Online Video Subtitles (Duh!) - eMarketer
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Online Video Subtitles (Duh!)

An idea whose time has come back.

March 30, 2009

A vast market for online videos is being created. eMarketer estimates that by 2012 the US audience alone will reach 190 million—88% of the Internet user population.

As with most everything else online, where the eyeballs go, advertising follows.

Although online video ad spending has not grown as swiftly as originally predicted, looking beyond 2010 huge additional sums will be spent every year, reaching nearly $6 billion in 2013.

Two factors are driving the growth: more trusted video content to sustain advertising and more large advertisers (brand marketers, mainly) entering the market.

The use of videos for advertising online is unquestionably growing—except among B2B marketers. They face a huge hurdle. Most of their targets—businesspeople—don’t have audio turned on in the office. Talking heads or voiceovers that no one hears are not very effective.

But there may be a simple solution. In fact, it is an old answer to a new problem.

PLYmedia, a provider of closed-caption solutions, conducted trials where subtitles and captions were overlaid on online videos. On average, subtitles increased the amount of time that users spent watching the video by almost 40%.

Comparing subtitled videos to identical videos without subtitles, PLYmedia found that the videos with subtitles were watched 91% to completion, compared with 66% to completion for those without subtitles.

Perhaps even more importantly, subtitles significantly affected viewership of videos on “mute,” expanding video viewing 20-fold.

“As more and more online video is consumed in an increasing variety of settings—from office environments to noisy bars to mobile phones—it makes sense to add closed-captioning and subtitling features to digital video files,” said Paul Verna, eMarketer senior analyst. “These enhancements expand opportunities for viewers to enjoy online video, even when it’s impractical for them to have the sound turned on.”

Subtitling also expands the range of online videos—in the way subtitling was originally used for films. For example, PLYmedia found that the impact of subtitles was evident among Spanish audiences, increasing the online video viewing time by nearly 50%.

“The next frontier for online video subtitling will be contextual ads and interactivity that allows the end user to toggle the feature on or off, or select among a range of languages and other options,” said Mr. Verna.

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