People are watching online video longer—that was the first and perhaps most obvious conclusion drawn by executives from several online video sites who ruminated about their collective future earlier today on the Internet Week main stage.
Jason Kirk, vice president of content and distribution for USTREAM, the live streaming video site, said during his days at MySpace, the uptick of average view time moving from two minutes to three was cause for breaking out the bubbly. They have a live feed up of baby bald eagles right now that have generated 130 million views. The average length of unique views? Six hours.
More importantly, the ability to hold viewers' attentions longer are giving providers a bigger tool in their ad sales kit. Being able to offer more roll time ahead, during, and at the end of videos has helped the industry earn more than $1 billion in revenues last year.
Brad Elders, vice president of video sales for AOL, was the chief promoter of the need to move to a better way to remain accountable to advertisers in a way that offers something as tangible as turning on the TV to see your ad. The idea of developing industry standards and agreed upon metrics was mentioned, but no specific process.
"It's about just giving advertisers comfort in the fact that our distribution is just as good as the networks," he said. In a certain sense, it's starting to be seriously competitive. All the panelists spoke to the power of social media in this venue, allowing something regular broadcast can't: spreading the word instantly to new audiences through postings on places like Facebook and Twitter.
Paul Greenberg, CEO of College Humor Media, illuminated this point: Nearly half of all their traffic comes through embedded players on sites and platforms other than CollegeHumor.com.
Greenberg said that now around 85 percent of CollegeHumor's views come from traditional views via computer Web browsers. He expects that number to drop to as low as 45 percent in the near future, however, as viewing shifts more and more to mobile devices. "There are other ways of looking at how consumers consume video," he said. They are also working with game console and Web TV developers to get their content onto different platforms.
Dina Kaplan, a blip.tv co-founder and the impromptu MC for the panel, hammered home the embryonic reality of Web video. YouTube will be celebrating its sixth anniversary this year, she noted, and the best days for Web video lay ahead.
"It's really important we get the message out that you can make millions of dollars doing Web series right now," Kaplan said. "But you have to earn it—you have to earn your audience."
The message has apparently already been spread. Ben Relles, the head of creative development for YouTube, talked about a recent production "boot camp" hosted by YouTube, which helped train novice Web video producers on the basics in quality production and promotion. The move to having content on the Web rival the reach and quality of broadcast was something all the panelists see as the next big step.
"Somehow, I'm hopeful that in the next year scripted content will thrive [online]," Kaplan prognosticated at the end of the discussion.