Killing Autoplaying Videos for Better User Experience and Revenue
When we originally launched the Mediavine Video Player, it started off as a click-to-play player only. It was a weird concept on the Internet….to only show a video to a user if they actually wanted to watch the video.
Due to requests from our publishers and against our initial judgement, we eventually added a Google policy-compliant autoplay feature to the Mediavine Video Player. It would let you set videos to autoplay as long as they were above the fold, large enough, and not muted.
We obviously saw our number of plays drastically increase, which made sense. Not every user wants to watch your awesome videos, but when you force every single user to, that’s clearly going to increase the numbers of “plays.”
However, are those “plays” really views if the user isn’t actually watching the videos? I suppose it depends on the perspective you’re looking from. However, from our perspective, it’s a lose-lose-lose situation for the advertiser, the publisher, and the user.
LOSE: The Advertiser Paying for It
As an advertiser, fewer users actually watching the videos we’re charging our advertisers for means long term, advertisers will not be hitting their KPIs (key performance indicators), and ultimately will be unhappy. Unhappy advertisers either won’t buy impressions, or certainly won’t pay the premium for these unwatched video advertisements.
Ask yourself this, what’s the difference (as a user) between a 300×250 banner ad in your sidebar versus an autoplaying video there? To the user, it’s just another ad.
In the world of programmatic advertising, the advertisers can collect all the data and ultimately have the power to choose where and what to buy. In economic terms, it makes for an efficient market.
Translation? If you’re selling your video as an advertising experience in your sidebar, it’s going to sell for what a sidebar ad sells for. It’s worth no more than the couple-dollar CPM your sidebar ad is selling for right now.
The real value of a video ad is the idea that a user is actually engaged with that video and watching it. There’s a reason advertisers are willing to pay $20+ CPMs for that ad. It’s not because it’s just a video being served somewhere on your page… it’s because someone is actually watching it.
If we’re going to start selling that experience as a network, we can’t allow autoplay.
LOSE: The Publisher who Created the Content
As a publisher, you don’t just want views on your video you worked so hard to make, you actually want people watching them. Well, at least we hope. If not, why are you even making the video?
If you’re just looking for money and don’t care if people are watching your video, you could simply buy some stock video and put it into a player… or just insert an ad if this is all about money.
LOSE: The User Experience
As a user, you don’t want some video playing that you didn’t click, slowing down your browsing experience and eating up your Internet connection. Worse, you certainly don’t want the audio playing that the Google-compliant player requires. Forcing a user to watch a video they didn’t want to watch is a terrible user experience and could likely affect their chances of visiting your site in the future.
So where do we go from here?
1. We’re removing the autoplay option for new video embed codes. When you go to grab embed code, you’ll no longer see autoplay as an option. Your old legacy videos will continue to autoplay for now if you set them to, and techie publishers can still figure out how to make them autoplay by deconstructing old embed codes. We’re trying to make this a gradual decrease.
2. We’re no longer going to sell autoplay inventory directly to advertisers. As a network, we’re now going to segment out our autoplay inventory separate from our click-to-play with each of the exchanges. We’re only going to be selling the click-to-play at the premium rates so ultimately if you want to be included in our direct sold, private marketplace high paying campaigns you’re going to want to remove your old autoplay videos and replace them with click-to-play.
3. Our new recommended placements for video is changing. We now recommend you play your video at the end of the post, or if you’re a food blogger, directly above your recipe card. Based on what we’ve seen, we find this spot will have the best engagement and will give your users the chance to engage with the rest of your content before they play the video.
4. We’re going to work on creative ways to encourage more users to watch your videos on your sites. We have several ideas from offering an auto-playing “preview” like Facebook, more clickable thumbnails, allowing you to insert headlines, come up with unique ways to feature your latest videos, and really any other suggestion you creative folks have.
Remember, this is a long-term solution that requires you to give up some short-term gains for the overall success of your site. You know, The Mediavine Way.
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