Why Publishers Need To Bring A Data Driven Approach To Video To Drive Ad Revenue

Every day we’re bombarded with data that says how many times a video has been played or what’s most popular, but one of the things we don’t see much data on is engagement. Simply tracking how many times a video is watched is not the same as measuring what the engagement experience was with the viewer. And more importantly, content experiences are now more personalized, more custom and as consumers, we have more choices than every of how we consume video.

The online video advertising industry likes to talk about engagement, but even they don’t talk to the methodology that should be used considering we have so many a-la-carte and custom bundling options for online video. Today’s online TV experience is completely personalized, which is especially true on mobile where content is updated in real-time, presented in feeds, and engaged through swipes and thumbscrolls.

Industry data shows that for e-commerce and media, 80% of viewers that are driven to video do not want to watch what is being presented. That begs the question, how much money are publishers leaving on the table by not effectively engaging with the remaining 20%? In similar industries, like ecommerce, Amazon has long utilized advances in machine learning and data science to become the premier example of how to do customer relationship management and get the most ROI in return. Publishers should take a lesson from the ecommerce market and bring the data driven approach of one-to-one marketing to video programming. By utilizing the best practices of customer relationship management to video, publishers could better engage audiences and grow viewership.

Today, viewers are presented with multiple entry points to content and have the upper-hand in the buyer-supplier relationship. TV was a destination, video is a journey. The challenge for publishers is to engage viewers in such a way that they look forward to the trip. Data has shown that positive user-experiences build consumption habits and fuel organic growth in viewership. So any opportunity content owner’s have to pass on incremental value to an engaged viewer should be taken, yet many publishers are still missing the opportunity.

The business of video, like TV, has for the most part been about servicing advertisers by providing them audiences at scale to watch their commercials. As publishers and content owners are finding less utility in traditional video value metrics, it may be time to look to familiar techniques utilized by one-to-one marketers. The foundation of CRM is to “sell more to fewer customers.” This sounds counterintuitive, but the greatest sensitivity to customer lifetime value is retention i.e. churn. A small change in retention has large impacts on profits and losses. There is higher return if you can sell/upsell/cross sell to an existing customer than acquiring a new customer and selling to them.

Video publishers have looked to curation to address this challenge to mixed results. Manually curated playlisting is not scalable and does not offer the benefits of one-to-one engagement that is inherent to the digital experience. Native content recommendation widgets promotes external discovery by sending viewers out to other sites. While there is positive audience development that cycles through these systems, this is done at the expense of internal discovery where the relationship between publisher and audience can flourish. It makes more sense to present viewers with relevant content from your library instead of sending them to a third-party destination. Publishers need to utilize video personalization data to have insight on user behavior and compare it against content categories, content length, content type, device, and a variety of other parameters. This not only informs content creation, but also video placement, and distribution.

Publishers have utilized performance data to position video players on different parts of pages, as well as against different types of content. This has enabled some publishers to provide an optimal user experience for native sponsored content, but they need to go further, like automating social media postings to align with trending asset alerts. I spoke with a content owner the other day that relies on the IRIS.TV platform, a personalized video programming and decisioning system. This allows content owners to know what content leads to the most follow-on views. IRIS.TV calls this “anchor assets” and this insight is analogous to brick-and-mortar retailers utilizing consumption patterns to optimize the placement of products on shelves. Publishers can optimize new video content in ways that lead to viewing of relevant library content. This is analogous to two consumers going to the market to buy milk, but the market places products in such a way that consumer A buys an additional Snickers bar and a Maxim and consumer B buys a Kind Bar and Runners World.

I asked IRIS.TV for some data from their system and the company said that for content publishers that use their plugin, consumption of video sees an average increase of 54% or more. Engagement views per session see a 62% increase. And when it comes to retention, the average bounce rate is reduced by 14%. Other interesting data they shared is the breakdown of consumption on mobile with Android leading the market with 53% versus  iOS with 45%. On non-mobile, Windows leads with 63% share with OS X having 19% share.

The take away from all of this is that most publishers and content owners are not effectively engaging audiences, resulting in poor ROI from video and audience development strategies. I’d be interested to hear in the comments section below what key metrics publishers are using in their data driven approach to video consumption.