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Streaming Media East 2010 Keynote 2: Yahoo's Rebecca Paoletti
Freaks and Geeks: Yahoo's head of video strategy looks at the importance of collaboration between creatives and tecnologists, as well as ways to make advertising work

The second day of Streaming Media East 2010 was headlined by Rebecca Paoletti, director of video strategy for Yahoo.

"Collaboration is key," said Paoletti in her keynote, offering the example of Avatar as a prime "freaks and geeks" collaboration between storytellers and technologists. "It's not just science and metrics, nor is it just the greatest idea you've ever had for a show. So where do art and technology meet?"

To answer this question, Paoletti spoke to three primary topics: the evolution of online video, insights into consumer behavior, and how to best work with brands.

In the evolution of online video, she offered several key data points: Not only do two-thirds of U.S. internet users now watch video online each month, or 146.5 million users, but this number is expected to rise 11% by 2014, to 77% of the total U.S. population.

"To underscore this point, 1 in 8 Americans will cancel or cut back cable service in the next year," she said.

Another set of statistics shows what Yahoo! has faced in the last year: the 2009 Presidential Inauguration generated 1.8 million total streams, and was the largest planned live event, yet the Michael Jackson memorial generated more than 5 million total streams, the largest in Yahoo! history.

But what about longevity of content? Paoletti pointed to the Will Ferrell short video "The Landlord," which had 57.8 million views in 2008.

"The same content now has 75 million total views, two years later," she said, "but has dropped to only 1.5 million unique viewers per month."

In the Insights and Developments section of her talk, Paoletti offered several suggestions.

"Give consumers what they want to know," she said. "The rise of 'how-to' videos linked to, or as part of, significant programming, continues to grow. "We've recently launched a program called 'Who Knew?' that has seen significant traction.  It provides the data behind the news story."

"A big breaking news story might get 30 seconds or a minute of the viewer's time," Paoletti continued, "but the type of 'fun facts' programming like 'Who Knew?' gives the news behind the news in a longer format. It gets significant traction as well, as a type of 'how-to' with information that would make you popular at a cocktail party."

The importance of brands is also important for the rise of online video programming

"To get brand dollars," said Paoletti, "we must accommodate consumer product companies' need to plan ahead with scalable, predictable forward media-buying capabilities."

Paoletti gave an example of this kind of accommodation: a consumer product company that had significant clickthroughs from a video advertisement, but disliked the fact that consumers didn't watch the entire video.

"We've created massive opportunity and massive confusion, as we balance online programming versus video ad formats," said Paoletti. "There are a wealth of ad formats that can be supported broadly but we need to properly explain the benefit of each."

She then gave examples of new advertising technologies to push the creative boundaries: clickable, enhanced interactive, video in a banner, live video, mobile video, rich ads in search, and video overlays, with the latter currently in beta.

"The pre-roll ad is celebrated when it should be recognized as another tell-tale sign of the lack of quality in online video," read a quote in Paoletti's presentation.

She then went on to discuss why there is a continued need for additional advertising formats.

"Pharma is the number one spend on TV," she said, "but has no good way to execute online. So we've looked at these various advertising options, such as the enhanced interactive option, as a way to solve problems for pharma and other industries."

"We also balance ad formats against content needs, rather than just providing a fully open canvas," said Paoletti, "so that we can explore what the advertiser considers engagement with advertising content: is it clicking, viewing, sharing or all of these types of engagement?"

Paoletti also reminded the audience that much of the online video inventory is bought in the upfront timeframe, much like traditional media.

"The myth that online buying isn't sophisticated is false," she said, "and brands have a seat at the table in online video, just like they do on traditional television or cable.

"When it comes to mobile, online ad buying and programming's balance with audience engagement is especially important," said Paoletti. "How do you engage an audience with advertising without overwhelming them? Does the consumer want the 'deal of the day' sent to her phone, or will she opt for many more types of mobile advertising?"

"The biggest challenge is bringing back metrics for campaigns that run across multiple screens," she said. "We can pull metrics from each of the three screens, but having the data reported in a way that's consistent across ad platforms is still something we're working hard on."

Finally, Paoletti talked about "thinking around the box" as a way to look at various locations or scenarios in which to place advertising.

"Regardless of whether it's a connected TV and other advertising platform, we need to remember the basics," she concluded. "Advertising is designed to solve problems, so we must think of intelligent ways to use complementary advertising regardless of whether someone is at home, on the go or in the location where they need timely information to solve a problem."