March 4, 2010 – Web video providers seeking to use social networks to extend the reach of their content through the power of viral marketing now have the ability to monetize that reach by ensuring that ads are always included when someone shares a clip.
The capability, embodied in thePlatform's latest player development kit (PDK), removes a major impediment to content owners' release of content for sharing across social networks, says thePlatform's CEO Ian Blaine. "Historically, there has been some resistance from traditional media companies to fully empower consumers to share their videos across social networks because of the need to maintain some control over branding and monetization," Blaine says.
"Our video management system gives them this control," he continues. "The advertisements can travel with their virally syndicated content, no matter where it has been embedded."
thePlatform has been focused on bringing the benefits of viral distribution to its customers for some time, including the introduction of new ways to facilitate sharing among users in different social networks without the traditional registration requirements. The company made ratings, viral propagation of recommendations and tracking of recommendations performance available as plug-in applications with its player development kit, and it incorporated functionalities such as ad campaign management systems, ad serving engines, reporting and analytics to provide support for ad placement across the distribution chain.
But until now there was no way for Web content suppliers to keep their existing ads intact with the core content when users shared entire episodes or, more typically, smaller clips. "Media company customers want to enable viral distribution in a way that's consistent with their overall business policies and that supports their existing ad relationships," says Marty Roberts, vice president of marketing at thePlatform.
"There's no question that sharing and other social media capabilities are becoming increasingly important features for video players, and that's also true on AP's Online Video Network," says Bill Burke, global director for online video products at Associated Press, which has begun using the new capabilities built into thePlatform's PDK 4.2. "Right now, we're building enhanced players for our 1,500-affiliate network, and having these features as a standard part of thePlatform's tool set means faster and less costly player development – a real long-term benefit."
Content suppliers who use the new PDK can tailor their media players to present viewers a variety of user-friendly options for sharing content, including choices of up to ten social networks that have been pre-integrated into the PDK. "As a content provider, when I set up my player I can decide do I want HD or full-screen options, an RSS link, email-to-a-friend features, a menu for content sharing, and many other functionalities as well," Roberts says. "Once that's set up, all audience members will see those features."
Customers will be able to place their entire video player experience – with all of its features, add-ins and components – into a single Adobe Flash file for embedding into social networks, blogs, and affiliate sites, he adds. Beyond the ten pre-integrated social sites, which include the most popular locations such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Yahoo! Buzz, customers can integrate others using tools supplied by thePlatform in conjunction with the metadata associated with specific sites. "You can add more as well as remove ones you don't want," Roberts says. "It's easy to do."
In addition, he notes, thePlatform's Community Toolkit enables consumers to comment, rate, tag and create favorites via their players. For Twitter, thePlatform has added additional features including support for automatically adding hash tags based on the video's metadata and generating shortened URLs to simplify the experience for consumers.
Along with making it easy for end users to segment clips for sharing, the new PDK allows content suppliers to ensure that ads associated with those clips stay with the content. The viewing of these ads then becomes part of the ad performance metrics the content generates back to advertisers.
"All the metrics and tracking data are included in the player itself," Roberts says. "And we add an affiliate tag that tracks which social networks are exposing the ads."
The ability to drive viral exposure while maintaining ad support comes at an opportune moment for content suppliers, Roberts notes. "Most of our customers are recording positive margins net of costs on a per-view basis," he says. "So they've exceeded the overall cost structure for playing back each video. Now they want to increase the audience size but in a way that supports the business model. If they tried to do this without sharing ads, they'd end up with a net addition to costs.
"We think a lot of customers will take advantage of these capabilities," he adds, noting that there is no additional cost to existing customers for use of the new PDK. "What's been holding them back was, it was great to take their content out to Facebook, but they didn't have a way to pay for those video views."