Video and Media Operations

Originally Published 08/13/05

Jon Stewart has described the internet as “a technology combining the credibility of anonymous hearsay with the excitement of typing.”

I’ll admit it. I’ve been trying to find a way to crowbar this favorite quote of mine into an article for months. I even toyed with the idea of going minimalist and just posting the quote as my sole contribution to the August column. But I didn’t think I could convince the editor that two lines of text and two pages of white space would be beneficial to our readers. Fortunately, there is a sound, rational reason to apply this quote to one of the most active, and most underdeveloped, trends in online advertising — video.

We are quickly leaving behind the era in which our medium is described, even flippantly, as “exciting as typing.” For those of us who have been in the business for a few years, the long-promised potential of video seems to have mushroomed almost overnight. Can you name one company at this juncture who has the cojones to say “video is not part of our strategy?”

Interestingly, the operations end of the business seems to have been caught napping when it comes to supplying an integrated application that combines video content management, a flexible, configurable media player, video ad serving that can be sequenced at will and back-end reporting that mirrors what we’ve all come to expect from the top tier ad delivery systems.

There are many vendors that solve a piece of this equation, but few, if any, who provide a packaged solution. As a result, these pieces need to be cobbled together from disparate service providers.

It’s like the bad old days of online advertising: no clear set of standards and no consistency in display of video advertisements. But that also means the medium is ripe for opportunity.

Here’s my wish list for consolidated video management system from a single service provider. (Sorry, but saying you have an API that allows other service providers to integrate with your application does not count.)

Manageability: A content management system that organizes and delivers both video programs and advertising to the player. Let me go to a library and pick the ads and the content from a well organized database.

Flexibility: The flexibility to sequence ads and content at will, by vertical. If I’m in Entertainment, perhaps I want to show an ad before each content clip and not worry so much about frequency capping. If I’m in Health, maybe I only want to show an ad every three content clips and impose a frequency cap as well. If I have a premier sponsor for any of these areas, I might just want to tailor the display of video ads to meet their requirements.

Customizability: A video player that can be customized to meet the needs of the publisher. This ranges from simply skinning the player, to running standard ad units in tandem with video, to configuring a play list “on the fly” without the need to undergo custom programming each time.

Targetability: Reporting and targeting of video ads that mirror the accepted standards from pure ad serving applications. By content section, daypart scheduling, geo, frequency capping. Don’t forget to throw in drop-off rates — how many people view the entire video versus only the first five seconds?

Oh, and can this service provider please also include the ability to serve standard and rich media ad units? Just like the big boys do.

Sure, it’s probably unreasonable to expect all of this from a single provider. Companies are prone to focus on a specialized aspect of media operations so they can excel in at least one thing. That’s good business practice.

But we do need to move away from the current environment of piecing a jigsaw puzzle together in order to serve up the most valuable, highest CPM inventory for any publisher.

Finally, there’s another reason to consider this topic carefully. The internet will drive the future of television. The tail is already starting to wag the dog. And in the future, when someone says “we’re live in 3, 2, 1….” a media application will start serving video content, clickable video ads, banners, ecommerce links and collecting a database of interested users.

Someone will have to power the media, and they’ll have to figure out how to make all the disparate pieces fit together.

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