Searching For “Kitten Videos?” Me Neither
A new survey from ClipBlast! about how people find video content has started a discussion about search and how it relates to entertainment content. In the survey, ClipBlast! asked 1000 online consumers if they had a preferred method for finding video content on the Web.
Of those surveyed, almost half had no preferred method, indicating that many consumers either have limited experience with online video, or possibly no experience they could recall. So while YouTube has exploded in popularity, and broadband adoption continues to climb, many consumers simply lack familiarity with this space.
Of the respondents that did have a preferred method, the breakout is quite interesting:
Among the 530 respondents who had a definite opinion, "discovery" is the primary means that they get to video online (28 percent), followed closely by recommendations from friends (27 percent). Some 22 percent rely on search engines. Roughly 10 percent get video from people they know only online – through social networks and the like. Relatively smaller percentages receive video from unsolicited email and RSS feeds, to which they have subscribed (5 percent, respectively).
The results, when looked at in isolation from the rest of the Web, aren’t that surprising. There’s a general consensus that the popularity of video is largely driven by word-of-mouth, so the fact that 37% of consumers hear about videos through friends (“real” or “virtual”) makes intuitive sense.
Also, the 28% who cited discovery is not surprising: this is the web equivalent of channel surfing. Portals such as YouTube provide multiple opportunities for viewers to discover video content: channels, categorization, related videos identified via tagging, and so on.
But the search figure is very interesting, particularly when viewed against the backdrop of overall web behavior. At this point, video usage is common enough that one would expect to see a strong correlation between video consumption and web behavior in general – they’re basically the same people. A comScore report released last month supports this, finding that 73% of U.S. Internet users watched online video in February.
But we don’t actually see a convergence of behavior when it comes to video search. ClipBlast! found that only 22% of online video users prefer search engines for finding new videos, standing in sharp contrast to general web behavior. Multiple studies have cited search engines as the starting point for most web users, across a variety of content categories and scenarios. So why don’t we see that behavior in the video space?
One could argue that video search, as a technology, hasn’t evolved to the point where it’s considered a reliable way to find video content. Certainly a number of vendors are making strides in this area, but for most consumers (who use YouTube/Google) there isn’t that surefire "I’m Feeling Lucky" confidence that we’ve come to expect from web search.
That could be a valid argument, but are there any other factors at play? Could there be anything specific to the online video experience that differentiates it from other forms of web content? Certainly, we see variations in conventional media. People consume print media very differently from television, and that difference might have an analog in the online space.
One aspect of the video web to consider is the fact that, right now at least, video is largely an entertainment medium. This stands in stark contrast to the broader web, which offers a mix of entertainment, information, commerce, and social interaction. The information gap may start to close as people become more familiar with broadcast news clips and how-to sites such as Howcast. But for now, video is mostly about diversion, and that may not sync well with typical search behavior.
In fact, even the word "diversion" hints at the contradiction: searching involves a focused effort to achieve a goal, whereas diversion is literally the opposite.
Sherwood Stranieri is Director of Natural Search at SMG Search, a dedicated search unit of Starcom MediaVest Group. Based in Chicago, SMG Search creates integrated search strategies for some of the world’s largest companies. The Video Search column appears weekly at Search Engine Land.
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