In-Stream Standardization: Publishers, Haven't We Been Here Before?

In-stream video advertising is in much the same place now that standard rich media was in 2000. Pubs had different sizes, specs and formats, requiring clients to create "one-off" ad units for each publisher -- not a scalable solution. To compound matters, there wasn't widespread certification of third-party vendors, making it hard for advertisers to run rich media campaigns across sites that all had individual specs.

In 2001, major publishers like Yahoo realized this model was holding back the ability to drive scale and revenue and partnered with leading rich-media providers to set the standards that led to the growth of in-page rich media. Once standards were in place, revenue and market share for rich media boomed. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau's annual revenue reports, rich media comprised only 2% of total online ad revenue in 2000 but jumped to 10% by 2004.

However, the in-stream video space is more complicated now than in-page rich media was in 2000 because it's more dynamic. For example, there are different video sizes, sequencing issues, proprietary players, etc. But standardization is possible. The IAB has taken the first steps by releasing its  Digital Video Ad Serving Template (VAST) and Video Player-Ad Interface Definitions (VPAID) guidelines.



Why You Benefit

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits to publishers is that standardization helps monetize video content. If every publisher is selling the same products, it makes selling as well as buying much easier. As we all know, when the ability to purchase and reach wider audiences is easy, people spend more money. For example, Amazon, eBay and Google's businesses are built in part on this premise: making it easier for people to find and buy things all in one place (whether it's books, collectibles or even ad space).

In terms of in-stream, if advertisers and their agencies can "create once and play anywhere" -- which is essentially what TV buys do now -- they'll be ready, willing and able to focus on this area as a viable and meaningful part of their business, in turn driving more advertising budget toward the space.

In short, once in-stream standards are adopted, agencies will be able to plan their media buys at a scale comparable to other interactive or traditional ad opportunities.


It's All About Adoption

One definition of "standard," according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is "something established by authority, custom or general consent as a model or example." An eMarketer study from Q1 2008 to Q1 2009 shows U.S. online display ad revenue for the largest publishers and portals declined an average of 14%. However, an April 2009 study from Nielsen shows from February 2008 through February 2009, viewers of online video grew 10%.  Those numbers show the time is now for publishers to create new revenue, and they can do that quicker and easier by adopting standards for in-video advertising.

In challenging economic times like today, publishers are tempted to (and many already do) differentiate through the creation of their own proprietary in-stream ad products -- a strategy that's short-sighted and short-lived. To put it in context, think of it this way: what if the 30-second TV spot had never been invented? What if advertisers had to build different spots for each station?

There are a lot of viable solutions out there. We did it before, now let's do it again.



Editors' Note What do social media, online video, publishing and metrics have in common? Aside from all being topics that MediaPost publications such as Online Media Daily and OMMA magazine cover intently, they are all part of some fresh new OMMA conference videos that we've posted here for your viewing pleasure and professional development. Don't take our word for it. Come hear journalism savior Steve Brill make a case for online's "paid" model at OMMA Publish. Or listen to CNN interactive marketing guru Andy Mitchell explain how to build a community around news at OMMA Social. Or watch Publicis' Rishad Tobaccowala explain why everything can be measured, but "not everything is necessarily worth measuring" at OMMA Metrics & Measurement. Plus much, much more, including panels, keynotes, presentations, and even some good new insider perspectives from MediaPost's Search Insider and Email Insider invitation-only summits.

1 comment about "In-Stream Standardization: Publishers, Haven't We Been Here Before?".
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  1. Pinaki Saha from Me!Box Media Inc., July 8, 2009 at 1:58 p.m.

    The fundamental problem with the analysis and also the request to abide by a more standardized model of in-stream placement is that the whole premise of the discussion is based on a big assumption. The assumption: Online video consumers approach content the same way they approach (i) TV content and (ii) Static Web content! And that is a pretty flaky assumption considering all the analytics coming in.

    Here's why:

    First, TV like in-stream spots can't be melded into online video delivery platforms because the audience behavior around short form (or long-form content) is nearly N-degrees separated from that on TV. The primary essence of online delivery medium is multi-fold engagement around video and henceforth generates categories of user activities that give every incentive to ignore the mid-roll no matter where it is placed. And how would you presume that the rich ad placement and hosting infrastructure will be generic for Flash, Silverlight, and others? Now XML might be an answer - but all depends how willing the front end publishers are on converging the way enterprises converged on web services in early 2000.

    Second, for static content, publishing standards were easy to enforce because the rich media ads were sitting on a static delivery medium and the only dynamic object is the mouse/cursor. Thus, the user activated curiosity somewhat triggered by roll-in overlays and other formats worked good in generating interests and CTRs.

    However, in online videos, the entire concept is turned on its head. Here, the medium is providing content that is moving with high speed. As the story moves, the content moves, the context moves, and so does the user's attention span and ability to engage. So, if you are planning to put a meaningful in-stream, how many instreams do you intend to put at contextual points in a 3 min (=180s) long property? And how will you standardize the identification of context from the ad-network side that is often detached from the core goal of the publisher? In other words 'Spray And Pray' will not work on online video the way it worked (or failed) on static content.

    Again, I feel that the model is gravitating towards more control to the producer and the publisher who understand his/her content best and can identify how instream rich media artifacts will be placed on the content beyond just a assembly line approach.

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