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Web Video Viewership Revelations

A recent Nielson Online survey yields surprising results that might help inform both user interface and graphic designs.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | February 19, 2008

I've been mulling over the "VideoCensus" released last month by Nielsen Online (you can view the PDF here). Among its goals was to compare the way video was watched over the web from network-backed sites to "consumer generated media" (CGM) sites such as YouTube. Here are some of the results, along with some speculation about what's behind them, and how it may impact the work we do:

  • Women 18-34 were twice as likely to view network sites than men.

  • Men 18-34 were more than twice as likely to view CGM sites than women.

  • Folks who view content on a network site tended to be loyal; there was only a 4-25% chance that they would view content from another network as well.

  • Folks who viewed a CGM site such as YouTube (the 800 pound gorilla in this space) were highly likely to also view content from another CGM site such as MySpace, Veoh, or Break.

  • "Prime time" on network sites was weekdays, noon to 2 PM.

  • Prime time on CGM sites was weekends, 11 PM to 6 AM.


The one that struck me the most was the brand loyalty displayed toward the networks, especially since we haven't seen that kind of brand loyalty in normal television viewing habits since the remote control was invented (meaning people no longer had to get up out of their comfy sofa or chair to change the channel), let alone TiVo. Nielson postulates thusly:


"Network Web sites are destinations for fans to deepen their experience - they go to see favorite scenes, episodes and outtakes. These viewers are very loyal and engaged and the Web site is a place to become immersed in the program," said Michael Pond, media analyst, Nielsen Online. "With shorter clips and a viral nature, CGM Web sites are much more about discovery, and consumers are likely to view content on more than one."


Maybe, but I'm also betting it's a user interface issue: When you only have your lunch hour to catch up on a program you missed, who wants to waste time navigating to other sites and learning the user interface of another player? It reminds me of when I toured a regional cable news channel studio years ago, which had a VCR blinking "12:00" in the lobby: No matter how smart you are, if the user interface is a pain, you won't bother making the effort if you've got other things to do.

Anyway, I thought these were very interesting results, and may give some important clues about the best way to position support graphics that are created for video destined for network web sites: Your viewers are likely to be women (turn down the testosterone, please), are likely to be watching during lunch time (so don't waste their time), and are less likely to leave at the drop of a pixel (so there may be more opportunities to build the brand inbetween delivering the content).

Again, you can read the entire Nielson Online report here.

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