Who’s Watching What on YouTube? See for Yourself.

If you’re someone who gets paid to market to people who use YouTube, there’s a good chance you already know about TestTube, the site’s suite of experimental services. The rest of us will find interesting novelties, like “Insights for Audience”: A nifty way to find out what people like–or unlike–you are watching.

The tool has been around for a while, and got a formal roll out earlier this fall, but Google (GOOG) product manager Nick Jacobi just showed it off to the chattering (and Tweeting) classes gathered at the Monaco Media Forum, so it’s going to get another burst of attention. (Also of interest, apparently: A dustup between Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner and Arianna Huffington. Looking forward to watching that.)

Anyway, the Insights tool is self-explanatory and entertaining, at the very least. For instance, I used it to find out what 35-44 year-old males who like advertising, beer and football (ahem) are watching, and got this results page.

youtube mosaic

The most interesting part is a mosaic of videos that demographic is watching, which includes some obvious stuff, like “Amazing NFL Football Catches,” and some really obscure stuff, like an episode of “Shazam.” I also found this Kirby Puckett tribute, which pleased me to no end:

Strength in Numbers? News Corp. May Join Time Inc.’s “Hulu for Magazines.”

rupert-murdochWhile Rupert Murdoch is busy shaking his fist at Google (GOOG), he is making more friendly overtures to other media players. Sources tell me his News Corp. may join the digital e-reader storefront that Time Inc. and other magazine publishers are putting together.

It’s not clear if News Corp. (NWS) will end up investing in the joint venture, which is designed to control distribution of “print” content to readers like Amazon’s (AMZN) Kindle and Apple’s (AAPL) rumored tablet, or if the company will simply agree to tailor its stuff–most notably, The Wall Street Journal–to the joint venture’s standards.

In either case, News Corp. has yet to officially sign on, sources tell me. An announcement formally acknowledging the JV itself is supposed to be a couple of weeks away, though I have been hearing this for at least six weeks.

No comment from News Corp. or Time Inc., the Time Warner (TWX) publishing unit that has been assembling the JV. Other expected partners include Hearst, Condé Nast and, perhaps, Meredith. (Disclosure: News Corp. owns Dow Jones, which owns this Web site.)

In some ways, News Corp. is an obvious partner for the coalition, which I like to call “Hulu for magazines.” Murdoch has been an outspoken critic of Amazon’s distribution and pricing policies; he argues that by controlling the subscription of digital newspaper and magazines delivered through its e-reader, Amazon deprives publishers of a valuable asset.

Murdoch also wants more money for the stuff it does sell: In an earnings call last week, he said that while the bookseller was now paying his company up to $6.50 a month for each $15 monthly subscription to The Wall Street Journal, that split wasn’t good enough.

The JV is supposed to solve those problems for publishers by letting them control sales, customer billing and pricing. But it is also primarily designed with magazine publishers in mind, and News Corp. isn’t in that business.

Meanwhile, New Corp.’s Dow Jones unit is proprietary about the system it has already built to handle subscriptions to the Journal’s print and online editions and its BlackBerry and iPhone apps.

While it’s possible that the JV could use the Dow Jones subscription/commerce platform as the technological base of the JV, Dow Jones could be prickly if asked to play well with others. “Newspapers and magazines, don’t mix well, for reasons that aren’t obvious to the outside world,” says a News Corp. executive briefed on some of the company’s conversations.

In any event, balancing different partners’ interests is only one of the hurdles facing the JV. Some others, from the story I published last month:

  • They’ll have to convince consumers who already have billing relationships with Amazon, Apple and other vendors to sign up with yet another service.
  • They’ll have to convince device makers to play along with the strategy, which runs counter to many of their own plans. Both Amazon and Apple, for instance, have intentionally created closed systems that give them control of both devices and distribution.
  • They’ll have to create content consumers want to buy. The new product can’t simply be a digital version of the magazines they’re already printing: That’s already available on the Web, and consumers have shown almost no interest in paying for it, and advertisers haven’t fully embraced it either.

So what exactly will the JV be selling? That’s probably the most difficult question for publishers to answer, made even more difficult because they don’t know what capabilities the e-readers of the future will boast. Apple for instance, refuses to even acknowledge to Time Inc. executives that it plans to produce a tablet device, let alone provide them with specs.

YouTube’s Newest Ads: Ones You Don’t Have to Watch

The newest twist in Google’s (GOOG) quest to wring more more money out of YouTube: Ads you don’t have to watch.

The world’s biggest video site is trying a “small test” of optional “pre-roll” ads that run at the beginning of its clips. Click on “skip this ad” text when the ad starts running and… well, you can guess what happens.


Unlike ad skipping options offered by other sites, there’s no trade-off with the user here. You simply don’t have to watch the clip.

Given that most online advertising now seems to be headed in the “big, bigger BIGGEST” direction — come on that insist on getting in your face, no matter how hard you try to avoid them — this is a pleasant change of pace.

And a smart one, at least theoretically, since YouTube should be able to charge more for the ads that users don’t avoid. Just as important, it can collect more refined data about different ads’ performance.

I’m OK with pre-roll ads myself, if they’re short enough, and it’s stuff I want to see. And I certainly prefer them to “overlay” ads, which clutter up the bottom of my clip with ugly text that’s a pain to make disappear. But Google and YouTube officials insist I’m in the minority on that one, and that the rest of you guys love them. True?

No ad at all on this one, which I’m only catching up to just now:

Waiting for Online Ads to Roar Back? Be Patient.

Add one more voice to the chorus of conventional wisdom: The Web ad market has stopped getting worse, but it’s going to be a while before it starts getting healthy.

This assertion comes from the analysts at Bernstein Research, who I think have been pretty levelheaded about this stuff over the past year or so. From the “stuff you probably already knew” file:

  • The ad business is still declining–in the U.S., Web ads will be down three percent for 2009–but should start moving up again next year, when Bernstein thinks they’ll climb 7.6 percent. Remember that those numbers will be off a depressed base.
  • Search is improving more quickly than display.
  • Google’s (GOOG) grip on search isn’t weakening a bit — if Microsoft’s (MSFT) Bing push is having any effect, it’s at Yahoo’s (YHOO) expense.
  • The mobile Web is going to be big, but not that big. Mobile ads may account for seven percent of U.S. Web spending in 2012.

Okay. Back to work.

bernstein ad improvement

Madison Avenue’s Plan B: Data-Driven Jewelry?

Whether or not the ad business makes a real recovery, or something much more modest, the industry looks like it’s headed for years of upheaval. How should ad agencies prepare?

Maybe diversification will help. At least I think that’s what Wieden + Kennedy, the company best known for its Nike (NKE) ads, is doing here. Unless it’s a practical joke that’s flying over my head: Meet “Plot“, a line of jewelry “that takes interesting data and transforms it into wearable art.”

Why is W+K breaking in accessories? Dunno. Just do it, I guess. But I have to say, I probably know some data-driven people who will like this stuff, at least conceptually:

At first glance your gold necklace is simply a striking graphic shape. At second glance you can inform the admirer that  it is actually the graph for gold prices from 1979-2009 and that Tiananmen Square caused the peak in 1989.

Thanks to AdWeek’s Brian Morrissey for pointing out this one, which again, may just be a put-on. But I bet it’s not: After all, I’m writing about it, which is sort of the point, right?

Other thought: If this stuff does sell, just think of what the guys who actually do data-driven advertising could do with the concept. I’m thinking, for starters, of a line of T-shirts that mashes up Jenny Holzer with Google (GOOG) Trends. Anyone?

Anyway, here’s a W+K project I can get my head around: A Nike ad from last summer which ended up making me a sort-of, grudging, fan of The Killers:


More Money For “Real Time” Ad Tech: AppNexus Raises $5 Million

exchangeMore money for ad technology: AppNexus, an ad-buying “platform”, has raised a $5 million round led by Kodiak Venture Partners along with Venrock and First Round Capital. The company is one of many trying to take advantage of “real-time” bidding for Web display ad inventory.

The funding is an “inside round” — only existing investors participated in the funding — which sometimes, but not always, raises a red flag. In this case, AppNexus says that the funding is also an “up round” — its existing investors now think it’s worth more than they did the last time they bought in — but didn’t disclose a valuation.

There’s also a bit of fuzziness, still, about what exactly AppNexus does. The company says it provides a “gateway” to ad buyers who want access to ad exchanges like the ones operated by Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO) — Microsoft (MSFT) will launch its exchange next year — though many industry types think that AppNexus itself is an ad exchange.

The company certainly boasts lots of ad exchange bona fides. Cofounders Brian O’Kelley and Mike Nolet are both veterans of Right Media, the ad exchange that Yahoo bought in 2007. And in September, the company brought on Michael Rubenstein, who had been running Google’s exchange.

Dish’s Tivo Bill: $328 Million and Counting

You think you’re paying too much for cable TV? Check out this nugget, buried in satellite TV provider Dish Networks’ (DISH) quarterly filing: The company has spent $328 million in its legal battle against Tivo (TIVO) this year, and that bill could keep growing.

Dish has rung up the tab while fighting one of the many patent suits Tivo has brought against cable and satellite providers, accusing them of ripping off its DVR technology. Tivo has won an initial series of rulings against Dish, forcing the company hand over a slug of cash, but more could be coming, the satellite company noted today. What would that mean? In SEC legalese:

Depending on the amount of any additional damage or sanction award or any monetary settlement, we may be required to raise additional capital at a time and in circumstances in which we would normally not raise capital. Therefore, any capital we raise may be on terms that are unfavorable to us, which might adversely affect our financial position and results of operations and might also impair our ability to raise capital on acceptable terms in the future to fund our own operations and initiatives. We believe the cost of such capital and its terms and conditions may be substantially less attractive than our previous financings.

Gulp. On the other hand, as Barclays Capital’s Vijay Jayant notes this morning,  if Dish was really worried about a coming legal bill, it probably wouldn’t want to hand its shareholders a $900 million dividend. Let’s see how investors react today.