With the Pigs Out of the Way YouTube is Next in Rovio’s Angry Birds Crosshairs

Angry Birds Toons, a new content series from Rovio’s hit game franchise Angry Birds, has reached over 150 Million views in under just the 3 months since it’s launch.

What’s more surprising is that this was achieved without YouTube in any part of the equation.

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The 3-Ps of Online Video Success – Part 1

When trying to grow your online video initiative it can be helpful to break the job down into the 3-Ps: Presence, Penetration and Proliferation.

In this series we’ll be introducing this framework and diving deep into each section to help you leverage the 3-Ps for your business.  Subscribe to our newsletter to get the next parts straight to your inbox.

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5 Things That You Can Learn From YouTube’s Recent Original Programming Reinvestment

Earlier in November AdAge reported that YouTube was ‘doubling down’ on some of its original content providers while cutting loose the others.  Here are 5 things we can learn from this latest round of investment into the online video ecosystem by the largest elephant in the room.

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If the Medium is the Message then the Audience is the Intent

Marshall McLuhan Head ShotIn 1964 a pioneering founder of the then emerging Media Theory was busy doing many things such as predicting the arrival of the World Wide Web (if only the mantra JFDI existed then!).

Marshall McLuhan (a good Canadian lad) was one of the first to recognise the symbiotic relationships that exists between content and its container.

With his now famous line “the Medium is the Message“, Marshall very simply captured the fundamental concept that the Medium creates the environment into which the message can be delivered.

A digestible modern day example of his thinking goes something like this:

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Are You a 2nd Screen Mesher or Masher?

Do you Mesh or Mash?A friend of mine, Tom Cape of Capablue, told me recently over coffee about this new way of thinking about users of 2nd screens during TV viewing.

As the rise of providers of 2nd screen experiences quickens a reactionary new school of thought is emerging to try to make sense of it all.

Roughly speaking the thinking is starting to group viewers into two families – Meshers and Mashers.

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To View or Not to View: “Why” is the Question

J. P. MorganIf we could answer the question of Why people choose to consume video (or any media from our site) then we’d be well on our way to success.  Let’s explore a model  that might provide insight to a potential answer.

The Good Reason and the Real Reason

One of my all-time favourite quotes is by J. P. Morgan:

A man always has two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and the real reason

The beauty of this quote is that it is highly adaptable to the context in which we want to apply it.  If we consider the ‘Good’ reason to be relative to social standing – i.e. an externally influenced decision; and the ‘Real’ reason to be relative to maximising personal benefit – i.e. an internally influenced decision then we can form a model as to why people may choose to view or not view content.

Utility vs Social

I’ve written in a previous post about Utility (as defined in the field of Economics) and how it pertains to deploying connected Video into our websites.    Indeed it can be deemed as the driver of the Real reason someone chooses to watch a video: the “What will I get out of it?” question.

Social however is a new topic for this blog (albeit not for long I would think) and really is a way of defining our human nature around interacting with our surroundings.    Within the context of this article Social can be regarded as the desire to ‘Follow the Crowd’ and can be seen as a key driver for the syndication of a video throughout the network: the “Have you seen it?” question.

Together Utility and Social can be correlated in such as way that you can hypothesise that aiming to maximize both the utility and social aspects of a piece of content  is paramount to a viewer ultimately choosing to watch.

Creating Utility

At a recent APA Digital Breakfast event Rob Crombie of FMG put it susctintly when he divided the purpose of video into two main buckets:

  1. Entertainment Based; and
  2. Task Based

In other words it’s safe to say that the viewer will engage with video content for either entertainment reasons (tune in, tune out….) and / or task based reasons (interact, engage, learn something).   If this is true then to create and maximise the utility of the content we should focus on bettering our execution in the production phase to increase capital of it being both entertaining and task based.

There are any number ways of doing this but for me one of the most successful agencies that does this is Adjust Your Set based in the UK.   This agency takes the “or” out and focuses on the “and”.   Highly entertaining content and high focus on calls to actions are always prominent in their outputs – have a look at DebenhamsTV to see this at work.  A key takeaway is that in the connected medium, task based maximisation can be applied further down the supply chain.   An example here is an overlay in the viewing experience as indeed the calls to actions to purchase are in the videos seen on DebenhamsTV.

By creating Utility in your videos you will give the viewer a the “Real reason” to watch.

Lesson:  Fine tuning both the entertainment and task angles of your content maximises utility of content.

Going Social

At the end of the day social networks boils down to human interactions in groups.   Mob mentality.   In his great book, Critical Mass, Philip Ball explores any number of reasons why systems change states, in particular social systems.   The book, in fact, is a main motivator for this post and I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys applied physics and social sciences.

Has anyone ever really given a concrete answer to the question: What causes a video to go viral?   In online video business where stream counts are paramount surely the answer should be known by now?   The fact is it’s not and probably won’t ever be.   The social network in which these videos are passed around are non-linear equilibrium states: meaning a video’s switch between non-viral and viral can only be expressed in statistical models, not direct linear relationships.    We simply can’t just say if we do x and y then the video will go viral.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.   We can look, as is done in Critical Mass, at all sorts of social systems and how they change state with an aim to apply universal laws back to the lowly connected video.

If we consider social networks to be Small World networks, where the nodes are clustered in such as way that most nodes are not connected to each other but can be reached by a small number of short hops (think 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon) then we can have what can be deemed a social influence network.   You can see this all over the place, none more telling than your friend network: you have a bunch of direct acquaintances who know people you don’t and so on to a point that via a handful of introductions you’ll be introduced to anyone in the network.

Small World Network

In a social influence network individual nodes (people) are making decisions based on the interactions with their neighbours.  This is what J.P. Morgan meant as his ‘Good’ reason.   Good and Bad are barometer terms that can be applied to objects and constructs based on a majority vote in the network.   For example today we think smoking is a bad thing, 70 years ago we thought it was a good thing.    Over time our group consensus can (and does) switch.   Just like a video, one day it’s not viral and the next is is.  The key driver here is that it is an influenced based model.

And that’s a key to getting video to go viral – you need to maximise it’s ability to influence and be influenced.   And in today’s word the key to this is Sharing – for a video, or indeed any content, it must be easily shared through the network.    It will then fall into statistical rules as to whether it will indeed go viral – i.e. jump enough small clusters in the network to cover it all – or fizz out entirely.

Lesson: Increase the “Shareability” of your content; leverage the social networks to increase the probability of it going viral

Putting It All Together

Creating a spectrum of why a user decides to watch a video with pure Utility on the left and pure Social on the right : that’s to say it’s 100% self-interest on the left and 100% group-interest on the right we can probably assume a Bell Curve distribution of where viewers fall for any particular video.   Again another way of looking at this is that for any given viewer on any given video the reason they choose to watch is a mix of both self and group interest.

The interesting thing is that the curve itself probably shifts for based on a content categorisation bias – Adult, HowTos, Educational are probably more biased to the Self, whereas Entertainment, Sports, Current Affairs are more biased to the Group.    This could indication a very simple model if, again, we consider the 80/20 rule of the Bell curve

If your content is more Self driven then aim for a 75/25 split of Utility vs Social;

If your content is more Group driven then aim for a 25/75 split of Utility vs Social;

If your content is evenly balanced then aim for a 50/50 split of Utility vs Social

So a viewer should care less about sharing an Adult film with their friends and family then the overall quality of its Utility, and a viewer of a hit TV show will be less concerned about it’s Utility and more how it will allow them to improve their ‘social’ standing.

In The End It’s All About The Question:  Why?

There’s no easy answers to the question Why anyone watches your video and the above is more a mental exercise around experience and complimentary work.   But, if in the end all it does is you thinking more about the Why? then mission accomplished.

— Cameron Church

The Content Consumption Path

Let’s face it we’re all lazy.   We’re always looking for the least cost to gain the most benefit.   The shortest route to the reward.  We want to achieve the lowest level of energy expenditure while maintaining our highest level of happiness.

In economics this is called Utility and really it is a metric that needs to be honoured in the Connected Vidoe space.

Utility of Video Consumption is the measure of relative satisfaction gained by the viewer having viewed the video.

There are many ways to measure the utility of video consumption and the one that I want to focus on, following on from my last post, is the acquisition utility gained from a video’s Content Consumption Path.

Definition of the CCP

The Content Consumption Path is the journey a viewer takes to achieve the goal of viewing the content.     Think of it as a specialised take on a User Journey which maps out the steps that a user will take from point A to point B.   The CCP is a way of mapping out how a user arrives from their starting point to the content.

Whether the content is the main consumable (such as watching a catchup TV ) or is assisting in converting the user in gaining complementary utility (like a product review video that drives the sale in the conversion process) the CCP is an essential metric to ensure that the viewer is getting the highest satisfaction from the video.

Visualising your CCPs

The best way to understand your CCPs is try to consume the content yourself.   In my last post I ran (a very limited) study of a CCP for Channel 4’s popular Come Dine With Me TV series where I tried to find the latest episode of the show from 3 major catchup sites.    The path and steps I took starting at the Search Engine and ending at the Video Playback at each site is equivalent to the Content Consumption Path.

Simply put the CCP is the number of clicks it takes from the moment of intent of the viewer to arriving at the video.

So whether the video is assisting in another user journey or is the price delivery vehicle it’s the CCP remains the same.  How far does a user need to go before arriving at the video.

Why Optimise the Path

We optimise so that we increase the Utility of the final product.

There are any number of analogies out there that shows humans want to expend the least amount of effort for their reward.   How many times did you start searching for something only to give up in frustration the longer it took to find it.   Effectively what happened was with every click the object you sought decreased in Utility to the point you gave up.

So if Utility equals obtainability, and obtainability is a reduction of steps from intent to delivery then optimisation must be about reducing those steps.

Areas of Optimisation

First and foremost, and probably the most relevant currently, is that of Search Optimisation.   Everyone knows that SEO is a good thing, but probably few know why.   There’s a whole science (and some dark art) here but at the end of day the vast majority of user sessions online start with a search.   So you better be well placed there.

Todo: Check that your videos are SEO friendly – make a video sitemap, do good metadata tagging, make them accessible.

Next lead with your good foot forward.   It’s surprising how buried video can be in sites.   Even in established sites like YouTube it can sometimes be a real pain looking for specific videos (mainly due to duplicates).  You spend all this money on the video, it needs to be front and center.

Todo: Check your video is front and forward in a meaningful way (have a look at my Product Placement post)

Finally watch your users.   Have you ever went to a park with all these built in paths that the designers put in only to see natural footfall paths to side of it cutting in all different directions?  Users seldom follow the path they ought to follow (i.e. the one you’ve spent so much time determining in your User Journey sessions).  Don’t force them, adapt to them.

Todo: Watch where your users go to get to your content and react to them. Don’t force them down your assumed tracks.

Add CCP to Your ToolKit

Millions are spent every year on techniques like SEO.   CCP is just another flavour that needs equal, if not greater, attention.   Add CCP to your toolbox.

— Cameron Church

Video’s “Invisible Hand”: The Click

Competition in the online video space is not marked by price but by clicks. As video becomes more a commodity produced by farmers (production houses) to be sold at supermarkets and local stalls alike the lessons learned over 300 years ago are starting to ring true for this new economy.

The Wealth of (video) Nations

First published in 1776, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith was the first attempt to add structure and science modelling to the emerging free markets coming out of the Industrial Revolution.  In short Economics was born.

Along with many critical insights and new ways of thinking that still influence the study of economics to this day, the most profound reasoning he came up with was around how a free market self-regulates such that it neither collapses entirely or runs away in unchecked inflation.

An utter simplification of Smith’s findings, for the purposes of this article,  is that the core driver for stability in a free market is that of price competition.   By offering many different sources for the same product/commodity the market-traders compete on price in away that it neither runs out of control (a monopoly) or in such a way that no profit is generated.

Where Smith deployed his model specifically for the the 1700s free market manufacturing industries, the structure of market competition can just be as easily applied to the online video industry by swapping out price competition with click competition.

What’s in a Click?

Every action we do online involves a click of some type and at some point.   Commonly a Click is only associated with the use of a mouse to initiate an action.   But if we start expanding this definition to include keystrokes and other input actions like clicking a button on a TV remote we can get a better feel for how the Click is the fundamental transactional unit in the online video economy.

So where we can define a product’s price in terms of monetary units we can also define a video’s price in terms of a click count.  More to the point:

The lower the click count the cheaper the video content is to consume.

Taken another way, we can propose that by minimising the click count to access a desired video on one site this will make the video “cheaper” to the same video being displayed on another site with a higher click count.

Come Count With Me

Let’s us an example with a popular UK series called Come Dine With Me.   Channel 4 runs this both on it’s own catchup site 4OD and also it’s affiliates SeeSaw and YouTube.   For those outside of the UK you can can do this with any video that you know is syndicated.

For this example I’m going to start the user journey from the Google search engine entering “Come Dine With Me Catch Up” as the keyword search.   Then I’m going to count the number of “clicks”, be it from the mouse or keyboard, I need to “pay” before I get to the latest episode.

Here’s how they stacked up:

  • YouTube – 7 clicks :
    • I clicked into the video results that popped up, however this wasn’t the latest video.  The rest of the time was spent searching  through YouTube to get to the proper section of the site and finding the right video
  • Channel 4OD – 2 clicks:
    • Listed first  in the Video Section page of the Google results 1 click took me to the 4OD listings ordered with newest on top, 2nd click started the video
  • SeeSaw – 7 clicks:
    • The listing for SeeSaw was buried in the search results and took me 3 clicks to find it.   Then it wasn’t the right episode so spent the remaining 4 getting to the start of the right episode.

A Quantum of Video Value

If we look at a Click as a quantum unit of action, which means it’s of an irreducible size, then we can effectively create unit values and start to “price” our video content.   And by keeping in mind that the lower the click count the lower the “price” then, in our experiment above, it shows that by a far margin Channel 4OD’s offering of the show I was looking for is much cheaper than that offered by either YouTube or SeeSaw.

Even if we don’t directly know it, I argue that we’ll subconsciously  recognise this lower “price” of access and remember it the next time we’re in the market for that particular TV show.  As such our individual path to content will be formed.

Big Price Reductions!

Measuring your content in Clicks helps you relate your video price to your competitors.   Like for like sales are a metric of real retail economies and like-for-like views will thus become one for the online video economy.   Obviously video comes in infinite shapes and sizes and although the mass content is limited in its supply, there is still much to be gained by determining your Click Price for your Videos and reducing the costs.

From the example above there are 2 major and immediate tactics:

  1. Search Engine Optimisation: Use the tools like Google Video Sitemaps that are just required these days and there is no excuse not to deploy one.
  2. Content Path Optimisation:  A whole subject it self that I’ll pop into another blog post but really you have got to get your viewers to the content they want to view FAST!   The YouTube example, with it’s autoplay had me watching 3 other videos that had nothing to do with what I was looking for.

Other reductions can be made, like Big Sales where you give your content prime of place!

In the End, We’re in a Commodity Market Now

“The real price of every thing,” says Adam Smith, “What every thing really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it. What every thing is really worth to the man who has acquired it, and who wants to dispose of it, or exchange it for something else, is the toil and trouble which it can save to himself, and which it can impose upon other people. That this is really the foundation of the exchangeable value of all things, excepting those which cannot be increased by human industry, is a doctrine of the utmost importance in political economy“

— Cameron Church

From Stall to Supermarket: Video is a Product

Sometimes consuming video online is very much like doing your grocery shopping. You head to your local store, you walk the aisles of products that are categorised by type and you pick what you need as you stroll past.  In the end you always come home with more than you wanted – this is every site’s dream come true: come into watch 1, leaving having watched 10 more.

Many websites follow this same theme with their connected video initiatives just by swapping the store for a video player, the aisles for playlists and the products for videos. The intention is that as a consumer the user will just be happy to peruse the playlists watching what they need and then taking off until the next time they have to fill the mental fridge.

Unfortunately adopting this simplified model doesn’t look deeper into the science of product placement that all successful supermarkets deploy to up conversions and profits.

The Supermarket Tricks

An enlightening and straight to point piece from the Today show in Australia (2008) pulls the covers off 3 important supermarket strategies that can deployed right on your video-enabled site:

  1. Create the Right Environment
  2. Product Placement
  3. Push the Big Brands

Create the Right Environment

How often have you gone to a website with an intention in mind only to find roadblocks like poor searching or site structure jump up at you causing a quick abort to head back to Google for the next choice?

Or how about sites that overcomplicate the user experience so that you just can’t do what you need to do?

Creating an environment conducive to consuming video is key to turning a visitor into a viewer.

Plenty of money, effort and mind energy have been spent on solving this problem.   Have a look at the big sites out there that integrate video into their online initiatives: YouTube, MSN Video, BBC iPlayer, Google Search, Hulu, NY Times, AOL

What do they have in common?   They all treat video as a primary medium and understand that it is a engaging format.  They keep distractions to a minimum until the viewing session is done.   The players are clean and well thought out.   The quality of  content is of a good standard.

It’s not hard to make a comfortable environment to consume video.   It can be hard to work that into your site design.

Lesson: Don’t reinvent the wheel, just pimp it out – learn from the leaders.

Product Placement

The sooner you start thinking of videos as products the sooner you’ll be successful in monetising them and growing your business.  Just like all products in a store they need to be gathered and presented in a comprehensive manner.   But also like all products some will be more valuable to you than others.   Placing some videos in more accessible places over others of the same type can create all sorts of opportunities:

  • In ad-funded models some videos command higher CPMs so getting them viewed first just makes good sense (or is that cents?).
  • By creating placement tiers you can create “specials” that can either highlight your flagship content and/or allow for paid placements.   Branded content is a powerful vechile to drive all important brand awareness.  Paid placements have worked incredibly well for Google.
  • Create “video specials” – create a buzz around videos by placing them in exclusive sections of your website.   These again can be used to drive higher CPMs

Lesson: It’s not just about sticking your videos up on a site, create potential by creating video placement spots.

Push the Big Brands

There is a content categorisation model called FCE – Flagship, Cornerstone and Evergreen.   Flagship content is like the high ticket products that drive high margins for super markets where as Cornerstone content is akin to daily staples and Evergreen content is classic products that never go out of favour.

Section out your content into these 3 big buckets and then make sure that the Flagship content is gifted with pride of placement.  It’s a fact that some of your content will perform better than others.   Finding this content, via a good set of video analytics tools, is essential to bubbling it to the top and driving more views and higher margin.

Lesson: Online video is not an uptopian world were everything is equal.  Your content will also be relative so make sure your highest performing is given front and center.

From Stall to Supermarket

It’s not hard to build an online video business.   It is hard to start seeing video as a product to be “sold” on your site.   The sooner you can make the shift the sooner you can learn from all successful retailers on the tips and tricks that help drive a consumer from buying just what they need to walking away with everything and the kitchen sink.

— Cameron Church