Who Has Time For All This Video Content?

When YouTube launched, the tools enabled everyone to become a producer of video content. Until recently, the production quality of most video online has been entertaining at best but not something a brand wants to regularly sponsor. Now, it seems that every day the phone rings with yet another content producer with stellar broadcast production credentials asking for an opportunity to pitch. It's almost as if all of Hollywood has become unemployed and is looking to peddle their ideas for a video series. If it's not the producers calling me, the indie video sites jump in to fill the time void. There's another Funny Or Die, YuMe or eager to partner with brands to bring great, original, and not-for-the-faint-of-marketer-heart content to the world. Since I have a day job that encompasses all of digital media, the majority of online video producer and upstart Web site calls go unanswered or do not receive their just due.

Imagine if the TV world had this issue. Clearly, they do not, because (1) lots of money is spent annually on integrations and (2) there are a finite number of shows being produced, most of which are continuations of known programming. Furthermore, agencies and marketers have become experts in reviewing and selecting scripts where a brand's insertion will most often appear to be natural or organic, hopefully not detracting from the show's entertainment value. Typically, there is a resident expert who takes on this arduous task. In most, if not all, cases agencies have yet to bring these experts into the online video world, where we typically lack content guidelines, adequate projections on delivery performance (which impacts pricing), a content ratings system to know if the content is suitable for marketers, and little opportunity for retribution should the program not achieve moderate success.

As a first step, however, we need to define success. The challenge resides in measurement options being limited and lacking visibility. There are three measures that are easy to capture without incurring incremental cost -- total streams, average viewing duration, and click-through data from clickable placement in or around the content -- assuming the program is set up to track this data. Notably missing are brand metrics, buzz/sentiment metrics and demographic/behavioral audience composition, which are more common currency for digital measurement these days and often come with added expense. There are likely to be others, but these are top of mind. It is safe to assume that success will be achieved if the show hits a "feel good" number of streams/views.

How then does an industry with unlimited content address this unprecedented issue? One option is to hire a few of the most talented content creators. Being a part of a media agency, that would be somewhat novel but not entirely unheard of. Would the agency then offer a production studio solution for branded or unbranded content that needs to find a home via Web syndication? Or should another video Web site be created, launched and wholly owned by the agency? If holding companies can own ad networks and other technologies, then why not own a video Web site or two (or 100)? Another option is to stick to business as usual, with reps and vendors calling on anyone who will pick up the phone or email them back. That, however, seems like a lot of time invested with low return on that investment. The fall-back option is to create a gateway to funnel this information through a resident online video content expert, adding to the agency's wide berth of specialized services.

No matter which road is taken, something needs to be done to ensure indie video content online is properly considered alongside other online video options. Otherwise, it will be the same network Web sites that will continue to command share of wallet. The result will be their ability to maintain high prices relative to other quality online video options due to lack of real competition and supply constraints.

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