Dina Kaplan is co-founder of blip.tv, an online video broadcasting company.
I think we’ll see a proliferation of three types of content online. First, we’ll continue to have network shows available on the Web and also original Web content produced by the networks. I’d put that in the “professional content” category that sits at the top of the content pyramid.
Second, we’ll have far more original Web shows of increasing quality and covering an ever-expanding diversity of topics. This goes in the middle of the content pyramid and is the content blip.tv hosts and distributes, so this is the market we focus on.
Third, you have friends and family videos and one-off viral videos that you’d typically watch on YouTube. This content sits at the bottom of the pyramid but may be seen by millions of people if it’s particularly funny or interesting.
I think we’ll see an increasing blurring of lines between “professional” content and independent Web shows, especially as more talent from traditional media dabbles with Web originals. Eventually I could see us each having something like a content toolbar, and during the day we’d feed different types of content into it – some Web shows, some network programs and some videos from friends and family. We would then have the ability to send that content to a TV screen at home, to a computer or to a mobile device. So you’ll be choosing what you watch, when you watch it, and exactly how you will consume that media.
Aggregators are a great opportunity for content creators. A traffic hose, of course, is important to someone looking to build a brand and an audience. You can market the heck out of your show and the show’s destination site and gain a lot of success that way. But you will be at a huge advantage if your show is also on the home page of MSN or another portal that natural drives large amounts of traffic.
I also think there will be a variety of successful loose aggregators of content on the Web. The Huffington Post is a good example of that. It has a looser relationship with its bloggers than the New York Times has with its writers, but the HuffPo is extremely valuable to its writers in that it’s a great tool for marketing the content and building an audience for it. Blip.tv can be seen as an aggregator in that context, too. We don’t own the content on our site, but we have a relationship with our content creators, and they can use us to distribute, market and help to monetize content, too.
Given fragmentation of the online audience, it would appear that blip.tv is trying to leverage and aggregate the Long Tail of original video content. Fair characterization?
Blip.tv wants to host the best shows of the Web, and many of them fit your Long Tail characterization. We have a show called Beet.TV that covers the business of Web video and would only be interesting, I suspect, to people who work in that industry. We have a show called Old Jews Telling Jokes that is, well, pretty much that. But we also have shows about Pilates and fashion and sports that would be more of what we would consider “torso” content, if you want to extend a somewhat unfortunate metaphor. And we have shows from Michael Eisner’s Tornante studio in L.A. that have mass appeal. So there’s something for everyone, including straight news programs and scripted sit-coms and dramas that would appeal to vast swaths of the public.
How does Blip.tv monetize its video content today?
We have, broadly speaking, two buckets of content: shows we sell directly, and shows we use networks to monetize. In both cases we do a 50/50 revenue share with the show creator. Our content and sales teams determine whether we sell a show directly or not, and they review each show once it reaches a certain size. We organize shows based on the age appropriateness of the content using the TV ratings system (i.e. TV-Y, TV-G, TV-MA), the quality of the show (we assign a number between 1 and 4) and the content itself (i.e. “How To”, “Comedy”). We use advertising networks to monetize shows that aren’t appropriate for major brands.
When we work with marketers we generally start by trying to understand their target audience and campaign goals. For example, an advertiser may want to reach female viewers who are interested in golf and convince them to buy a new pair of shoes. We’ll create a “pyramid” of content that reaches the target audience. At the top of the pyramid you’ll find shows that seem almost like they’re custom made for the campaign (even though they usually are not).
I can give you a real world example: Puma had a new women’s golf shoe. We put a show called “Golf Girl TV” at the top of the pyramid. We did brand integration into the show so the host actually wore the shoes and did an episode about how to move your feet when taking a swing, and then we ran media across a wider array of shows that were lower on the pyramid. This technique allows the advertiser to make crucial emotional connections and execute an efficient media plan with reach and scale against the target.
Many advertisers don’t have such a specific target audience. In those cases we can sell a collection of shows that reach the target audience at very high comps, perhaps 75% or even 85%. Still other advertisers may just want to run media across our entire network to reach as many people as possible. We price campaigns based on a number of criteria, including the creative used (which ranges from host reads and integration to simple pre-roll or post-roll), timing and how targeted the campaign is.
We have a significant advantage in that the shows on blip.tv are themselves targeted at very specific audiences. This allows us to create collections of shows that are much more efficient from a marketing perspective than a show that’s designed to maximize the potential audience and revenue of one hour of prime time television. We then close the loop by relentlessly focusing on optimization and campaign ROI during the advertiser’s flight. We can execute mid-campaign tweaks (changing the order certain ads and/or videos are served, ramping up on well performing creative units, or diving deeper with a specific segment of the target that is delivering increased ROI to ensure our partners maximize their dollars.
And how will Blip.tv monetize in the future – what if a “hit” show were to develop such as, let’s say, “The Susan Boyle Variety Show”? Syndication, for example?
The Susan Boyle Variety Show – I love it! We should bring in iTunes/Apple to sponsor that. Our monetization strategy scales in a very nice way. If we have a mass show, you can still run media on it, and benefit from the additional views, or you can do brand integration into the show, such as having Susan hold a Dr. Pepper throughout the show (although we may want to be more subtle than that).
The beautiful thing about what we’re doing is that we’re not forcing brands to bet on hits. We have shows on blip.tv that have been with us for years, and we’re happy to guarantee traffic for existing shows and can send over graphs detailing a show’s viewership trend month by month – or, if the advertiser wants, minute by minute.
Also, we benefit from having engaged audiences. Unlike network shows that could be playing back to back while you’re washing dishes or reading the paper, people watching blip.tv shows have clearly chosen to watch these specific shows. They’ve clicked on the episode and made a clear, active decision to watch the show at that time.
In terms of licensing content, or selling the foreign rights to a show, that’s something we may look at doing in the future but aren’t doing right now.
Are you aiming Blip.tv toward a convergent future with traditional television?
We believe that very soon most people in the United States will be able to watch Web shows on their televisions just like they watch “television” shows. This is a big priority for us. We’re planting a stake in the ground. We’ve started by making blip.tv shows available on Sony Bravia televisions, TiVo, Verizon FiOS Video On Demand, Apple TV, Boxee and a number of smaller cable operators around the country. We’ll be launching on Roku this fall.
The living room is a battleground for everyone from Sony to Apple to Microsoft to Comcast. We don’t want to pick sides, and we wouldn’t know who to pick even if we wanted to. Our strategy is to work with everyone. And the end game is probably going to be somewhat complicated: some people will use their cable boxes to watch Web shows, some people will use Rokus, some people will use their Internet-connected TVs and others will use their XBOX. We want blip.tv shows to be available on all of these platforms. You should be able to seamlessly flip between Lost and Anyone But Me with your remote control.
Do you think brand advertisers are more willing to advertise in web video content as opposed to text content in that it is has an intuitive link to TV and traditional media?
The Web has been seen as good for direct response advertising for a very long time. Television and print have traditionally been seen as superior from a branding standpoint. We believe that Web video offers the best of both worlds. It’s inherently measurable because it’s digital and it’s as emotionally powerful, and can even be more powerful, than television and print advertising.
The challenge is that Web video is still new. Agencies have long-established budgets for print and television (although, admittedly, these are shrinking), for search and for Web display ads. Many agencies and brands still don’t have dedicated online video budgets. This is changing, and big brands, including the CPG companies, the auto companies and some communications companies, are leading the way.
The reality is that nothing can beat the emotional impact of a video advertisement, whether it’s on television or on the Internet. Web video also offers a clear benefit over television — it’s interactive. On the Web you can click on a product in a commercial and buy it instantly. On the Web you can watch an auto ad and be customizing your new Ford Mustang with a single click. Pick the trim! Be connected to a dealer! That’s powerful stuff.
How important is analytics and understanding a site or video’s audience to video advertisers? Or is it more important to do a brand match with content which presumably their audience follows?
Analytics and audience data are crucial. But so is environment. Audience data is improving dramatically, thanks to some significant moves from companies like Quantcast and ComScore. Meanwhile, shows themselves give us important clues about their audiences’ demographic and psychographic composition. It’s pretty clear the show Momversation appeals primarily to moms, while DadLabs appeals primarily to dads.
We believe that demographic matches are incredibly important. No one’s going to argue with that. But we also believe that environment and context is crucially important. A mom is going to be more receptive to an ad for diapers while watching Momversation than while watching House. It’s the mode they’re in. The extremely targeted nature of our shows allows us to put together packages that combine the right demographics, psychographics and context for advertisers.
The analytics we can provide in Web video are also pretty exceptional. We have a partnership with TubeMogul that allows us to show advertisers the audience’s attention on literally a second-by-second basis. With Golf Girl TV, for example, we were able to show Puma that viewers rewound over and over again to see exactly how to position their feet while they took a swing. They saw the Puma shoes every time. We’re also able to offer CTR (a metric which is great for many campaigns, but not always applicable to branding campaigns) and brand lift data to our advertisers. We can ask viewers literally any question and get statistically valid results back. These metrics, together, are infinitely superior to the one sledgehammer that TV offers: the GRP.
Are you satisfied with analytics available for video advertisers? What improvements can be made?
There have been huge improvements on the metrics side of Web video, and we’re thrilled about all of the metrics companies like TubeMogul can offer, such as the engagement graphs for individual videos. We can also track what days of the week a show spikes, what hours of the day, and all sorts of additional granular information that’s valuable to us, to advertisers and to show creators who are thinking about when is best to release new episodes.
We also run brand lift surveys with many of our ad campaign, so we can measure things like brand recall, brand lift and purchase intent. Dimestore Media, Vizu, Insight Express and Dynamic Logic all have products you can use to run these surveys for Web video campaigns.
I think we’ll see further improvements on the demographics side so we can learn more about the audiences of Web shows, and then we’ll have an even bigger advantage, in terms of metrics, over television.
The one area where we still need improvement is in audience and viewership measurement standards, particularly in syndicated environments. ComScore and Quantcast are both making strides, but more work is needed. There is no clear definition of what a “video view” is, and there’s not yet a clear leader in syndicated audience and view measurement. This can make it tough for advertisers to compare different potential partners on an apples-to-apples basis. Some sites, for example, count advertising impressions as “views” — often doubling the perceived volume of videos they’re serving up. We don’t do that, but we also don’t want to be penalized in the market for doing what we see as the right thing.
What under-the-radar video advertising method(s), technology or companies impress you, if any?
FreeWheel is amazing. We just integrated them on blip.tv so they can traffic ads on blip.tv content wherever that content is watched, including on a show’s destination site and on YouTube as well. Having companies like that which can operate cross-platform is fantastic. It helps us achieve our goal of letting shows reach their total potential audience by syndicating them, and the ads running on the content, across the Web and to the TV set.
TubeMogul is doing a great job on the stats and analytics side.
In terms of advertising creative, we’re finding right now that five to ten second pre-rolls that say, “This episode is brought to you by Geritol,” followed by an overlay that offers basic brand or product benefits and giving the viewer an opportunity to engage further are extremely successful. MTV did some research on this recently that backed up the data we’re seeing on our network. Over the next few years I think we’ll see some really creative ad units emerge that drive actual purchases, at scale, by facilitating purchasing directly from the ad. Side by side with that trend is that I believe in the next 5-10 years many more people will buy many more products online, so facilitating those transactions can be very powerful. Why talk about purchase intent when you can drive actual purchasing?