Video wins online

A new study says PBS.org has seen its Web traffic grow in part because of “enhancements” to its video offerings. TV Week reports that a Hitwise survey finds PBS.org had more total U.S. visits in the past month than the other broadcast network Web sites. PBS says its traffic overall is up about 25 percent over last year, due in part to improved use of video. (Whether that really makes them number one is debatable. The Washington Post points out that comScore ranks ABC highest for unique visitors.)

But what’s interesting about the growth at PBS is the kind of video they feature online. The network bucks the conventional wisdom that online viewers won’t watch anything that’s more than a few minutes long. “We’ve added many hundreds of hours of full-length video to the site,” Jason Seiken, senior VP of PBS Interactive, said in a statement today. It’s worth exploring why longer video works for them. Is it the quality? The topics and treatment? The heavy-duty on-air promotion of the Web site?

It may also be significant that PBS–which doesn’t rely on advertising in the same way the other networks do–is succeeding online. MediaShift’s Mark Glaser reports that online video ad sales make up only a small fraction of the $21 billion spent on all Web advertising last year. Why?

Many online videos are too short for people to sit through “pre-roll” video ads that play before the content, and people don’t like “overlay ads” that run during videos because they are intrusive. Another barrier for marketers is having to format ads differently for different video-sharing and media sites — not to mention the challenge of gauging how effective the ads actually are.

Glaser’s post, well worth reading, looks at all online video, not just news and information sites, and says the situation may be changing. Taken together, the opportunities for video ads and the PBS results hold lessons for anyone trying to boost Web traffic and get users to watch video online.

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