August 23, 2007
Videos Mashed Up.
Posted by William Birdthistle

As an avid YouTube viewer, I’m distressed to hear of the coming infestation of commercials that will soon be crawling about the bottom of the videos.  The NYT and W$J both report that the honeymoon is over, and now Google is scrounging for a return on its $1.65 billion acquisition.  Thus, we can look forward to a new type of video ad:

The ads, which appear 15 seconds after a user begins watching a video clip, take the form of an overlay on the bottom fifth of the screen, not unlike the tickers that display headlines during television news programs.

A user can ignore the overlay, which will disappear after about 10 seconds, or close it. But if the user clicks on it, the video they were watching will stop and a video ad will begin playing. Once the ad is over, or if a user clicks on a box to close it, the original video will resume playing from the point where it was stopped.

I suppose that isn’t horrendous –- it’s certainly vastly superior to the dreaded alternative: the pre-roll. Evidently, pre-rolls are so noxious that, in tests, YouTube viewers abandoned them at a rate of more than 70%.

And, admittedly, if Google can’t find a way for their model to be profitable, they’ll have trouble placating the providers of the most entertaining and professional content, which will then demand that the good stuff (e.g., gaffes by Arsenal goalkeepers) be hunted down and removed.  As the music-downloading wars suggest, commercial hegemony (iTunes) and associated litigation eventually grind down the viability of guerrilla sites (Napster, Kazaa, &c.).

But here is something to look forward to with the new commercials: humorous malapropisms when cheerful and earnest ads are run atop wholly inappropriate videos.  Search engine and context juxtapositions have long been embarrassing:

For instance, a story on LATimes.com about police spying on activists ends with ads for doing public records searches -- basically spying on people. And below an obituary for a rabbi in NYTimes.com is an ad link to humorous Yiddish garb.

I wonder what truly offensive and entertaining pairings the genius of video will bring us.

[In the meantime, here's a combination of entertaining video and advertising all in one.]

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