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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

But the bigger problems I've had were systems malfunctioning in all sorts of ways.

Ads have frozen, sometimes to the point I have to reload the video, other times to the point I have to restart the browser. Ads have popped up where they shouldn't. Many sites helpfully show on the timeline where ad breaks will be (another positive innovation), but sometimes ads start playing without any coinciding marker and often during inconvenient times in the video.

And worst of all, instead of picking the video back up where it left off before the break it will jump ahead to a later point. It's remarkably frustrating, as getting back to where you were means moving the timeline until just after the last ad break you watched, trying to get as close as possible so you don't miss any of the dialog yet also desperately trying to not go too far back and potentially triggering the ad break again. Nothing is more harmful to the viewing experience than this. And when it's happened more than once in a video I rarely make it until the end.

Now I can understand that perhaps some of these issues are attributed to local issues. I primarily use Firefox on a less-than-year-old Macbook.

But here's the thing. If your site doesn't work great with Firefox or on a Mac, then you've got to say something about it. I could've easily opened another browser. And while I haven't installed Windows on this machine yet, if I knew by doing so it'd improve my viewing experience I might be compelled to do so. But I can't know unless someone tells me so.

I also know that providing a positive in-stream experience isn't impossible given my setup, as there's been one site that's consistently performed well: ABC.com.While watching videos therein I've had few if any technical problems, and this site seems to repeat ads less than any of the other broadcast networks.

I've also seen multiple instances of multi-part ads that chain different ads together in the same video, making for a more compelling experience for the user.

Even more exciting are their efforts to deliver interactive ads. While not yet overwhelming engaging, having an ad that encourages me to roll over various points to initiate different videos is still kind of neat and it takes advantage of the lean-forward position I'm in as an Internet watcher.

The thing I most love that they're doing is their click-to-continue countdown clock. First off, the countdown starts as soon as the ad break does, not when the ad starts playing. Too many other sites tie the countdown to ad playback. The problem with this is what happens if the ad is slow to start? I, the user, then get penalized for your site not working. Whereas with the clock starting and counting down separate from the ad loading I never felt this sense of being penalized.