One of the most revealing ways to discover where the online video and advertising business is going is watching where the newest technology is being dispatched. These days even if you believe mobile or tablet video isn’t quite worth all the attention it’s getting, vendors will tell you differently.
Today, for example, LongTail Video, mostly known for its massively popular JW Player, is touting new enhancements that gives it the ability to deliver VAST compliant pre-roll ads into smartphones and tablets, which gives publishers more opportunities to monetize those hoards of viewers, particularly, as it turns out on tablet where CEO Dave Otten sees the most explosive growth.
VAST (The IAB-okayed Video Ad Serving Template) is the industry’s universal XML schema; its newest version reduces lots of barriers and sets a standard of expectations, both of which are features that are playing to the choir of advertisers.
Also a new wrinkle is that the JW Player enhanced its advertising API, which gives added maneuverability to place ads into live streaming events, and enhances the ability to stack ads in the order the publisher wants. This not quite like the breakthrough that brought color advertising to magazines, but it’s on the same sort of continuum—what makes life easier for publishers almost invariably is technology that improves the advertising environment.
JW Player was developed by a Jaeron Wijering, who is from Holland, and whose product was discovered by Otten and the company in 2008, when Long Tail acquired it and brought him into the fold. Since then, an invisible, ubiquitous product has just become, well, even ubiquitouser. (I particularly like that it’s a name for a product that is connect to a human being, like Macy’s or Hershey...or...or...Huffington. Not many of those around these days.)
Even in a business built on user figures in the millions and billions, JW Player is a pretty ridiculously successful product, the most widely distributed media player for Web and mobile publishers. It’s part of 2 milion sites and handles about 5 billion streams a month, from clients like IMDB and Pop Sugar and maybe your son or daughter’s Website, since Otten points out, the JW Player's free download is chosen about 15,000 times a day, used by creators big and small.
“I guarantee if you have watched video on the Web, you’ve used JW Player,” Otten told me as he guided me to an example at Kickstarter.com. and began telling me about Pop Sugar, which is just starting to use the new version of the JW Player.
“What they care about with the JW Player is all about mobile monetization,” Otten explains. “Rough half of their video—I don’t have an exact amount, but a lot-- is now happening in mobile and their ability to scale delivery of those mobile views is much easier now. All they have to have is a VAST tag which is available in any ad server. So that makes the monetization in mobile environments super-simple.”
Otten has seen mobile just explode in the last couple years. It’s now makes up 20-30% of all the video views the JW Player accommodates. “You probably have had a dozen conversations today where people are going to tell you what I am about to tell you: Mobile is really important. The Web is the Web and it’s still going to be a part important. But a much bigger percentage of views on the JW Player will be mobile,” especially, he says, via tablets, and particularly the iPad, where he says 70% of that growth is happening.
Dealing with as many users as JW Player has, Otten knows that within a couple days, Long Tail will have a fairly easy time letting people know about the improvements. Since JW Player debuted with YouTube in 2005, its sales effort is mainly just being there. People find it. “Through time we have built a massive community and our customer acquisition has all been free,” he says. “People hear of us via word of mouth. We will a drop about an email about this to about 3 million people and boom, we’ll have thousands of more upgrades, right away. It’s amazing.”