Studies Expose Online Video Gender Gap

SAN FRANCISCO While females make up a slight majority of the total U.S. online audience—97 million females to 90 million males—according to a report released by eMarketers last week, two recent studies suggest that men engage with online videos more than women.

One survey, from DoubleClick released March 20, found that 50 percent more men than women interacted with video ads. Based on more than 300 online video ad campaigns placed by more than 130 advertisers over a four-month period in 2006, the study showed that among U.S. users 18 and older, 31 percent of men clicked on an online video ad at least sometimes, compared to 21 percent of women.

“In general, we find that men are more interactive in their Internet experience and are bolder in exploring online media,” said Rick Bruner, research director at DoubleClick. Overall, men are more willing than women to try new forms of Internet advertising and marketing, he added.

Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the report “Women Online: Taking a New Look,” said her research found, however, that women are “more forgiving of the commercial message than men, and are more willing than men to engage with the ads as shoppers.” Meaning, she explained, women will stay on the site longer, shop around, compare prices and sometimes buy. So while women are less apt to watch or interact with such ads, when they do, they tend to be more patient and receptive.

Williamson also noted that when it comes to general online video content, she found that the gender gap is also present: According to her report, only two-thirds of women watch videos online, compared to more than three-quarters, or roughly 80 percent, of men. Women are also less likely than males, according to her research, to visit most video destination sites, including the larger ones like YouTube.

“Getting the female audience engaged is crucial for the success of online video, and over the next few years, marketers and online video content providers will need to figure out exactly how to get that job done,” said Williamson. “They have no choice.”

While Williamson’s research did not exclude adult content, some studies that do filter out such videos also show differences in video viewing by gender. A study by Piper Jaffray, for instance, found that while online news appealed to both genders (52 percent of adult men and 49 percent of women), men were more likely to watch, in order of preference, amateur videos and music videos, while women favored movie previews and then music videos.

Kate Everett Thorp, founder of Real Girls Media— is its flagship site—said marketers and publishers need to produce professional-looking video content and ads if they want to attract a larger female audience. RGM offers content provided primarily by users, but has no video content. (Advertisers include AT&T, Microsoft, DoubleTree Hotels and Target.) Aimed at women 25-54, the site attracts users who want to contribute their voices and share their experiences, said Thorp, former president, digital worldwide at AKQA and chairman and CMO of Carat Interactive.

“This group of adult women [online in general] is accustomed to a level of quality when it comes to video ads and content, based on their [lifetime experience of watching] TV and has standards for online video consumption and participation,” she said.

Her site will add audio content soon because “a lot of women want to hear the voice of the ‘writer’ and want to have a choice of whether to read or listen,” she noted.

In other DoubleClick news, a consumer survey conducted among 6,000 Web users in July 2006 suggests that both men and women will click the “play” button more than they’ll click on a still image ad, such as a banner. It also found that video ads are typically played two-thirds of the way through.

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