November 3, 2009

The problem with "number of views"

When an online video series claims a hundred million views, but absolutely no one you know has ever even heard of it, something might be off. When an online video claims to have a hundred thousand views and it only has two comments, something might be off. In general, online viewership metrics aren't standardized, and one of the reasons web video advertising hasn't taken off is because advertisers don't know how valuable a "view" really is.

If a video is embedded in a web page and automatically starts playing, only for the visitor to immediately click stop as fast as they can find the button, should that count as a view? Absolutely not, but in most cases it does. How much of a video should I have to watch for it to be counted as a view? 90%? 50%? 1%? In most cases, the stats you see bandied about on the web today are based on number of video starts; there is no guarantee that any of those "viewers" stuck around to actually watch the content. As Jim Louderback says over on AdAge, "It would be like channel surfing past "ESPN 8" on the way to Monday Night Football, and having Nielsen count you as a viewer of the Dodgeball Championship on "The Ocho."

Collectively these inflated claims cheapen the value of online video, because everyone likes to say, "my YouTube upload got 50 million views" so they can hear you respond, "wow." But until we have a widely-adopted standard for what constitutes a view, take any public boasts with a grain of salt.

Where's the Outrage Over Online Video Viewership Claims? - Advertising Age - DigitalNext.

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