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How People Share Online Video

Digital WOM

May 28, 2009 | Video

In a world of continuous technological change, the concept of “new” can get old.

Take online video, for example.

A few short years ago, the term “online video” was wishful thinking. Clips could only be slowly downloaded. They had to be viewed in tiny windows on the computer screen. Sound and graphics were primitive. Video was hardly a killer app.

But then, in a rush came—sometime between 2005 and 2006—YouTube in the US, Dailymotion in Europe and Tudou in China, video-sharing sites that all had three basic elements in common:

  • Flash Player technology that enabled instant viewing in the browser, without downloading
  • Upload-ability that made file-sharing with friends (as well as viewers around the world) quick and easy
  • Embedding code that allowed users to post video clips on Webpages and blogs

Suddenly video was an open, consumer-driven platform, with virtually no cost of entry. As a result, online video moved from niche to mass market, and in the process became one of the fastest-growing media platforms in history.

According to “The Global Web Index,” from Trendstream, with research conducted by Lightspeed Research, early this year 72% of US Internet users watched video clips monthly—making video bigger than blogging or social networking.

Frequency of Online Video Viewing Among US Internet Users, January 2009 (% of respondents)

According to the survey, 62% of US Internet users watched at least one clip a week, a figure that Lightspeed analysts translated into 97 million weekly viewers.

By contrast, Nielsen Online pegged the number of US online video viewers in April at nearly 117 million.

US Online Video Viewer Metrics, April 2008 & April 2009

That scale of usage would mean online video in the US is now as big as network TV.

“This research shows that in just three years we’ve reached a watershed in the way that consumers expect to watch, contribute and share video content,” said Tom Smith of Trendstream. “Web users want to participate at every stage, including the creation and sharing of material.”

The age of online video viewers trends younger: 82% of teens (16-to-17-year-olds) and young adults (18 to 24) streamed video, compared with 73% of Generation X (25 to 34) and 65% of older boomers (55 to 64) who said they watched.

Online Video Activities of US Internet Users, by Age, January 2009 (% of respondents in each group)

Online video-sharing was less common, with only 46% of users participating. While teen, young adult and Gen X sharing percentages hovered around 50%, the older the Internet users, the less likely they were to send videos.

One-half of all respondents shared videos via e-mail to friends and family. Twenty-three percent sent video out to friends on social networks, 21% by instant messenger and 14% to their friends on video-sharing sites such as YouTube and Hulu.

Methods Used by US Online Video Viewers to Share Online Videos, January 2009 (% of respondents)

The most widely used platform for discovering and viewing video online was YouTube, followed by e-mail, music sites, Yahoo! and news sites.

Sharing appears to happen mainly among close friends, as 72% of video-sharers sent to just one, two or three people.

“Those who access video are completely engaged in the content that they choose to watch,” concluded Mr. Smith. “It’s an impactful universe.”

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