The good news is that Americans are increasingly incorporating streaming video into their routine Internet experience. The bad news is that much of the streaming video industry has made it nearly impossible for advertisers to take advantage of this consumer acceptance.
The problem is plug-ins: those little downloaded programs that enable users to see and hear the ads delivered by the streaming technology companies. The first part of the problem is consumer resistance; the second a failure to standardize plug-ins and finally a failure in accountability to advertisers.
Three of the biggest streaming video companies out there require users to download some sort of plug in. Three different plug ins. Without them, users can’t see or hear the ad units and you know how lazy users can be – ESPECIALLY when asked to download something that will show them an online commercial. So, right out of the gate we have limited the size of the potential audience for client ads by asking the consumer to take the first step, then subdivided the potential audience again by offering different plug ins.
In a perfect world, advertisers would prefer to scale seamlessly across various networks, and sites, not fenced in by pockets of folks who have downloaded various plug ins. You’re a media planner. Would you rather spend a million dollars on TV in one phone call or cobble together a network of streaming companies to run your spot on the Internet?
Finally, plug-ins are not very reliable. Companies who have used plug in technology have reported that 50% of the 3 billion attempted streams launched last year either failed to load properly into the player or where not viewed by users because of lengthy buffering times. Imagine selling 12 spots on TV, but not telling the advertiser that 6 of them never reached the target audience. Or ANY audience. You’d be stuck in make-good hell for all eternity.
If we can get other companies to realize the potential of player streaming audio and video that require NO plug ins which can scale across the ENTIRE Internet, then our industry could represents the best model to help publishers monetize their content.
While users have gotten pretty spoiled over the years by free content, they are not stupid; they know the gravy train is grinding to a stop. They know that they will either have to pay for commercial free content, or accept ads as a by-product of quality programming. They’ve accepted this model on broadcast television for over half a century and cable for the past few decades. We think that if and when we, as an industry, we can deliver television-like commercials to Internet users that they can view effortlessly, users will accept them with the same enthusiasm/resignation as they do on TV.
Once we can delivery quality and reliability for advertisers, they will stop dipping their toes in the water and jump in knowing there aren’t rock – like plugs ins – just beneath the surface of the water.
John Vincent is CEO and Founder of EyeWonder, Inc.