Intrigue grows over new trafficking tool on YouTube

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Google's video-sharing site YouTube announced last week that video uploaders will now be able to track the popularity of their videos over time and access geographic data about the users who are viewing their clips.

The free program, known as YouTube Insight, has already gotten a lot of reaction from marketers, many of whom use the highly trafficked site to post commercials, movie trailers and other content.

“A lot is happening with social networking sites,” said Kristi Vandenbosch, president of Tequila\US. “As YouTube starts to provide this data, it makes it easier for online marketers to justify using this site for advertising.”

In the past, YouTube has publically reported the raw number of views captured by a given video along with a list of the clip's top traffic sources. The new program, which can only be accessed by users who upload videos, breaks down viewership by day and shows the states or countries where most viewers are.

On the company blog, YouTube executives said the tool would help uploaders improve the popularity of video on the site and inform future content decision. More data tracking is already available for paid advertisers, such as those using InVideo ads, said a YouTube spokesman.

The move may be an attempt by Google to woo more advertisers to the highly trafficked site that it paid $1.76 billion for in 2006.

 “The trouble with YouTube, as with many social and emerging programs, is the lack of true measurability. So, the release of YouTube Insights is definitely a step in the right direction,” said Nicholas Ward, strategist, search technology for Range Online Media. “YouTube Insights is bringing us a step closer to the kind of optimization that marketers expect from the video format.”

Until now, many marketers have relied on third party tracking companies like Vidmetrix and TubeMogul to track video views over time on different sites including YouTube.

“Without a doubt, we're really excited about it,” said Josh Warner, president of Feed Company, a Los Angeles-based company that seeds branded videos on blogs, video sites and social networks. The brands Feed Company works with, which include Ray-Ban and GM, are looking for as much accountability and metrics that can be provided, he said.

YouTube's edge over other social networking and video sites may be the volume of its traffic. According to ComScore, last month YouTube had 63 million unique visitors in the US. This was an increase of 86% versus February last year. According to Hitwise, for the week ending March 22, YouTube was the 10th most visited Web site in the US, receiving .77% of all Internet visits. In addition, last week, 80.49% of YouTube visits were from returning visitors.

“YouTube is where the audience is going and has gone to view and share and discuss video content,” Warner said. “We've never not included YouTube in our seeding plans.”

Some marketers see the move as an additional push to legitimizing online ad spend on social and user generated sites.

“In the short term, it is a very useful tool for uploaders and agencies who are looking to test,” said Waikit Lau, co-founder and CEO of ScanScout. “In the long term, Google could really be changing how the television consumption and advertising model works.”

However, not all reviews from marketers have been positive ones. Margie Chiu, VP of strategy at the NY office of Avenue A/Razorfish, said her initial impressions of the new capability were disappointing. “The functionality is quite limited. Nonetheless, it's a step in the right direction,” she said. “In my mind, and for most marketers, knowing how many video views you got in Arizona is probably not very actionable.”

Chiu had some suggestions for improvement, “In our ideal state, we would have the ability to place our own tags on the videos as we think about our clients' needs,” she said. Clients want to know how many people these videos drove to their sites, who these people are and if they're qualified visitors, she said. Ultimately, it is about whether or not that person bought the product, she added. 

The future evolutions of this type of analytics will be much more interesting, Ward speculated. “For example, how do I shift content, titles, or other aspects of a video to better reach my consumer target and create a meaningful communication?” he asked.

New features are still to come, according to a YouTube spokesman. In the coming weeks, YouTube will release a “basic discovery” feature that will allow uploaders to evaluate how viewers find their videos, he said. So people will be able to see if a video was found by searching on YouTube or Google — or if the content was discovered by browsing under “related video options” on YouTube or if the person received a link to the video by e-mail or from a Web site.

YouTube is open to listening to its users and will update Insight in the future based on their feedback, the spokesman said. Insight itself was a tool that users had been asking for, he said.

 “It will be interesting to see the evolution of new features for this product... hopefully, with additional information from YouTube — like how users are finding video content — marketers will be able to identify the ‘secret sauce' that makes video content more likely to ‘go viral' on the Web,” said Susan Davidson, director of strategy and analytics at AtmosphereBBDO.

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