YouTube is offering account holders access to usage statistics for the videos they upload, such as where viewers are geographically located and how they found the clips.
The feature, called YouTube Insight, had been in high demand from partners that use the video-sharing site to market their products and services.
These marketers were clamouring for detailed metrics to determine the efficacy of their YouTube campaigns.
The announcement, made early Thursday, wasn’t a complete surprise.
Earlier this month, YouTube sales team manager Brian Cusack said that the Google unit was planning to provide its members with more data about video viewership.
“YouTube has enormous amounts of data, but not great reporting on that data yet,” Cusack said during a keynote speech at the eRetailer Summit in Miami.
Now, marketers will have a better understanding of clips’ reach and effectiveness at boosting brand awareness and sales, according to YouTube.
“With YouTube Insight, we’ve turned YouTube into one of the world’s largest focus groups. Insight will help advertisers optimize their marketing efforts, determine how successful they were, and discover previously unknown marketing opportunities,” an official YouTube blog posting reads.
The metrics will also give a better understanding of clips’ popularity and viewership to people who upload videos for fun without commercial or marketing purposes.
The online video site plans to make more granular metrics available in this year’s second and third quarters, including data about the usage of YouTube videos embedded in external sites, said Brian Cusack, YouTube sales team manager.
YouTube, which gets about a third of its traffic from North America and has almost 20 country-specific sites – including a site for Canada – is building models to distinguish content that is universally interesting from content that is locally interesting, in order to make that useful for its advertising customers, Cusack said.
“That’s an enormous initiative for us in 2008,” he said, adding that YouTube is very interested in working with retailers with international marketing strategies.
During his speech, Cusack explained how YouTube, the world’s most popular online video site, is being used by companies for marketing purposes, a fairly recent endeavour.
Although YouTube recently celebrated its third birthday, it only introduced significant advertising opportunities for marketers in last year’s third quarter, and it is still learning how to use the site for these purposes, he said.
For example, one thing YouTube isn’t doing a lot of is conventional online advertising like sponsored search ads and banners. “We have a lot of unsold inventory [of that kind] on YouTube,” he said.
The reason: YouTube doesn’t run ads at all along with videos submitted by regular users, because of concerns about potential copyright violations in those clips and because of lack of control and knowledge over those clips’ content, Cusack said.
Instead, ads only appear with professional videos from YouTube’s roughly 1,500 commercial partners, like the National Basketball Association, CBS and Universal Music Group.
Where YouTube is seeing success among its advertising partners is in the use of its site in a way that is “authentic to the platform,” Cusack said. This means that videos shouldn’t be repurposed television ads, Cusack said.
Instead, viewers should feel that the video was designed with the YouTube context in mind.
“Let them know that you know you’re talking to them on YouTube,” he said. Moreover, the videos should encourage interactivity and engage viewers in conversation.
That’s an effective way for a company to use its YouTube presence to promote its products and beef up its brand, he said.
He gave several examples of successful marketing campaigns that employed YouTube recently, like those launched by Heinz, which held a contest for its customers to create a 30-second spot for the company; and the “Lions for Lambs” movie, which also held a contest for viewers to send clips with socially-conscious messages.
Cusack also shared some impressive usage statistics for the site. Every day, hundreds of thousands of clips are uploaded and hundreds of millions are viewed, he said.
On a monthly basis, the site has about 68.5 million unique visitors and 3.7 billion page views. Users spend an average of 54 minutes on the site monthly. Visitors are spread out fairly evenly among all age groups, he said.