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At ARF: YouTube to Get Richer Demo Data

Also, CNET Upends Traditional Word-of-Mouth Strategy of Targeting the Influential Few

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NEW YORK (Adage.com) -- Coming this fall from YouTube: richer demographic information.
Suzie Reider

YouTube CMO Suzie Reider spoke to ad research execs at the Advertising Research Foundation's Rethink conference.

More coverage from ARF:

How Toyota Uses Consumer Research to Stay No. 1
At Advertising Research Foundation: Don't Bore the Audience


"We'll never have had that much data about that much content," said Suzie Reider, chief marketing officer at YouTube. She was speaking to a group of advertising research executives in New York at the Advertising Research Foundation's Rethink conference.

"By Q3 we'll have a tremendous amount of metrics and data around every video," she said. "There's lots you can glean from looking at who's looking at what. It's a real-time focus group that happens all day, every day."

The site doesn't have a research director yet but will begin fielding its first site-user study in a few weeks, she said.

How to use YouTube
Ms. Reider outlined various ways marketers can use the site -- some of them unpaid. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, for example, posted the "Evolution" video on YouTube, and it went viral, she said. "That's part of the platform. It belongs to the users, and a content producer is just like a user. We welcome that. It's a clever use of the medium."

Since Viacom took its clips off YouTube, Ms. Reider said, the site's traffic has increased -- and that has led to some interesting questions. "Is this a place people come to watch professional content or to watch user-generated content? I think it's both," she said. "We're doing fine post-Viacom taking down its stuff, but as a user, go look for a 'Saturday Night Live' clip, and it can be frustrating not finding what you're looking for."

Company culture
Has Google's acquisition changed the company's culture? "It's more that the company [has] tripled in size since the acquisition," she said. "We were 50 people last summer, and we're 150 people now."

To illustrate the young site's fast growth, she noted that YouTube hired its first ad salesperson last summer. In another illustration of the transition from start-up to major media force, she recalled a recent office visit from YouTube Co-Founder and CEO Chad Hurley, who said: "I don't understand what the big deal is. ... It's just a video-sharing site."

The site has also blown up internationally, with 70% of users coming from outside of the U.S., which has 45 million unique visitors.

Word-of-mouth research
Later in the day, CNET presented research that contradicted the traditional notion -- and the business principles upon which some word-of-mouth firms are built -- that there's a small group of hyper-connected, influential individuals marketers should go after to strike word-of-mouth gold. Instead, closer to 85% or 90% of the population has significant potential to influence.

"That's the inverse of the logic that's been perpetuated over the years," said Ted Smith, research fellow at CNET Networks. "The vast majority of people have the opportunity to resell the message."

He suggests the marketing industry shift word-of-mouth dialogue "from 'Who is most influential?' to 'Where do I activate the influential?'"

CNET's study
The study was fielded in fourth quarter 2006 and first quarter 2007, and it looked at users of eight CNET brands. The company also used control samples of people who don't use the CNET sites but instead go to portals for their technology, gaming and TV content and photo-sharing sites.

It found highly connected people have just as many interests as less-connected people. And the big group in the middle comprises people who are not necessarily experts but are reasonably good at figuring out the information that can help friends and family.

Mr. Smith argued the middle group has been underused as marketers chase that smaller, highly influential group. After all, he said, after marketers spend a large amount of money reaching the influential people, they go for the broadest reach they can buy on ad networks, with virtually no informational content.

"We joke internally that these [influential] people get flown to private briefings; everyone else gets a logo and a jingle," he said.

Emotional need
So what do marketers do to feed that emotional need people have to offer information? What causes someone to be an influencer?

For one, altruism. People get emotional gratification from sharing information. CNET saw not the expert but the person who was good at figuring out if an information source was useful. Now, Mr. Smith argued, it's the burden of media companies and advertisers to arm these people with information they find credible and unique.

Advertisers need to think about "getting off the two-class system," he said. "It's not like there's this mystical niche that everyone's looking for. ... It's a little bit harder than that."
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