Don't Let YouTube Own Your Audience

It’s no secret that many marketers and content creators rely on YouTube for their online video strategies, and superficially it makes sense: it’s free, it’s relatively easy, consumer awareness of the platform is high, and it has huge reach. But directing customers (or rather, viewers) to YouTube is ultimately self-defeating, because marketers and content creators are turning over their hard-earned audiences over to YouTube – and everything else that goes with them, including valuable data.

Instead online video publishers, including marketers, should create their own Web destinations, direct audiences there, and reap the benefits of long-term relationships with their audiences, according to Josh Lamb, executive producer and chief operating officer at Galahad, which is launching Multipop -- a digital video platform that enables publishers to create proprietary video players with an array of interactive features, including e-commerce tie-ins, social sharing, simultaneous Web surfing, and non-intrusive advertising options.

Lamb summed up the argument: “When your business model for video is based on YouTube, what happens if YouTube shuts down today, and you don’t know who your audience is, or have their data? You really don’t have a strategy.” Citing an example from another social giant (guess who) he added: “Zynga should have been a huge warning sign for anyone who’s dependent on a third party distribution platform like that.”

One of the central features of the Multipop platform is that it keeps video, well, central -- moving peripheral messages and content (including e-commerce links, social sharing, and the like) out of the way of the main screen to interactive sidebars, which provides an uncluttered viewing experience. The format basically reproduces the “second screen” experience, but unified on a single screen, Lamb noted: “If you’re watching something on an iPad or laptop, shouldn’t it be interactive? That’s why you’re on the computer in the first place.” The format also allows video advertisers to employ ad options besides pre-roll, by locating messages off the main screen.

There’s definitely a chicken-and-egg, catch-22 dynamic to be overcome, as Lamb acknowledges: “People say ‘but there’s no traffic to my site’ -- but what is on the site? And what’s directing viewers to the site? If all your paid media says go to YouTube, they’re going to go to YouTube, and you’re basically paying to promote YouTube.” However, YouTube and other online video clearinghouses can also be stepping stones to bring audiences to proprietary video sites -- “You just have to be smart in how you activate people to get there, and Multipop helps those sites drive traffic to you.”

In addition to allowing them to retain their own audiences, Lamb says Multipop collects data that allows marketers and content creators to tailor their strategies, including “what they’re watching, what they’re clicking on, what devices they’re coming from, gender breakdown, what affinity categories are they coming from, operating systems, browsers, and so on.” MultiPop is also currently developing a widget that can integrate with any online video player online, mobile app, or smart TV app, and is also working on a function that allows content creators to simply cut and paste URLs from existing embedded video players.

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