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Editor's Note: The Impression That I Get

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The best thing about our annual Streaming Media All-Stars feature-in addition to hearing both the humility and the genuine appreciation in the voices of the latest honorees-is reading their responses to the questions we pose to them about their own achievements and their thoughts on where the industry is going.

All of their comments about the trends and challenges facing online video are compelling, and it pained me everytime I had to exclude one from the back of the baseball cards you'll see on pages 20-30, even though their full responses appear in the online version of the article. But every year, there's at least one response that's not just insightful and thought-provoking but downright profound, the kind of statement might not grab you right away but keeps bubbling up from your subconscious for the next few day s until you realize just how on-point it really is.

This year, it was Kevin Nalty-better known as Nalts, one of the most popular viral video creators on YouTube-who got me thinking. with his response to the question "What's the biggest challenge facing our industry?
"People are going to tell you measurement and comparing impact of different mediums," he wrote, "but an impression isn't an impression unless it makes one."

At first, it struck me as just another bit of marketing hokum, a cute play on words that ultimately doesn't mean much. But something about it wouldn't let go. Our industry has become obsessed with metrics and rankings; just look at the headlines and commentary surrounding comScore's January 2010 U.S. online video rankings, which showed a 2.5% decline in overall online video views compared to December 2009. Nevermind that views were up almost 120% over January 2009; the tech press felt compelled to analyze the small month-to-month drop.

Was it seasonal, or was it indicative of something bigger? To be honest, my response upon seeing the numbers was "So what?" The Nielsen VideoCensus data for February 2010 (which you can see on page 10) shows a similar drop in total streams since the last time we checked it in December.

Frankly, such a small fluctuation, particularly in isolation, isn't worth analyzing. Certainly, nobody should worry that the growth of online video has peaked; I don't think anyone would argue that consumers are becoming any less interested in watching content on their PCs, mobile devices, or TVs via set-top boxes.

In the long run, media and entertainment video will succeed or fail based on whether it makes an impression, not on how many impressions it makes. There's a place, even a need, for metrics and rankings, but the online video industry would be wise to learn a lesson from the music industry, which started falling apart when bean-counters replaced music lovers in executive positions. Say what you will about illegal downloading; the main reason people stopped buying CDs is that they got sick of paying as much as $18 for one or two good songs and an hour of filler.

One of the biggest viral video successes of the year so far has been the Old Spice "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" ad that premiered during the Vancouver Olympics and quickly spread online. While it hasn't gotten as many views as, say, the latest E*Trade ad (babies are a sure thing), Visible Measures Trends shows that it's gotten far more ratings than just about any other campaign in early 2010, meaning that it didn't just get impressions, it made one.

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