Friday, January 11, 2013

Your Video Will Begin in 5...4...3...

If you're an internet user, it's safe to say you watch some kind of online video. Hell, I'm trying to watch highlights of the Australian Open qualifiers as we speak! Whether it's Youtube, Hulu, Netflix, or another streaming service, videos are cropping up all over the internet and that isn't desktop/laptop exclusive, but includes phones, tablets, Smart TVs and game consoles as well. NPR cited an interesting statistic in an article this morning stating Youtube alone streams 4 billion hours of video per month.

But despite the engagement and work-day respite that online video provides, people hate waiting for them to load. There's nothing worse than watching the little dots on a Youtube video blink just because you want to watch something in 720p. That hatred has now been empirically proven by a professor at UMass who states that people are willing to wait two seconds for a video to get started, but if you hit five, 25% of viewers will leave without watching. By 10 seconds, 50% of viewers bail. Viewer patience is also correlated to the type of device they're using to watch the video. People have a little more patience for inherently (at least perceptually) slower mediums like mobile phones, but more powerful devices like laptops and consoles are held to higher expectations. 

This professor has effectively shown marketers like you and I how much we risk losing if our videos don't load in a timely fashion. The problem however is that in many cases, load times aren't in our control and are due mainly to bandwidth issues based on location and signal strength. So knowing this, what do you do?

Youtube auto-adjusts the video quality based on available bandwidth.  This does help speed up loading. The player analyzes signal strength on the fly and raises or lowers the quality in order to minimize abrupt pausing in the video. The problem in my opinion is that, since bandwidth can change by the second, instead of a choppy video, you get a half-clear/half-blurred version of it

Skyrim gives you information in it's load screens
In Assassin's Creed, you retain full control of your
character while loading and can move around
But what if we could make load screens interesting to viewers or interactive? Like with all things, I turn to video games for some examples. Bethesda Softworks added load screens into their latest game, Skyrim that offer gamers facts about the world they're playing in and tips on how to play the game to the fullest. Other games use the load screen to teach players the controls or refresh them on the story. Others still add in little mini-games that players can take part in, for example hitting a certain sequence of buttons or seeing how fast you can rotate the joystick. These are small additions but they help pass the time and distract against frequent loading. 

I'll be honest, and state upfront that I don't know if current players have this sort of capability but even if a bullet point summary of the video appeared while buffering might reduce drop-off if connection dropped during a load. 

These statistics and inventive solutions are important as brands try harder to create more engaging video content, especially since many of our videos aren't as entertaining as one with small animals or people falling.

Click here for the full article at NPR

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