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July 26, 2007

Broadband, Social Trends Linked To Online Video Growth

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If you’re at all thinking about incorporating online video into your Internet marketing or search engine optimization campaign, I recommend you take a look at the recent Pew Internet and American Life Project study (PDF). They’ve just released some pretty interesting statistics.

Key takeaways include:

  • 75 percent of young adults (18-29) and 57 percent of real adults watch or download Internet video.
  • 74 percent of users with high-speed connections at both home and work watch or download video online.
  • 67 percent of young adults share online videos, most sending them to more than one person.

What have we learned here, folks? Well, from taking a look at the study it becomes clear that the spread of online video is being catapulted by two things: widespread adoption of broadband and our constant need for social engagement.

Its all the social factors that go into online video that interest to me. It’s one thing to know on a basic level that people like to share a giggle over watching babies eat lemons (you know you want to), but it’s another to see the degree to which users are actually seeking out video and sharing it with friends.

We’re a long way from the days of the "lone Internet user" where the school geek would free himself from his locker long enough to sit at his computer and watch a few videos, pathetically trying to avoid human contact. The Pew study found that today approximately 57 percent of online video viewers are watching online video with friends or family peeking over their shoulder. It’s become a social experience. They’re not just watching the video, they’re engaging with it. One in 10 survey respondents said they have posted video links to their Web site or blog, while one in five have rated video or posted comments after watching online video.

Like with all things viral, people are using video as a way to connect with others and to engage online. The savvy online video sites have taken this into consideration. The study specifically mentioned YouTube’s new Active Sharing feature which allows content uploaders to see who’s watching their videos while their logged in. (It would probably be considered stalking on some sites, but on YouTube, it works.) Video upload site Joost has created chat rooms to complement video watching and Microsoft is trying to win over Internet video publishers with the new Silverlight. (It’s all part of the disruption thing mentioned here.)

The viralness and socialness of online video is what makes it so attractive to advertisers. If Internet marketers can find a way to leverage it and to create content worth sharing and worth talking about, then there’s an enormous opportunity to connect with users. Something to keep in mind, however, is that as online video is gaining in popularity, users are getting more demanding. Sixty-two percent of viewers said they prefer to watch content that is professionally produced. That clip of Johnny falling down the stairs that you recorded on your cell phone may be funny, but it’s not likely to go viral. Only 19 percent of users said they preferred video produced by amateurs.

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