How do you define a video view? The answer varies depending on who you ask. Is it once the video starts playing? Does it need to buffer? Does a certain amount of the video need to be played before a view is counted?
There is currently no transparency in the measurement of a video view. Despite the rapid growth of the online video industry, right now you can’t accurately compare video views between two programs, even if they are on the same platform. Your 35 million views may not be any better than someone else's 500,000 views.
Why we need a video view standard
The industry needs to ensure that advertisers get what they pay for and that content creators get credit for their audiences. But the current metrics used to measure video views are confusing and misleading. They’re not helpful to measuring success or determining content value. Currently a view can be any type of “play start.” That means that what people are counting as video views could have absolutely no user intent -- the video could be set to autoplay, with the sound off and the player embedded below the fold in a 300x250 ad unit. We have all seen videos playing like this on the Web.
In addition, the current measurement for a video view has no duration component. That means that watching five seconds of a five-minute video is counted the same as watching 10 minutes of a 12-minute video.
All of this leads to a view metric that can be easily hijacked by black-hat behavior from unscrupulous publishers, creators and video distributors. We owe it to the industry to prevent that sort of foul play, because view counts can lead to real money for content creators and publishers.
The kind of standard we need
There’s several things we need to look at when determining a video view standard. First, we need to recognize that auto play does have a certain value to it. Much of online video advertising is always set to auto play and then pushed in front of the consumer –- that kind of view does have value.
But the second thing we need to recognize is that a user-initiated view is more valuable. This is where things can get tricky, because of the varying definition of user initiated. The most obvious example is when someone presses play on a video player and the video starts to play. But how about when someone clicks on a video thumbnail that then takes them to a page where a video player is set to auto-play (with the sound on)? The prime example would be a YouTube video page. These are video views that should be counted as user-initiated.
So here’s what the industry should do. Start with the current metric, where a video view is defined as a play start of any kind. Then go to the number of views that are user initiated, based on a clear definition of user initiated that does its best to limit foul play. (Note: this will definitely cause quite a stir with any company that urgently offers a penny per user-initiated view -- watch how fast they change their offerings).
I would then layer video duration to know how many user-initiated viewers made it through a meaningful length of the video (the 10 out of 12 minutes versus five seconds out of five minutes). The percentages can be debated, but most advertisers certainly want to know how many completed views a video gets if they are considering brand integration.
So the standard could look something like this:
Series 1: Views = 5MM, User Initiated Views = 1MM, Completed UI Views= 50K
Series 2: Views = 1MM, User Initiated Views = 800K, Completed UI Views= 500K
In this example, let’s assume that the length of each video is the same and reaches the same audience. Which show would you consider better to advertise in? Series 1 may be better for a pre-roll buy, and Series 2 would definitely better for brand integration.
So when I chase the dragon and let my mind travel into 2012, I see a video view standard that gets us closer to identifying value in Web video. And ultimately, doing so will help advertisers move more of their budgets to online video. I’ll see you there!