was a big year for the video streaming service Ustream. In addition to releasing a whole slate of new features, including live ads, live playlists, a producer app and a revamped mobile app, the company has also been more focused on making Ustream a platform useful for business communication.

Ustream may be working to attract a more business friendly audience, but the 2013 numbers tell the story of a site caught between user-generated content and professional broadcasters. According to VP of Marketing David Gibbons, this is by design. While Ustream isn’t really focused on user-generated content anymore, it’s important for business customers to have the chance to try the service before opting for a paid subscription.

There are millions of amateur broadcasters but Gibbons says there are also about 5000 professional broadcasters on Ustream as well. Out of nearly 400 million hours of live video streams, the most popular broadcast of 2013 was produced by The Climate Reality Project, with more than 20 million views in a single day, according to the data.


Gibbons also noted the trend toward more professionals using Ustream for live webinars and other info-marketing type broadcasts. He says that it’s pretty typical for more mature forms of marketing to become less effective over time. Display advertising and conference calls are increasingly ineffective at capturing people’s attention and creating real engagement.

“More and more companies are turning to live video,” he says. “As anyone who has sat in a bar with a TV screen on knows, it’s very difficult not to watch an engaging live video.”

This is increasingly true, even with content that traditionally would have gone ignored. According to the report, Ustream videos were embedded on nearly a half-million sites and reached more than 702 million Facebook users. Gibbons attributes the virality of broadcasts to the ease of sharing content. He cited the example of how a broadcast of the hunt for the Boston Bomber from a free user, suddenly “caught that viral wave” and was shared, re-shared and retweeted more than 250,000 times.

Social causes were also very popular in 2013. According to the report, some of the most popular broadcasts on Ustream were the election of Pope Francis, as well as the protests in Ukraine and Egypt. Gibbons says that this is a happy byproduct of building a platform that makes it easy for individuals to promote their cause.

“We’re working on creating something that has real value for enterprises,” he says. “But it also has real power to transform society.”

Featured image: Bekathwia

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

Vine Celebrates Its First Year


Today marks the first anniversary of Twitter’s looping short video service Vine. What started out as a service to make it easier to share video using your phone became a phenomenon and the fastest growing app worldwide. Four months out of of the gate, Vine had 13 million users and in August the comapny announced on Twitter that it had topped 40 million. Not bad for a service on a year old.

While Vine’s rate of growth is unbelievably fast, the tech pundits still pit the service up against Instagram Video. Sure, Instagram has 150 million users but the audiences seem to be different. There might be some funny on Instagram Video but Vine is almost all about the funny. And a search for Instagram Videos just yields a bunch of Vines. Something tells me Vine is winning when it comes to popularity and market penetration.

To celebrate Vine’s first birthday, the Vine team pulled together a collection of some of the most viral videos. To be sure, almost every single one will make you double over with laughter. Oh the stupid things people do.

With the video medium exploding the way it is, it’ll be interesting to see what the next year brings. I’m hoping for more nerd jokes.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media. The Dark Horse for Online Video Streaming


Television is on the slide. There has been an anecdotal evidence for a while — and more recently, actual evidence — that the traditional broadcast companies are losing eyeballs. Particularly, they’re losing out on younger viewers, which is by and large where advertising yields the biggest return. But while bigger services like YouTube, Netflix and Hulu would spring to mind as likely culprits, there’s an even bigger threat: is a streaming website that archives the content posted by its users. The secret of its success is the highly engaged gaming community that has gathered around Let’s Plays, Speedruns and playthroughs. Realizing the power of the site, some game developers have gone as far as implementing a one-click “stream to” button, to get their game in front of viewers.

This kind of implementation has shown amazing results and viewers are flocking to Twitch. According to Twitch’s year-end report, 68 percent of its users reported a decrease in their TV watching habits in favor of watching Twitch instead. And they’re spending longer on the site. The average viewer watched 85 minutes of content in 2012. In 2013, viewing time increased to 106 minutes.

Netflix, Hulu and YouTube might be sweating a little. Twitch has 45 million unique viewers per month compared to Hulu’s 30 million and Netflix’s 34.7 million. While YouTube still dominates online video with more than 1 billion unique monthly views, the average viewer only stays on the site for 15 minutes.

Video games at large are starting to take over from television as the time killer (or filler) and the engagement of the Twitch community shows the growing trend away from television networks. Grand Theft Auto 5 grossed over $1 billion in just three days, making it the fastest selling entertainment product to date. Twitch’s success is a sign of the times, if not the coffin they’ll bury television in. Viewers are looking for video game content, and Twitch has it in spades.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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