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According to some estimates, video could soon account for as much as 80 percent of all Internet traffic by 2020. Others have suggested that social networks such as Facebook and Snapchat could choose to go all-video in just a few short years. Obviously, video is the future of the Internet. But there’s just one small problem: nobody can agree on how to measure and report on video performance.
The need for a new cross-platform video standard
Here’s just one example: on YouTube, you need a video to play at least 30 seconds for it to count as a “view.” However, on Facebook or Instagram, the video only needs to play 3 seconds to count as a “view.” And Snapchat? As soon as something loads, it counts as a view. So you can see why it can be so confusing for both content publishers and advertisers – there’s no one, indisputable standard for what constitutes a view.
And without that standard, how eager are advertisers going to be to place ads on your social network? Things get even more dicey when you consider the delicate issue of pre-roll ads – those annoying ads that you’re forced to watch before getting to the good stuff. Advertisers are well aware that viewers are just waiting to click that “SKIP” button as soon as they can, and they are doing everything possible to prevent that. If people skip their ads, what’s the point of creating an ad in the first place?
The consensus now is that 50 percent of an ad must be on someone’s screen for at least 2 consecutive seconds to count as an “ad view.” But isn’t 2 seconds a pretty low bar to cross? If you’re an advertiser that is used to creating 30-second ads for TV, being told that 2 seconds of viewing time is all you’re going to get on the Internet must seem pretty disappointing.
Mixed messages about video for content creators
A second issue concerns the difference between short-form and long-form content that is created by publishers and content creators. Is there really any incentive to create long-form content? Think back to the YouTube example – all it takes to qualify as a “view” is 30 seconds. After that, you’re basically playing with house money. So if you were a content creator, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to make those 30 seconds the most exciting 30 seconds? If you’re creating a 20-minute product video, shouldn’t you try to cram the really exciting part into the first 30 seconds?
But here’s where content creators are getting mixed messages. Facebook is actively encouraging brands and content creators to create video content that’s not 30 seconds long, but 30 minutes long (sort of like a TV show). And YouTube is also looking for longer-form content that will be more enticing to advertisers. They are telling content creators to spend endless hours creating and editing TV-style content, while knowing full well that people might only watch 30 seconds of a 30-minute show.
The TV mentality has infected the Internet
Of course, all of the above presupposes one overriding concept: that the Internet should look a lot like TV. In short, people who grew up in the TV era are trying to impose a “TV mentality” on the Internet. They must love the idea that Zuckerberg is seriously thinking about transforming Facebook into an all-video social network. They must be giggling with joy that Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter are falling all over themselves to become more like TV networks, complete with their own 30-minute TV shows.
So why is this happening? In business as in life, always follow the money. And in this case, the “money” is advertising dollars. Becoming more like TV is the way that social networks make more money. More TV shows means more advertising dollars. The logic is simple, effective and impossible to ignore. Unfortunately, it has the power to change the way we enjoy the Internet and social media.