The Distorted View of YouTube Through a Television Lens

/ Jan 31, 2014

end-goal still tv

By Bettina Hein

For nearly two years, my team and I have publicly challenged the reign of television in the video content world while comparing TV’s decline to that of the print industry. Cable industry professionals and network advertising executives have repeatedly attacked Pixability’s position, citing the fact that we didn’t emerge from the legacy television ecosystem as proof that Pixability views the video world differently from the majority of cable and network industry players.

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, thinking differently is precisely how brand marketers and advertising professionals need to approach their upcoming YouTube and advertising allocations.

Changing Times, Changing Metrics

So, what’s the status of television’s grip? Cord cutting rates and subscription erosion are but two of the signs indicating that changes are afoot that will impact the media industry. But it’s not about television per se: It’s about content, how it’s consumed, and how audiences engage both with it and content creators.

Rather than acknowledge these fundamental shifts that highlight television’s growing disparity with contemporary audiences and content patterns, our industry uses legacy measurement, such as GRPs, to show that digital content just isn’t working as effectively as it should. The media buyers are in turn hamstrung because their entire evaluation model is built around the wrong metrics for a digital world. Smarter marketers and brands are starting to recognize that the pre-purchased, raw impressions so prevalent in television lack both the economies of YouTube auction buys and the target audience precision.

Content, Consumption, and Engagement

For the past three years, we’ve used our big data video marketing software to analyze the digital video world according to a broad range of data inputs: content type, industry, viewer demographics, viewing platforms, social shares, share-of-voice, and advertising impact. From there, three distinct patterns have emerged that target the root cause of why television as a medium for brands will begin yielding to digital as the transition from offline to online continues at an accelerated pace in 2014.

1) Content

Repurposing television ads on digital platforms such as YouTube just doesn’t work, but we see it all the time. The YouTube audience expects a different digital video experience; one that is more authentic, and frequently instructional. We recently analyzed the entire beauty industry and compared what the brands were producing to what the audience was consuming from both brand and non-brand content creators. Brands are missing the mark with a television mentality to content.

As important as content is, so is consistent publishing of content. Dropping television ads on an erratic basis is far different from delivering genuine content from successful creators on YouTube. As the graphic below depicts, brands tend to produce and publish new content to YouTube far less frequently than popular YouTube vloggers. It’s the frequent and predictable producers who get both the views and the engagement.

2) Consumption

According to eMarketer, television consumption per US adult has remained flat since 2010, while online consumption rates (including mobile devices) have increased by two full hours per day (an increase of 66%) between 2010 and 2013. Click-through rates for mobile video have tripled in the last 12 months alone, and are three times as high as desktop CTRs.*

Audiences are watching more video online, on their phones, and on the go than ever before — and with this new behavior comes a need for a new media measurement system that factors audience engagement into the equation. This happens with YouTube, not with television.

Though we’ve measured a compound annual growth rate of 73% in YouTube content produced by the Interbrand-ranked top 100 global brands, audiences are consuming non-brand content by independent video creators at an astonishing rate. We recently analyzed the beauty industry on YouTube and discovered 168 major brands and 45,000 independent producers. Together, they’ve garnered 14.9 billion views. Surprisingly, only 3% were for the brands; the remaining 97% came from the audience consuming non-brand content. Consumption patterns will have a huge impact for brands on YouTube, changing the both they way the produce and they way they advertise.

3) Engagement

When we work with major brands on their YouTube marketing and advertising strategy, one of the key points our team makes sure to emphasize is the importance of audience engagement. Audience engagement (defined by the number of viewer likes, comments, and social shares) is key to successful online video use by brands.

We recently used our software to analyze 168 beauty brands and their YouTube channels for audience engagement. The differences between the top 25% in engagement and the bottom 25% were striking. The former receive 16x more video views than brands that eschew an engagement-focused strategy. More importantly, the top quartile of YouTube’s beauty brands receive 285x more social shares overall than the bottom quartile of beauty brands.

Average YouTube video social shares and average views per video for YouTube’s top quartile of beauty brands, compared with bottom quartile of beauty brands

Unlike the one-way delivery of traditional television viewing, online video consumption is a two-way street. YouTube’s Google+ comments integration and video hosting provider sites are platforms where viewers can watch, comment, and even produce and post their own responses. Viewing audience interaction as part of all video advertising and marketing releases should become a requirement for brand marketers and agencies.

Conclusion: It’s not a zero-sum game

On the advertising side, brand marketers and their agencies will continue the decades-long exercise of budget allocation to media and programming. To justify their math, they’ll use measurements nearly as old as television itself even though the rationale behind these methods is inherently flawed. To illustrate with a particularly vivid metaphor, it’s like attempting to weigh yourself with a thermostat. Wrong tool, wrong results, wrong decisions.

As audiences consume more online video on a variety of mobile devices than ever before, the need for a media measurement system that factors audience engagement into the equation is growing. Viewer likes, comments, and social shares are key elements within the new success metrics system for online video. YouTube offers a level of measurement precision that just doesn’t exist in the legacy television world. Identifying video content consumption patterns and engagement behavior is markedly different and should be treated that way in budget decisions. Moreover, YouTube allows full integration in the broader digital world, including both web and commerce. This, of course, leads to the most important metric of all: sales.

So… thinking differently yet?

VIS_BettinaHeimBettina Hein is the founder and CEO of Pixability, a big data software company that helps major brands dramatically increase YouTube impact on their target audiences. She holds a MS degree from MIT, a law degree from the University of Constance, and a business degree from the University of St. Gallen. Bettina is co-author of “Video Marketing for Dummies,” and a recipient of the L’Oréal NEXT Generation Award, honoring top women leading groundbreaking digital companies.

Source: eMarketer, July 2013 report. Report # 160460.

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  • derooymedia

    Great piece on offline and online metrics.

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