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April 4, 2017

Is YouTube Really Cleaning Up The “Metrics Mess?”

By: Dmitri Pestrikov, VP of Client Services, i.Predictus

In a recent Ad Age article, “YouTube Clears Up Metrics Mess by Focusing on These Three Stats”, YouTube announced it is focusing its attention on three data points: Unique reach, watch time and audibility. Is YouTube really trying to clean-up the metrics mess? Are advertisers in a “metrics overload,” while “swimming in stats?” Will their new focus benefit advertisers?

As we all know, views are the long-standing standard of performance. Every vendor, however, inconsistently and incongruently measures these views, and they are easier to embellish on some platforms over others. As an example, what counts as “a view” will vary. On Instagram, a view is considered when 15 seconds into a (typically) 30 second video is watched. On Facebook, an impression is registered after a video plays for 3 seconds, however, with the introduction of mid-roll advertising (advertising content that plays 15 seconds into a featured video), that number could soon change. Looking across the media spectrum, in traditional television space, a view (or impression) is estimated by the show-watching patterns of about 20,000 preselected households. Non-subscription radio is complete guesswork. Lack of consistency is not necessarily the fault of the vendors, as technology continues to change or improve, but recommending a metric better suited for your particular platform is at best a vendor-tendentious riposte.

YouTube has measured views everywhere from initial click to 30 seconds, meaning if you are comparing views year-over-year you are comparing Namibian to Canadian dollars without knowing which country, or the rate of exchange. Not even YouTube truly knows the rate of exchange. Also, when the marketer is comparing cost per view across their various vendors, they can easily mistake one vendor appearing stronger than another.

On top of this inconsistent measurement, there is also the difference in audience engagement. YouTube is considered chosen play, you are playing the video you have intentionally clicked on, or viewing a mandatory ad through said video. Facebook, however, is auto-play in that an ad or video starts playing as you scroll through your newsfeed whether you want it to or not. Engagement (read: watch times) will be greater on YouTube than on Facebook because of the intention behind the user using the vendor’s service, however, both vendors will record a view.

While audio is not always a preference for, say, the mobile Facebook user, advertisers who need sound would, not surprisingly, turn to YouTube. But with 95% of videos being audible on Mobile and presumably, 100% on desktop/tablet, how is audibility a measure of success if it is pretty much universally true?

With YouTube refocusing on unique reach, watch time, and audibility it is basically favoring 3 metrics in which its platform is comparably stronger. This can also mean that if you were to compare various vendors at a cost per unique reach/watch time/audibility, YouTube would likely come out on top and eventually be able to charge more “per view” than it did in the past.

It is the responsibility of marketers to stay as informed as possible during changing trends and shifts in performance, as well as to understand the true analytical meaning behind said shifts.