Online Video Is Not TV. A New Audience Builder for You - Walter Sabo

By Thought Leaders Archives
Cover image for  article: Online Video Is Not TV. A New Audience Builder for You - Walter Sabo

For the past five years, our team has done a deep dive into online video. Our digital video company, HITVIEWS invested over two million dollars to discover the most effective methods for gathering audience using online video. As with most studies of new media, the results are counterintuitive. Some are shocking. All are useful to building audience share. Let me share a few of the discoveries here.


Online video has created a new group of stars. We call them Web Stars. You'll recall from history that when TV started, it spawned a fresh group of celebrities. Some of them had been "B" movie actors like Jackie Gleason and Lucille Ball who became huge on TV because TV, not films was their medium.

TV ended the careers of other megastars like radio's Fred Allan because they were unappealing on the new visual stage. The Internet is not TV. It's a new medium with a new, very different relationship with its user. In this article I'll reveal a few of the facts we are learning about making online videos that attract and engage an audience.

Here are the topline facts about online video:

• 99% of online videos, on your website or anywhere, have fewer than 300 lifetime views. There is no long tail. 80% of the views to any video take place in the first 72 hours after posting.

• Ad agencies, as a rule make terrific TV but they often create unwatched online video. Their model is set up to create compelling TV commercials. Putting TV commercials online almost never works. The exceptions that come to mind (Old Spice, Doritos) are easily remembered because they are rare.

• Demographic appeal is universal. Online video equally reaches all demographics. It is a myth that it is an 18-24 medium.

• YouTube is now the second most used search engine. But the most watched YouTube videos after music videos fall under the category of those created by "organic" producers and performers. That means these stars were born on the Internet stage. The winning videos are not clips from TV or slick productions, they are produced by web stars.

You may recognize some of their names: The annoying orange, Whatthebuck, Mr. Safety, Roy Williams, Tobuscus, and Community Channel. Interestingly, their tenure is stable, predictive and of long duration. On average EACH of their videos pulls over 300,000 views.

• Cisco predicts that this year over 88% of online traffic will be for video.

How Big?

According to comScore:

More than 8.3 billion video ads were viewed in March, representing an all-time high. Time spent watching video ads totaled 3.5 billion minutes. Video ads reached 51 percent of the total U.S. population an average of 53 times during the month.


A few facts revealed by our studies:

1. Many TV, radio stations and newspapers encourage their audiences to go online and watch videos posted by their company. Usually the invite is awkward. The most effective way to send audience to watch an online video is personal, asking for interaction: "I want to know how you feel about a video I just shared with you..." is the right language for inviting engagement with your videos.


2. TV directors deliver "coverage" shots of the entire scene. When shooting interviews, TV directors instruct interview subjects and actors to never look directly into the camera. Online video is a different medium that has established a new dynamic with the viewers. The most effective angle for shooting online video is a head-on straight shot of the subject.

Streaming video of a location, studio, store, venue often looks like it's pulled off a surveillance camera. Long shots and lack of online detail renders video boring. Tight shots of specific elements in the scene will generate more response.

3. 4 minutes is too long.

4. Think Tom Cruise in Risky Business. Everyone remembers when he danced in his underwear. (They rarely remember the hot sex scene on the Chicago L). You relate to him dancing in his underwear because you do it and you couldn't believe anyone else did. You haven't had sex on the L. Online videos that reveal people doing privately what other people do privately are popular. "G" rated videos have more viewers than ones that are more frisky. Counterintuitive.


5. The mentality of "permanence" does not apply. With over 45 hours of video posted every few minutes, no one video is that important. For TV, film trailers and other traditional video, millions of dollars and months of planning go into video shorts and :30's. An online video posting is almost instantly replaced. As Caitlin Hill, our Chief Creative Officer---who started the job when she was 18 says, "Just hit refresh if you don't like it."


Every advertiser is trying to understand how to incorporate online video with their messaging. Many have suffered from failure. Five years ago Budweiser launched Bud.TV. It was an aggressive online video initiative rumored to be budgeted at over $25,000,000. Why didn't it work? It was TV.

Smart brands constantly seek ways to put online video to work for them. We have found several elegant solutions for brands to make online video effective. The key is custom solutions and high posting frequency.

The easy answer is a pre-roll but, candidly, it's a lazy answer. Why would a company waste money on an ad that says "You can stop this in 5 seconds"?

Video ads that work are those with compelling entertainment made for the Internet--not movie trailers or clips from slick productions. After five years of study, we have prepared a detailed report on which creative dynamics tend to work in online video and which do not. Please contact us here for more information:

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