Every day is the same story - the dramatic rise and rise of online video. I don't say this as much as a marketer, as a father who gives in almost every other evening to his daughter's demand to watch her favourite animation flicks off the internet, on her iPad. Though the father in me is nonplussed at times, the marketer takes note. If there is one format of content that has captured not just the attention but the imagination of the younger generation - then it is undoubtedly online video.
In 2005, when the world's first video was uploaded for online streaming, it opened up possibilities beyond the comprehension of both its creators and consumers. Since then, the world saw several technology innovations built around it - media players optimised for online video, video podcasting services, vlogs. Today, we find content developed specifically for online video - be it news bytes, TV shows, and even full length movies - indeed online video is video's most telling avatar yet.
India alone has a 42 million viewer base of online video. An average 3 billion videos are watched in a month. These numbers are growing at a mind-numbing pace, with a 20 per cent rise in unique viewers between January 2011 and December 2011. Remarkable numbers for a country where the internet penetration is still at about 10 per cent of the entire population. Thanks to connected devices and mobile internet, online video is on its way to reaching many remote corners of the country.
India is an audio-visual country, and with the majority of India's internet audience being in the age group of 15-24 years, online video is a fascinating format to consume on-demand, to express and also to form communities around it. As a result, online video has seen a tremendous growth in regional content and going viral. Audiences in India are no stranger to the phenomenon of 'Kolaveri Di', which clocked over 50 million plays, despite the language. The audience today seeks premium online video content across different entertainment categories-cricket, celebrities, and movies among others.
If we take a step away from entertainment, then the Khan Academy is a clear example of what online video can achieve in terms of reach and effectiveness. The coming together of video as a format, and internet as a platform, is almost - utopian in the immense possibilities it offers.
Growth in plays across devices: with the widespread use of connected devices such as the smart phone, the tablet and connected television, the viewership of online video has increased meteorically. A Nielsen (US) study revealed that 70 per cent of viewers of television do so while surfing the internet for context-specific information.
Clearly, those who thought of online video as a mere substitute for television missed something. The parallel increase in plays, cross-devices, means that each view of an online video has a high chance of a multiplier effect on two counts. First, repeat plays by the same user on the same device or multiple devices and second, viral plays by other users who are 'social' with the original user. As far as consumer media behavior goes, this clearly outlines immense possibilities for advertising.
With mobiles and connected devices sky-rocketing in India, we anticipate an entire generation of new-to-net users experiencing the internet for the first time through a mobile and not their personal computer. Given the appeal of video to the Indian audience cutting across cities and smaller towns, and mobile internet allowing consumption on phones and tablets - online video is tipped to be the most significantly growing segment across content categories.
Breaking its way into the advertising mix: advertisers have woken up to the potential of online video. An eMarketer study shows that online video is likely to be the fastest growing ad format in the next five years. A Break Media study on advertising mix shows that in 50 per cent of the cases where advertisers used television, they also used online video. Further strengthening the case for online video as an effective addition to advertising strategies is the Nielsen (US) study's finding that 74 per cent of the consumers remember an advertisement when viewed across media platforms, as opposed to 50 per cent retention when viewed exclusively on television.
While the stress on message retention as a return on brand spends increases, marketers cannot afford to look at online video as 'one of the options'. They need to recognise that online media is a different media calling for a different strategy. The content is the advertisement: we have seen advertisers come on board with full commitment to generating branded content which appeals to their audience, with advertisements becoming an integral part of the consumption experience. A community built around branded content is the new approach - integrating video into this experience is just a step away, and I am sure many creative minds are already veering towards this.
In future, the lines between the online video advertisement and the online video content are likely to blur. Businesses could be investing in creating original online video content that captures and represents the culture of their brand, while complying with user demands of engagement, entertainment and share-ability.
In parallel to its dream-like proliferation, online video has suffered duplicity, piracy and inconsistent quality in content. The road ahead is about clearly demarcating video platforms which cater to self-expression needs of users, and premium video content platforms, which enable businesses to reach out to consumers. Brands very clearly see a difference between premium video content, user-generated content and user-uploaded content. The latter is rife with piracy and legal issues, and brands shy away from association.
The coming days and months will continue to see the evolution of online video as it stakes its claim in the ever-changing world of internet. As consumers and marketers, there is a huge wave to ride as we discover myriad possibilities of what online video will serve up-for users and advertisers alike.