on Jul 10, 2011
I was planning on going back to Blip.Tv after a few weeks and re-visit the service, but there’s one point about my original tirade that’s been eating away at me. I want to set the record straight, and I don’t want to wait a few weeks to do it. While the over-saturation of ads on Blip was really aggravating, it wasn’t at all fair to heap the blame on them the way I did. We talked about this in the comments, but I want give this correction its own post where everyone can see it.
One of the important things about Blip is that the content producer (people like Nostalgia Critic, The Spoony One, and SF Debris) sets what kind of advertising they want to use on their videos. They can choose to have pop-over ads, pre-roll ads, or both. Or neither. So the number of ads you’re exposed to has everything to do with the choices made by the producer, not Blip. They will let you host an ad-free show on their dime, and they will let you ad-bomb your viewers into madness.
The impact of this varies greatly depending on the length of the show, because Blip plays ads at the beginning and end. (And I imagine most people escape the one at the end with the back button.) So, if you’re watching a half-hour show this is very mild. One 30 second commercial per half hour is less advertising than any broadcast station. On the other hand, if the show is broken into ten-minute chunks, then you’re going to be watching an ad every ten minutes. Even if the ads are short, that density will try anyone’s patience. (The frequency of commercial breaks is arguably more important than length when it comes to advertising. Note how over the decades, TV stations have made their ad breaks longer, but the total number of breaks per hour hasn’t really changed. (Keeping in mind I haven’t really watched any television in 7 years or so.))
If we’re going to blame Blip.tv for the density of advertising, then we need to place the same blame on every webhost in the world. (Discounting those occasions when the stream stalls and you have to re-watch an ad to get it going again.) If I turned this site into an insufferable wall of advertising, the blame should go on me, not my webhost. The only thing Blip is guilty of is giving content producers enough rope to hang themselves with. And really, too much freedom is better than too little in that regard. I’d much prefer this to the YouTube system where they don’t give you any advertising options until the video has been up for a few days, and then they don’t give you any control over how much or when or even help you to understand what your viewers will see or how much you’ll get or what percent of the revenue they’re sharing with you.
A contributing factor to my frustration was that I was trying to watch a show that had originally been carved up into the old YouTube-sized ten-minute chunks, which greatly multiplied the number of ads I had to deal with.
Part of this problem is one of perception. While it wasn’t fair for me to lay the blame for “too many ads” on Blip (again, discounting the malfunctions that made me repeat ads) it’s a mistake that a lot of people are going to make, because video advertising doesn’t usually work like this. When a show doubles up on the ads, we don’t blame the cast of House or CSI: Spokane or whatever show we’re watching. We blame the network. Ideally, there needs to be some way to communicate this to viewers. (I have no idea how to accomplish this.) There needs to be a feedback loop between viewers and producers, so producers can get a sense of how much (or how little) advertising impacts viewer experience.
For shows migrating from YouTube, I’d suggest that producers only enable pre-roll ads once per episode. If you’ve got a half-hour show in three segments, put the pre-roll on parts two and / or three. That way people can settle in and enjoy the show for a bit before they get hit with an ad. This has less of a chance to driving people away who aren’t yet invested in the show, and will make things less painful for people going through the archives looking for a particular episode. (I can’t begin to tell you what a painful proposition that is.)
Of course, there will always be misguided, short-sighted, or uninformed people who will set the advertising to maximum, which will exacerbate the adblock problem I talked about in my original post. There is a point of diminishing returns to all advertising, and to find that point takes time and analysis. Maybe doubling your ads will double your money at no cost to viewership. (You win.) Maybe doubling your ads will double your per-view income but drive away half your viewers. (You lose a little. You’re making the same money but your show has half the reach.) Maybe it will only slightly increase your per-view income, gut your fan base, and drive a bunch of people to use adblock. (You lose, I lose, your viewers lose, everybody loses.)
I’m still planning on coming back to this topic in the future, but I didn’t want to wait any longer to clear that up. Since the weight of my tirade was about how “spammy” the service was, I wanted to apologize and make this point clear. Blip isn’t poisoning the well, as I put it. (Some) content producers are. Hopefully this is something that can be corrected over time. I used to see ad-heavy web pages all the time. Now they are very rare, and mostly ignored. Most website owners found the right balance, and Google pagerank took care of the ones who didn’t. I’m hoping we can see the same balance for video. Ideally we’ll have a setup where guys like Spoony and SF Debris can make a decent paycheck without the rest of us having to watch the same commercial six times an hour, and everyone will win.
So again, sorry about the whole, “They are a blight on the internet thing.”
(Again, posted in “rants” only so it will follow the others in the archives.)
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.