Visible Measures Rides Susan Boyle’s Coattails to Viral Video Fame, But It’s Got Something Even Bigger Planned

5/27/09Follow @wroush

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there are few good ways of tracking these clips once they’ve been copied, shared, or embedded in other sites. To find videos once they’ve started to spread, Visible Measures has developed ways to use Web metadata and comment streams to identify an individual video as part of a particular campaign, even if it’s been copied, transcoded, or remixed. That’s part of what Visible Measures does for Next New Networks, the New York, NY-based publisher of BarelyPolitical.com and the home of “Obama Girl,” to pick just one example. “A large percentage of their viewership happens outside the Next New Network properties, but they still need to understand everything,” Shin explains.

Just as Google can diagnose cultural trends by measuring the frequency with which people use certain search terms, Visible Measures can use its viral reach database to see which video memes are hottest. Just this month, the company introduced the “100 Million Views Club,” a list of the 25 videos (as of May 20) that have been watched at least 100 million times. At the top of the list is a Soulja Boy music video with 360 million page views; Susan Boyle, whose rocket ride to stardom inspired Visible Measures to create the list, is currently in fifth place. Like all of Visible Measures’ statistics, the 100-million list counts both originals and viral copies; in fact, the 25 videos on the list collectively turn up at more than 21,000 different Web addresses. (Interestingly, when I visited Visible Measures on May 4, there were only 18 videos in the 100 Million Views Club, which tells you something about how rapidly Internet video audiences are still growing.*)

Matt Cutler, Vice President of Marketing and Analytics, Visible MeasuresVisible Measures’ other current product is called VisibleSuite—and it’s the one I described in my first piece about the company in January 2008, shortly after the company had collected its $13.5 million B round. VisibleSuite is a video metrics engine that “allows people to see inside the playback experience,” in Cutler’s words. In other words, Visible Measures customers who install a bit of the startup’s code in their video player software can track things like how much of a video each viewer actually watched; where they paused, fast-forwarded, rewound, or skipped; and whether and when the video was shared. Knowing more about how viewers interact with videos from moment to moment, the company contends, can help publishers figure out which types of content are best at holding viewers’ attention.

Ironically, Visible Measures’ ability to analyze viewer behavior may have temporarily outrun many publishers’ ability to exploit that information. The main point of Sunday’s New York Times article was that FreemantleMedia Enterprises, the production company that owns the international digital rights to “Britain’s Got Talent,” has earned little or nothing from the tens of millions of views of the Susan Boyle clips on YouTube. The problem, according to the Times, is that FreeMantle and YouTube (which is owned by Google) have yet to settle on a way to split the revenues from the ads that could be sold alongside the videos.

Which may point to one of the difficulties in Visible Measures’ future—the fact that just because a medium is measurable doesn’t mean it’s easily monetizable. Not only are most viewers of viral video watching copies rather than originals, but they’re doing so via a disorganized patchwork of thousands of video sharing sites, few of which are likely to offer video publishers a share of their ad revenues.

Still, the indirect benefits of viral video sharing may be enough to keep the customers lining up at Visible Measures’ door. Cutler says many companies are developing “a more holistic view of where influence can come from.” Copied, embedded, or remixed videos can sometimes drive traffic back to a video’s original source, for example, and a well-made parody or spoof of an advertisement can often earn more buzz for a brand than the original video.

“On TV, you watch the show, and that’s the end of the experience,” Cutler says. “On the Internet, you watch, and that’s the beginning. You can comment, embed, remix, and republish, and people expend social capital around this. So this notion of a ‘campaign’ is taking on a new and more nuanced meaning.”

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* For geeks only: I asked Matt Cutler by e-mail yesterday how the 100 Million Views Club grew so quickly. He said the seven new additions to the list since early May were a combination of “campaigns that recently crossed the 100 million views threshold (see the bottom of the chart for most of these)” and “campaigns that were identified using new discovery techniques (see Beyonce’s Single Ladies). Believe it or not, sometimes these large campaigns can be difficult to identify, and we’re constantly experimenting with new methods of characterizing our data. These new approaches often yield unexpected findings… which we’re always happy to share with those who share our passion for the world of social video.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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