Trying to comprehend why a body of traditional TV ratings goes higher or lower always works better when you can see its face.
Blame the writers' strike, bad reality shows, or high-flying-rated NFL playoff games about why the current TV network season is sucking big time. But what does one make of the news that YouTube's weekly visitor level dipped for the second week in a row? Isn't everything in digital videoland on the upswing?
YouTube's ratings dipped to 29.7 million unique users for the week ending Jan. 13 -- off 1 million from the week before. Yahoo Video was also down by 800,000, to 1.4 million. Only MSN Video was on the plus side, an 800,000 gain, to 3.3 million. We are told that week-to-week fluctuations are normal. My question then is, why focus on them at all?
TV business reporters can give you weekly, daily, perhaps hourly updates on traditional TV ratings. There are reasons for everything -- especially lower ratings. Last season "Lost" spent too much time in the not-too-friendly confines of the Others; "Heroes" spent much time with Hiro in feudal Japan.
What can we make of YouTube's dip? Is LonelyGirl15 permanently retired from deceiving people? Are consumers bored with their video cameras in January? Is the cold weather cutting back on motorcycle jumpers into pools?
Just as with any other media trend, we need storylines. Traditional TV still has a lot of that; the online space is still looking for it.
Some will argue the likes of real board-base video sites don't lend themselves to that kind of analysis. Some will say it has to do with viewer metrics, of which the digital video space doesn't have a single standard. Executives will tell you the digital space will give you census numbers, behavioral targeting data, and so much more about video users than traditional TV provides.
Right now all this is some faceless research geek stuff. Tell the casual consumer and the business reader a story that'll stick in their brains. Put a face on that mathematical body.
Even CBS' heavy mathematics crime-solving show, "Numbers," offers up some visual cues to make algorithms more palatable to those sometimes-befuddled FBI agents.