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Commentary: In-Stream Ads—The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Content owners need to monetize their videos. But, writes the Watchman, if you're going to make people watch ads to get to free video, you should make the experience as easy and painless as possible.
Friday, June 20, by Geoff Daily

As the Watchman, I'm first and foremost an advocate for the viewer and a critic of the viewing experience. Yet as a contributing editor for StreamingMedia.com I understand the undeniable need to monetize content. But if you're going to make me watch ads to get at free videos, can't you at least make them work properly?

Since I eschewed cable for an online-only video existence, the biggest positive/negative I've encountered have been in-stream ads.

On the positive side, no more interminable multi-minute commercial breaks. The longest I've experienced online have been no more than a minute, and many times, despite there being a marker for an ad, none plays. Fewer ads means more time enjoying video. And people wonder why I'm not alone in going online for my TV.

Another tremendously beneficial innovation is the advent of ad countdown clocks that let the user know how long is left before they can get back to watching their video of choice. Without that I'm much more likely to despair and jump ship to some other media source, whereas with it it's clear how long I have to wait. And with breaks normally only being a single ad, it really doesn't take that long before my video's playing again.

But then there are the many downsides of in-stream ads.

A major pet peeve is the prevalence of ads that repeat. Having the same ad repeat on the same site across different shows is one thing, but playing the same ad repeatedly within the same video is bad for both the viewer and the advertiser. I've seen the same ad played three times in a row, even twice in a row within the same ad break. Having brands sponsor content is understandable, but why not load the video with a series of ads from the same advertiser? Isn't that delivering a better user experience and therefore improving the quality of impressions for advertisers? It's not like I haven't seen this concept implemented, but the more common sighting have been the repeats.

In my experience, nothing has given me more troubles while watching online videos than in-stream ads. Not even the annoyance of intermittent connectivity.

First off are the problems for which conscious decisions have been made. Like when a site plays two pre-rolls without any indication of when the content's going to start playing. By the time the second ad hits I'm gone nine times out of ten, unless I really want to watch the video. Even though this doesn't happen a lot, it has happened and it doesn't seem unintentional when it does.