7 things you need to know about how young people watch video

film-canister-moviesThis post first appeared in theMediaBriefing on 10th July 2015.

As the founder of a mobile video start-up, I am faced every day with a key question: how does my natural audience – young people – choose, consume and share short form video?

We decided to commission our own survey, asking over 400 British people about their use of original digital video, which included YouTube, Vimeo and Twitch, but excluded long-form video such as that provided by Netflix and iPlayer. These results, coupled with our wider secondary research, challenge the assumptions commonly made by many, typically older, media executives about how young people choose, watch and share this video.

Here are the seven things they need to know about this importance audience:

1. It’s daily

If IAB is right that 26% of British viewers are watching less TV because they’re watching online video – and over half watch short-form video at the same time as traditional television – then there is a very real daily war being fought between YouTube and broadcast TV for the viewer’s attention.

Young people are at the forefront of this battle, because they are significantly heavier and more frequent consumers of video than older viewers. Under 25s in our panel are more than twice as likely to watch original digital video every day (71%) than over 25 year olds (28%).Deloitte also found that 40% of 16-24s watch more than 30 minutes of short form video over multiple sessions every day: 47% watch original digital videos in more than one daily session and 22% view 6 or more sessions a day. This is three times the frequency of the general population.

2. It’s mobile

It’s been hard to avoid the blanket coverage of the rapid mobile video revolution; for instance, Americans have more than doubled mobile viewing of original digital video in just 2 years.

So we were not surprised to find that mobile (47%) has nearly caught up desktop (49%) for those we surveyed. Leading this charge are the under 25s, 58% of whom watch original digital video most frequently on tablets and smartphones, contrasting to 43% of over 25s.

Smartphone viewing (31%) was stronger than tablet viewing (25%) for young people, which is backed up by Ooyala’s recent global data on mobile video, suggesting that smartphone is driving mobile video growth. In our panel, mobile usage correlates strongly with young people’s frequency of viewing, with 60% of mobile users under 25 watching it every day.

3. It’s social

With Facebook and YouTube vying for the top slot in video, we expected to find social networks (59%) and video platforms (48%) neck to neck in terms of being the most popular sources of video across our panel; just as GFK found in America that 55% of respondents of all ages interact with original digital video on social media.

Results were stronger for our under-25s, for whom social networks are the most popular source of videos (73%), followed closely by the video networks themselves (69.5%).

Word of mouth is still important (46%) for these young people, but the least popular ways to find out about video for young people were text message (1.7%) and email (0%).

Interestingly, recommendations from friends are easily the most important source of videos for young people – 83% of under 25s cited social networks, word of mouth, instant messaging services or SMS as sources for finding videos.

4. It’s about trust

We wanted to break new ground and ask people how they choose which video to watch. Top of the list was the video creators themselves. The degree to which these new content creators arbitrate what young people watch compared to older people is striking.The top response from under 25s was ‘someone I like or admire made the video’ (69.5%), more than twice the rate of response to the same question from over 25s (31.5%). They do not have to follow the creators, although this is popular (59% of under 25s watch because they follow someone), and they are discerning (only 35% of under 25s watch everything that some YouTube creators upload).

Deloitte has published an interesting comparison between PewDiePie (58m monthly hours viewed) and Coronation Street (67m), so if you’ve ever wondered if YouTube stars were really just legends in their own bathwater, you’ve been dramatically wrong. PewDiePie’s reported annual profits of $7.45m in 2014 suggest there’s real money in building trust with young people.

5. It’s about passion

If social recommendations are the overwhelming source of videos for young people, then strength of recommendation is clearly a deciding factor in what to watch: 61% of under 25s decide which videos to watch based on the whether someone loves, hates or has another strong reaction to a video (versus 40% of all respondents). Also, 52% of young people reported that they would watch if friends and family were also watching.

The importance of sentiment in recommendations presents potential opportunities for platforms, because at present video networks like YouTube and social networks like Facebook and Twitter do not give viewers a way to express sentiment during sharing beyond comments, for instance via emoticon systems popular with instant messaging services such as Snapchat and Line.

6. It’s about fun, sentiment and updates

Entertainment was the strongest reason that under 25s said they watch (95%), which explains why young people’s favourite types of video are funny (97%), surprising/exciting (85%) and crazy/weird (68%).

Under 25s’ second most popular reason to watch was wanting something to suit how they are feeling (68%), which is interesting because no video networks provide a way to categorise videos by mood.

In third place for young people (68%) was watching original digital video as an easier, more fun way to keep up to date. This mirrors Ofcom’s findings that YouTube was seen by nearly half (46%) of 16-24 year olds as an important source of information.

7. It’s about conversations

For a start-up that’s placed a bet on video commenting, we needed to know more about how people discuss video. Where GfK/IAB found that a quarter of 18-34 year old Americans enjoy discussing, reading or writing comments about original digital video, we asked more specific questions about sharing, discussing and commenting. We found 78% of under 25s sometimes – or frequently – discuss video with friends, 63% sometimes or frequently shared video with friends, and 39% sometimes or frequently comment on video using video platforms.

The responses on commenting represent brand new consumer data, and reveals the extent of conversations about video that have previously been ignored.

Other sources have found that 68% share video every week or more on mobile devices (IAB) and 92% have ever shared video on mobile devices (Cisco).

Final Thoughts

I’ve been describing a dramatic shift in how young people choose, consume and share original digital video. Their behaviour, tastes and activity vary substantially from older generations.

Their devices of choice are overwhelmingly mobile; their appetite for content is little short of voracious, and the context for their viewing highly social and conversational.

The opinion and sentiment of friends recommended via social networks, instant messaging and word of mouth are the deciding factors in terms of what young people choose to watch.

This represents an intriguing challenge for anyone trying to exploit such an intrinsically viral market.

Rick Gibson is Managing Director of Ludifi Limited. Rick advised media companies like BBC, RTL, Endemol, ITV, Universal Music Group, Turner, Orange, Random House, Fremantle and many others, before launching Ludifi, a London-based interactive video start-up 

Has interactive video advertising finally come of age?

When Google unwrapped clickable interactive video ads last week, it formally rolled out a product that many start-ups have tried to make a success.

YouTube and Sephora demonstrate interactive video purchasing
YouTube and Sephora demonstrate interactive video purchasing

The snappily-named Trueview for Shopping uses a slicker version of YouTube’s annotations – those clunky text boxes that tattoo many of its videos which no-one seems to click on – to layer shopping links onto video ads to allow purchase of the products within.

In beta tests with brands Sephora and Wayfair over the last year, Trueview for Shopping performed well. Sephora’s interactive video campaigns had stronger brand recall and Wayfair’s generated three times the revenue than previous ad campaigns.

YouTube and Wayfair's interactive video purchasing
YouTube and Wayfair’s interactive video purchasing

That’s impressive. No wonder Wayfair’s Ben Young thinks it will be ‘huge’.

YouTube is finally doing what many start-ups, most recently and perhaps most successfully Kiosked, have been doing for a while: give people the chance to buy what they’re watching.

Research has long indicated that purchasing increases after watching video – a 2014 study found that 73% of viewers of branded videos were more likely to purchase.

The concept behind this as old as the hills: Get The Look has been a staple of women’s magazines for decades. So why has it taken YouTube so long?

They have had the raw ingredients of the product for years. Huge video platform: check. A way to layer and/or time interactions over video: check. A massive advertising platform: check. A way to track and monetise clicks that result in a purchase: check.

Perhaps they were waiting for brands to show appetite. Since the mid-2000s, lots of interactive video companies have been trying to get brands on board with interactive video purchasing. They range from agency-style services that tailor make unique interactions inside video to generic solutions that slap buttons on video.

Brainient, Viewbix, Coull and Innovid layer interactions over and around video such as calls to action, animation, coupons, share buttons, coupons and a wide range of other pieces of functionality from open API products. Some of these layers can be intrusive, they often pause or overtake the video. Many simply offer generic buttons that do not match content featured within the video at specific times.

To tightly synch the ad to the product in-screen, someone needs to tag the video’s timeline or, adding even more complexity, outline a moving x/y coordinate inside the video window so it is relevant to what you are watching. For most, this either costs too much to do that, makes little difference to purchasing behaviour or is only worth it on highly specific campaigns.

YouTube seems to have opted for generic product tags. Sephora and Wayfair slap a sideboard on the side of the video showing products, but they don’t appear to tag to specific time codes.

If the technology is not particularly complex, the real challenge is commercial. Purchases are usually tracked using affiliate advertising networks, who take a bounty if someone purchases. They then share some of that with the traffic source and, downstream, the tech provider. Once you factor in the Darwinian truth about e-commerce – that few of us actually complete our purchases – that is an awfully small piece of the pie. Fractions of pennies in the pound.

So interactive video purchasing may only work in 2 scenarios: with huge scale and/or with fewer middlemen. Kiosked seem to have cracked the problem using scale, serving 5bn ads to over 250m users in their publisher network each month. They offer the entire spectrum of ad formats for content monetisation, not just interactive video, which presumably takes only a small proportion of that vast total.

Google, unsurprisingly, can offer both scale and fewer middlemen, a one stop shop solution to brands. The solution is free to advertisers unless someone clicks, watches for 30 seconds or completes the ad. Now we must wait and see if brands adopt.

In this regard, YouTube is the slow follower of faster companies in the market, but it’s probably one of the few companies who can make interactive video actually pay.

All the video you can print

Time INc

Time Inc. recently announced major investment in original video production, planning 22 channels of content to pour 10,000 videos onto YouTube and its own platform in 2015 alone. No slouch in this medium, Time Inc. has been building a video audience steadily over several years now, accumulating a billion views in 2014.

Time joins a raft of traditional media publishers such as The Guardian, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today who have jumped enthusiastically into video production in the last few years.

The editorial reasons to invest so heavily in producing video are well documented. Whether it’s about attracting younger viewers with very different viewing habits who long ago fled news printed on paper, creating content that engages more effectively via increasingly video-centric social networks or encouraging live-at-the-scene citizen journalism, video is much more accessible, attractive and cheaper to produce than it was even a few years ago.

The commercial reasons are apparently obvious too: to increase the volume of higher-value advertising inventory. Many appear to think so, but whether video is the magic ingredient for companies transitioning from ink on paper to bits on screen is an open question.

I remember hearing the chief executive of one of the larger UK publishing houses last year discuss the company’s enthusiasm for video for all the above reasons. But the people that ran the company’s video department later quietly admitted that their advertising revenues did not remotely cover their video production costs, with average viewing figures for their videos peaking at around 20,000 views.

That’s an awfully long way from a break-even point.

Some of the larger US traditional media companies are delivering better numbers than that so there may be an argument that this is partly a European problem. But assuming there is a natural commercial limit to how much loss-leading these companies can stomach, what these companies really need is traffic as well as funding.

Step in Google, which is trying to solve this problem for news organisations by priming the pump with its €150m Digital News Initiative. The funding is reserved for journalism but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the first round of sign-ups The Financial Times, the Guardian, El Pais and Die Zeit channelling a lot of these new funds into video production.

The content created by these investment is revealing. In Time Inc’s case, they are producing formats that look a lot like cable TV, perhaps daytime TV at that, which isn’t necessarily where you’d expect Time’s brand to be positioned.

You have to wonder whether some companies’ attempts to copy YouTube formats such as tech and game reviews, celebrity gossip or vlogging will succeed. Some of their video output can feature a glossy, corporate style which looks pretty stilted next to the YouTube-native stars they are emulating.

Bucking that trend is that paragon of a print organ that has apparently survived the digital transition, The Onion, whose informal and usually hilarious style is spot on for YouTube and whose viewing figures average in the hundreds of thousands.

Perhaps Time Inc’s channels are paying off already. Perhaps these strategic investments stake out ground for a future where video makes financial sense for a large publisher. But right now, you’d be forgiven for assuming another obvious reason behind such investment: because everyone else is doing it.

How Facebook’s video advertising could start to resemble TV ad breaks

Facebook just hit 4bn daily video views, a remarkable feat that took only a year to accomplish what YouTube did in 10 years.

With nearly 1.4 billion monthly active users, Facebook is more than a bit like the Communist Party in China: a group of inaccessible technocrats with iron will who can mobilise vast numbers of people when they set their minds to something.

But the game-changer is the use of auto-playing videos. Swipe or cursor down your feed a little too slowly and you could have set 5 or 6 videos playing. It’s a neat trick that turbo-charges video viewing statistics. If a small proportion of those videos carry pre-roll ads, you can see why Facebook is excited about the potential to send its video advertising revenues into orbit.

Facebook’s ad sales people will argue that its deep demographic data combines with massive volume to create a compelling opportunity to brands. They also argue that click through rates are highest for video. Sounds good but how can Facebook know if any of the three videos currently playing in my feed at the same time is grabbing my attention?

It’s odd to say this about the most closely surveilled population on the internet, but Facebook may not know whether its users have actually watched its video ads (unless, of course, they click).

So there could be multiple ads playing at once. That’s one piece of data we shall never hear proudly broadcast from Facebook Towers: how many video ads were playing at the same time to the same person this month. You get an admission of this possibility in a roundabout way: buy the premium video ad product and you are guaranteed no other video ads will be seen. But that carries a $1m ticket for 24 hours.

Multiple ads playing to people who might never see them. That sounds familiar. In this respect, Facebook’s video ads are oddly analogous to ad breaks in commercial television. The broadcasters too are up to their eyes in general demographic data about their viewerships but they cannot guarantee whether anyone is watching, as opposed to making a cup of tea or taking a comfort break (although at least there you can ask the utility companies about peak electricity and water usage during ad breaks).

Will brands care? Nah. They never seemed to care about the lack of accountability from the analogue broadcasting world between advertising that is aired and advertising that is seen. Why should they now?

In fact, do brands care about the deep demographic data? For years I assumed that the availability of deep demo data on Facebook usage meant that agencies would be convinced to pay more for advertising. But after speaking to several international agency people here in the UK, I was persuaded that ad buyers outside of Facebook cannot sell this kind of tracked inventory for substantially higher values. I was told it isn’t more valuable than regular online ads because the brands and their agencies don’t have the capability to leverage the data. Perhaps this is why you still see social campaigns valued by how many Facebook likes are achieved, despite that being an almost meaningless metric

So it’s unlikely that Facebook will have problems selling its possibly viewed video inventory but for the vast majority of video campaigns it may require as much faith as data to buy into Facebook’s video inventory.

It’s official – some cord cutters have completely deserted traditional TV

An old broken TV left on the street.

Google revealed yesterday that a small but significant proportion of its users have completely cut the cords to their televisions and no longer watch television at all. Sam Gutelle at Tubefilter reported:

An ensuing report reveals that nearly 10% of viewers who watch Google Preferred channels on desktop computers don’t watch traditional TV. In addition, the majority of those viewers do not visit Hulu or the official streaming portals of the four major TV networks.

Google Preferred is a velvet-roped VIP enclosure for the top 5% of its most popular channels – Machinima, Pewdiepie etc. It’s probably not a bad representative sample of its user-base, although Google acknowledges it skews to the more fanatical/loyal end of the spectrum.

Another analysis of the report found that these cord cutters are more likely to be younger, heavier viewers on mobile devices and more likely to want to purchase stuff online than the general online population.

Ignoring the promotional nature of statistics released to draw ad buyers’ attention from Yahoo and Facebook and drive up CPMs, what does that mean for network television?

Some will be watching network TV-produced long form video on other platforms and channels not stigmatised by Google’s sniffy term “full-episode players supported by advertising” by which they mean ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and Hulu. So Netflix et al aren’t included in the 10% statistic.

But it’s not good news for network TV, whose commercial model is already being undermined by cable companies’ inevitable slide towards a la carte viewing and 2 years of modest decline in pay-TV subscriptions. If the Google data isn’t seriously skewed, it means that a much larger proportion of younger viewers are exclusively consuming short-form or ad-free video. It’s not just Fox News with an average viewing age of 68.8 that has a problem. All the networks have older viewers, which means there’s a time bomb ticking underneath them

What’s clear from this data is that the demographics of your viewers could seriously damage your health in the long run.

Only 10% of us finish videos watched on a mobile phone

A report from Adobe suggests that the share of digital video viewing on tablets and phones will overtake that on desktop next year, doubling its current rate of 27% in just 2 years.

Barnstorming growth but the small print holds a caveat, revealing just how differently we watch videos on mobile. People tend to watch videos on phones for only 22 seconds, or 44 seconds on tablets. That is 16 times less than the average session length on desktop of 5 minutes 49 seconds.

Adobe assumes the low rates are at least in part due to videos automatically playing on mobile:

“Often, links designed to automatically launch and start videos are accidentally clicked, which produces undesirable metrics like high bounce rates and low viewing time per video start. These links often irritate consumers who become more annoyed with the advertising that is embedded in these video launches” Adobe

Someone on Adobe’s analyst team doesn’t like Facebook’s autoplay.

However much autoplay skews the data, these shorter play times expose our different viewing habits on mobile. We all know we snack rather than binge on video on mobile, but the extent is interesting, even surprising.

With half of YouTube views coming from mobile, it’s unsurprising that most original digital videos, from Vines to YouTube’s standard fair, are increasingly designed for snacking. Supply and demand. Our wariness of mobile bandwidth charges (which often remain, even in markets like the UK where better regulation protects consumers from profiteering mobile networks, unreasonably high) contributes to these low numbers. Perhaps (and I hesitate to echo Seinfeld’s ‘giant garbage can’) there’s a quality issue that switches people off.

Whatever the cause, the study also found that fewer than 10% of viewers on mobile phones finished an entire video. Half of us watch only a quarter of a video before moving onto something else.

If we’re watching videos on mobile for only 22 seconds, this raises an interesting question:

How do you know you’re watching the best bits?

With every other video player (excluding Vine + its clones), you don’t. You either get lucky and find the best bits right at the front of the video or you scrub around fruitlessly, probably not finding what you wanted before you bail at 22 seconds.

Not so with clipdash. One of the great things about our app is that you cut straight to where your friends or people you follow have left a comment, which is often where the best Wow/WTF/Woot bits are.

So we offer a solution for the terminally short of attention. We may be onto something here.

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