Nielsen Net/Ratings, a global leader in Internet media and market research, has recently announced a new system for ranking online sites called "Total Minutes." This move could open tremendous opportunities for short-form videos.
Until recently advertisers used page views as the primary measure in determining where to place their ads. Now, Nielsen has decided to add the amount of time a viewer spends on a site to its measurements. This will result in site developers looking for ways to encourage consumers to stay longer on their sites. And one of the key ways to do this is to offer more information as short two-to-three minute videos rather than as text.
Ten years ago, the only measure that advertisers wanted to hear was "hits," but they soon learned that wasn't a good way to judge popularity. Web site designers could put plenty of pictures and other items on one page and that would raise the page's hits. Then the metric became "page views" that measure the number of times a viewer clicked to go see something else. However, Web designers soon figured out how to game that system as well. They increased the number of page views by breaking up longer articles into a lot of short pages, thus requiring a reader to click several times before finishing an article.
Now, by placing more emphasis on the actual time a user spends on a site, advertisers believe they will have a better measure of the relative popularity of sites, and what viewers think of the content offered. And as a result of this, site developers are expected to begin to focus on ways to keep visitors around as long as possible. One of the major ways to do this is to use more video.
That's not to say that dumping any old video on a site will work. The content will have to be compelling and relevant. The general consensus is that the stories will have to be short and very direct in dealing with particular issues. For example if you're going to do a video on Italy it probably can't be 30 minutes long. Instead, it may need to be a series of short, narrowly focused stories each about three minutes in length. This way the viewer can pick one or several, each a complete story, and if the viewer decides to look at everything he will get a complete picture of Italy.
In one sense it is exactly what TV news has been doing, but it seems likely to expand, in terms of volume and very specific subject matter, well beyond what TV is offering at the present. To get an idea of what might be done take a look at some of the newspaper sites that are moving rapidly to offer video such as www.washingtonpost.com and www.dallasnews.com. Newspapers that have expanded into video are already finding that their ad rankings are higher now than they were when the only measure was page views. Those not using video will have even more incentive to move in that direction now that Nielsen has changed its ranking strategy.
But newspapers are only the tip of the iceberg. There are countless Internet sites offering services and information that could better tell parts or most of their story with short videos than with stills and text. Any site trying to generate revenue through advertising now has a big incentive to offer some video content.
Good News, Bad News
All this is not necessarily good news for the stock photo industry, either those selling stills or video. Video stock is aimed at producing short 6 to 10 second clips that are designed to be inserted into ads or longer productions, not to be a complete package in and of themselves. While this type of use will not disappear it is not likely to grow as a result in the changing system of ranking sites.
What will to be needed is people who can produce, shoot and edit simple, short video stories. These stories will need dialogue and narration as well as compelling footage. This is an area of the photography business that offers potential for those who are seeing a decline in their still sales. Those with some video experience will definitely have a leg up on still shooters, but still there should be a lot of potential for still shooters who are story tellers and willing to learn to shoot video.