Why Tubular Labs is Bringing TV-Like Measurement to Social Video

Denis CrushellWhile both digital native and traditional media companies are finding big audiences for their content across different social video platforms, the fact that metrics are often self-reported by these platforms, and the difficulty with measuring audience duplication across the different platforms, makes it hard to measure content’s total reach on digital. Denis Crushell, managing director international at Tubular Labs explains how his company is bringing metrics for digital video more in line with TV, and which media owners have been most effective with their use of the social video platforms.

How do you access data for the social video platforms?

We partner with the platforms to look at metrics around video on YouTube and Facebook – that comes from plugging into their APIs to get information. Added to that, with our new measurement product, we’re looking at having our own panel of data that sits independently. That will let us look at audiences sizes and engagement on those platforms, and it gives us the unique ability to de-duplicate the audiences. That means for the first time you can see how big the audience on Facebook and YouTube is for a big media company, like Channel 4.

Tubular’s new measurement standard pledges to make social video measurement more like TV – why is this necessary?

The reality is digital video audiences have become very fragmented and traditional measurement solutions haven’t been able to keep up with these shifts in audience behaviour. So we consider this effort to be more than necessary – it’s crucial to creating a more transparent marketplace.

I do think measurement will become more standardised across digital and linear. We already have an accepted trading currency in place for linear TV. Whether it’s the most accurate can be debated, but publishers and advertisers have been able to monetise and invest with confidence. Of course, in the digital world, we have some advantages with ad targeting over the TV world, but we’ve been lacking that measurement standard; only major platforms have had the best data about audience sizes, and they’re self-reporting. That’s an issue in the industry, and it’s one that a lot of advertisers, agencies and media companies have been crying out for a solution to.

That’s why we first partnered with companies like BuzzFeed and Group Nine for our Global Video Measurement Alliance – they have audiences in the hundreds of millions, but they’re not getting the same value for those eyeballs as if they were on TV.

We see this as the first step in bringing new metrics and standards to allow us to understand the digital world better. I think over time it’ll become aligned, and we’ll be able to see audiences cross-platform, be that digital or TV.

It’s a big moment in digital. For the first time ever, people will be able to see how big an audience is by country. TV advertisers are used to looking at audience size by country, but it’s been impossible to do that on YouTube and Facebook – unless you were buying adverts. For content being consumed organically, it’s far harder to know what the biggest videos being watched today in the UK are. That’s what we’re helping people to understand better.

What is the Global Video Measurement Alliance, and how does it relate to your new measurement standard?

I mentioned that the platforms have been self-reporting, and the biggest issue facing social video is there’s no standardised measure of views across platforms. So Facebook and Instagram measure views as three seconds, for YouTube we’re not exactly sure what counts as a view but it’s not three seconds. So it’s very difficult to compare apples to apples.

There’s also no way of de-duplicating these audiences with the methods available today. When you look at an audience on YouTube, you have to look at them independently on Facebook, and that’s a problem if you’re monetising or sponsoring with reach and frequency goals.

We saw an opportunity for a third-party to validate these metrics, so we created the Global Video Measurement Alliance dedicated to unifying video measurement and demanding comprehensive standards for true global reach, engagement and effectiveness of all publishers, brands and content creators on these platforms.

The mission is to empower the future economics of video through us co-developing these standards, leading to more transparency and a more efficient marketplace.

Which digital native publishers do you think have been most effective with their use of social video? And which traditional publishers.

For the digital natives, I think companies like Vice Media and BuzzFeed have done very well. Brut in France and the US have overperformed with their genre of entertaining news and science, and there’s also Freeda Media in Italy who have grown a huge audience by focusing on female lifestyle topics, and are currently expanding in the UK and Spain as well. Then you have the UK publishers like LadBible and Jungle Creations who led a lot of the changes and have done an incredible job disrupting the space.

On the traditional side, we’ve seen Viacom drive massive audiences globally which is intriguing given their traditional focus was mainly on the US. Then Channel 4, BBC, ITV and Disney are strong too – when you look at quality views (views over 30 seconds), they are right up there with all the digital players. Channel 4 is very big on Facebook, ITV is very strong on YouTube, and BBC sees excellent performance across both platforms.

So you might be surprised to hear that the more traditional companies are now five or six years into their journey with social video. They started by testing and with smaller investments, but by now they are getting quite sophisticated. It remains to be seen longer term whether they will be using the social video platforms for marketing or for monetising their traffic – that’s a question most traditional media companies are still figuring out.

We’ve seen some of these social platforms experimenting with removing some of the public facing metrics, things like ‘Likes’ on Instagram. What sort of impact will this have on measurement?

Social media has had to define new metrics, and some of those have always been vanity metrics, where individuals can look at how many ‘likes’ they have rather than how many people they’re actually reaching and engaging. But those vanity metrics have become a kind of twisted barometer for success and validation, and that’s driving some of the recent changes we’ve seen the platforms make.

I think what’s most interesting about subscriber numbers and Facebook likes, is marketers are moving away from those vanity metrics anyway, and are increasingly focused on how many people they are actually reaching and engaging and ultimately what impact they’re having on them. That’s what the majority of our GVMA partners are most interested in.

For example, take BuzzFeed’s ‘Tasty’ brand. Someone might watch a cooking video, but then what do they do? A metric BuzzFeed likes to measure is whether people actually go and create that recipe, or if they go on to buy something as a result. There’s another media brand called Complex Networks in the US with a popular show on YouTube called ‘Hot Ones’ – their CEO recently revealed they now sell $20 million a year worth of hot sauce, based just off that show’s success! It’s really these impact-led metrics that marketers and media companies are most interested today versus legacy vanity metrics.

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