How useful are online video rankings?

You have probably seen this chart by comScore, they provide great analytical reports about digital media and rankings for video delivery platforms:

Screen_shot_2012-03-30_at_1

Problem is, these metrics (at least the ones that are widely quoted by various articles and press releases) can be misleading.

Not all “views” are equal.  If a video isn’t interesting, you stop or fast-forward.  These metrics exist, but they aren’t being reflected in any of the widely publicized online video rankings.

Then, there is content that people actually want to watch.  Even willing to pay for it (Hulu, Netflix).  But these views get lost in the sea of low-quality short-form video content.  

Yahoo Video, for example, is reporting higher views lately.  Some speculate that Yahoo may be doing something right:

But those new shows were announced in early March and haven’t yet aired, so they can’t account for the 20% increase in online video viewership Yahoo gained from January 2012 to February 2012. Either Bill Maher attracted a lot of viewers or Yahoo is doing a better job of pushing its 177+ million unique monthly U.S. visitors toward watching more of its moving pictures online.

That’s not necessarily the case.  Note that the numbers reported by come from “Yahoo! Sites”, and that includes many properties, News, Finance, Real Estate…  and I suspect the reason for these inflated view numbers may be simple:

AUTOPLAY

… the feature so annoying, that people (viewers referenced in these statistical reports) are constantly looking for ways to stop it.   How many times have you clicked on a seemingly interesting news article, only to have a loud video ad start playing as soon as the page loads?  You may stop playback instantly, but your “view” has already been registered, and will become part of some statistical report.

In Yahoo’s defense, they are not the only ones doing that. Many of the online video properties mentioned in the comScore reports, demonstrate low “minutes per view” (not “minutes per viewer”):

Screen_shot_2012-04-12_at_12

(the data above is provided by comScore, I just added one calculated column on the right – Minutes per View)

You probably noticed that companies like Netlix are usually shown toward the bottom of these lists, or not shown at all.  How can that be, when according to other reports, Netflix is responsible for one third of all downstream bandwidth consumption in the US?

Netflix provides long-form, highly engaging content (1.5 hr movies, for example).  So if we take the duration of those views into account, and base our rankings on minutes (hours) watched, instead of views, then the overall distribution could look something like this, with Netflix and Hulu playing a much larger role:

Screen_shot_2012-04-12_at_1

(this chart is for illustration purposes only, it’s based on publicly available views statistics for these properties, multiplied by the length of their typical content – films and tv shows)

In conclusion, in online media delivery, “views” is a useless metric unless it’s accompanied by several other metrics providing some insight into user’s behaviour: time watched, stop/pause/fast-forward/rewind events.

Technologist, parallel entrepreneur. Interests: travel, photography, big data, analytics, predictive modeling.

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