Activation in the Passive World of Video

"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.” - Ben Franklin

But what does it mean to be involved in the passive lean-back world of video?

My company, HapYak, makes a software platform, which allows you to make videos interactive. We have served more interactive video than anyone, we have the best customers in the world, and we get billions of actionable data points every month.

What we have learned when it comes to video is this; Activate, Motivate, Measure.

I’ll tackle these in individual articles. Today is Activate.

Web stats:

  •  You have 14 seconds before a viewer leaves your web page.
  •  Our collective attention span has dropped to 22 seconds
  •  People will read only 20% of the words loaded on the screen in front of them.
  •  A Video loses 50% of its’ viewers every 30 seconds (and that’s if they ever hit “Play”).

That last statistic has led to a clarion call of analysis shouting to decrease the length of your video. But is that right? Does that single statistic hide a larger truth? To those unfamiliar with video analytics, the data most people get from their videos is the number of plays, and either individually or in aggregate how long people actually watched. So, the data, while accurate, is a really, really, really small subset of typical web data. In fact, most video systems gather data so thin that video has been defended as necessary art and never moved to the data-driven side of the ledger.

What we built. What we thought. Why we were wrong.

So, five years ago we set out to build a platform, which allows our users to transform the "lean back and watch" video experience into an interactive experience. Lean in…touch the video. We decided to work not just with #YouTube but with all the online video providers we could. Names like Brightcove, Vimeo, Kaltura, and twenty others if you’re into that sort of thing. We started simply. We allowed users to add Chapters to long-form content and therefore, empowered the viewer to choose where they want to go. We hypothesized that when users could get where they wanted (and therefore what they wanted) sooner, they would not scrub the Play bar back and forth. Empowerment would allow them to go directly to the correct section, watch it and be done. Without all the scrubbing and searching not only would a better user experience (a good thing) be provided, but the actual view time would go down (bad thing – maybe).

The Data

We were wrong. And not just a little, but rather completely 100% and 180-degrees wrong. Simply, as soon as our customers added Chapters, the length of viewing time doubled. So we tried to understand what that meant. Was it associated with a type of Video? No. Was it associated with the length? No. The use case? No. We assumed that it was just a better user experience. No more scrubbing back and forth and waiting for the video to load. Happier people watch more. Right? Well yes, but that was a secondary and not a primary correlation.

We continued to add features and continued to collect data. Chapters allowed edgy authors to create “choose your own adventure” videos, where viewers click and drive the video/story in any direction. We let people download associated documentation directly from the video surface. We let them personalize the video, and on and on and on.

In every instance and over the billions of data points, one truth held and still holds. Once a viewer has leaned in and touched the video, be it for a Chapter, a click-through annotation, a slide-in form…really any type of “lean in” moment, they are Activated. And here is the key, activated users watch more, come back more, are happier with the experience and are more likely to buy the associated product. It goes on and on. Every stat we measured goes up and to the right once a viewer Activates. And get this, not only do they watch more of the current video, they watch more, and interact more, with ALL of your videos.

You’ve made enormous investments in time and money to bring video to your audience and perhaps more importantly, your audience to your video. Don’t make them leave the video to interact with your website. Remember, they will only read 20% and if you don’t get them in 14 seconds, they’re gone. Allow your viewer to treat the video like they treat the rest of the web, touch it and interact with it. If you do so, everyone wins.