Video that splits the difference between TV episodes and user-generated clips is hot, but it's also difficult for advertisers to buy, because the content is splintered and hard to find. That's partly why YouTube is creating its own "channels" that , in addition to hosting new original content, will organize what's already there in easy-to-buy, advertisers-friendly categories. It's also why one startup, Outrigger Media, is launching Open Slate, a buying platform to sort this world out for advertisers.
There are plenty of so-called demand-side platforms and networks that allow advertisers to target audiences, but not the content itself, which is what Outrigger CEO Mike Henry is attempting to do with the technology. "What's missing today are the tools to help marketers value the content itself, and a consistent and scalable mechanism to connect brand ads with that content," he said.
Open Slate connects advertisers with everything from one-man YouTube operations to studio-produced webisodes; so far 800 are in Open Slate's system, shows such as "Chad Vader," "Food Wishes" and "Yogscast." The system allows producers to list sponsorship opportunities, as well as the ability to buy pre-roll video, with campaigns managed and executed by Outrigger. Those ads will run on distribution partners such as YouTube, MSN and AOL.
Organizing this world of web video for advertisers isn't exactly a new idea: Blip.tv, which has its own player and destination site to help viewers discover new shows, has been at it for several years. But the space itself still baffles advertisers, unless they can buy it where they're already doing business, like AOL or Yahoo. "Clients and agencies can suffer from the 'I've never heard of something so it must not be good' syndrome," said Paul Kontonis, VP at Digitas. "They have to become this trusted source that tells you this is perfect for you and why."
Taken individually, these shows may not have an audience significant to brand marketers, but taken together they start to scale. There are 2,000 YouTube producers, for example, with subscriber bases of more than 50,000. Since distribution and sales deals generally aren't exclusive, the producers are free to take the highest ad rates, whether they come from Blip.tv, YouTube, Open Slate, Tremor Media or somewhere else, meaning more competition for limited ad space and, ultimately, more revenue for show creators such as these: