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It’s All About the Metrics

More focus is being brought on the issue of metrics in online video:

As Online Video Campaigns Ramp Up, Metrics Present a Challenge

This particular article is focused on the advertising marketplace and the impact video has on marketers. Needless to say it’s critical there – you make your living off how well your ads do, and that’s hard to figure out if you don’t know what you’re measuring.

It applies to non-advertising video as well, of course, and I think it remains one of the greatest challenges to video production and delivery across industries and sectors.  There are some key components to the challenge:

  • What information do you collect?
  • Is it even collectable?
  • Are you affected by inevitable comparisons to the metrics available for non-media content?
  • Are you tracking what you want to know or what the business owner wants?
  • What do you do with it all once you’ve got the data?

Streaming media doesn’t offer the same types of metrics as text-based internet content. The technical details are less important than the fact that text content has both a track record and a support system.  There are any number of metrics available, and major providers offer suites of software to help the content owner slice and dice the numbers in multiple ways. Video is trickier – major formats like flash lack certain key information on the users viewing it; unlike text, there are fewer agreed standards that providers are offering – they tend to provide unique metric packages that only work with their broader delivery offerings. The inevitable result is that content owners want to know the same things they can learn about text content and it’s often not available; what is available may be more technical than the content owners want.

All of this is overshadowed  by the general lack of understanding of the concept of metrics by content owner and media manager both. People get focused on having numbers without figuring out what it is those numbers are telling them. It’s all very helpful to find out you had 1,000 views on a piece and on average they watched 25% of the video, but how are you interpreting that information? More importantly, now that you know this, what do you do next? Make the video shorter? Place it more prominently on your page? Speed up the pace of the piece?

All of these may be needed, or none of them. Partly because you may not have any idea who those people watching are. Again, if on average they gave up partway through, but 15% of the users watched till the end – and those people were your key target audience, and it led them to reach out and your company made sales – why on earth would you shorten the piece? If on the other hand your important audience left partway through, you really do want it shorter to keep their attention and again have the success you intended with the video.

Unfortunately I don’t have great answers to this, and only partly because video metrics are still maturing as a concept. The most I can say is to take some time to understand what you can track and then be realistic about making sense of it. You’ll always be somewhat limited in what you can tell from the raw numbers, but you can tweak the circumstances to help judge the effectiveness of your media. Drop in calls to action if you can – YouTube for one allows for clickable popups within a video; don’t go crazy, but a short message at the beginning or end of a piece will connect interested users back to a website or email to learn more. Track your sales via video – ask the call center to ask callers where they learned about a product or service, or place a field in an online form with video as a choice for the source. It’s by no means perfect, but you’ll get a sense as to the impact it’s having.

There’s an art and alchemy to tracking use of online video, and it has a long way to go; keep your expectations reasonable, stay focused on meeting business needs and make the most intelligent use of the data you can.

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