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Research finds that publishers rely on autoplay, but not without risk

September 19, 2017 | By Todd Krizelman, CEO – MediaRadar@ToddKrizelman

Thanks to the increasing popularity of digital video, autoplay ads have become one of the most common forms of online video advertising. But that could change if Google and Apple have their way.

In recent months, both companies have hinted at browser-based features that will potentially curtail autoplay video’s impact. In April, for example, Google teased an ad-blocking feature in both the mobile and desktop versions of Chrome that would limit auto-start content. And in June, Apple unveiled an upcoming autoplay-video-blocking feature for its Safari browser. How might this impact proliferation and adoption of autoplay among publishers? To answer this question, we first need to know how many publishers rely on auto-start video inventory.

The Big Picture

At MediaRadar, we examined nearly 63,000 video ads from January to June of this year to get a better sense of how the industry is reacting. Here’s what we found:

  • Nearly one-third (31%) of publishers auto-start 75% or more of their on-site video ad inventory.
  • Roughly another third (30%) of publishers auto-start between 50 and 75% of their video ads.
  • Just under 40% of publishers are less reliant on autoplay video ads, auto-starting 50% or less of their inventory.

So what do these findings mean for digital publishing/advertising? Here’s a closer look.

Websites that use auto-start ads stick with them.

Among our study’s three segments that embrace autoplay video ads, there’s no broad shift in websites reducing their dependency on auto-start video inventory. In fact, we see exceptionally low variance month-to-month. Most sites have chosen a model and stayed with it consistently in 2017. It’s also worth noting that there isn’t one singular type of media company that supports autostart ads – they can be seen practically everywhere.

There are some commonalities across the types of publishers using auto-play.

Publishers that use auto-start video ads the most have some commonalities. Smaller websites – think niche, regional, enthusiast, business-to-business, as examples – have fewer overall impressions. This likely drives the need for video inventory, which is sold at a higher cost per impression. These same websites have the highest incidence of autoplay video advertising. This shouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as bad news. Presumably, video ads running on these sites are highly-targeted and likely to be well-received. Sites reliant on programmatic advertising were also more likely to employ auto-start video.

How might Google and Apple shake things up here?

While the threat of Google Chrome stripping out auto-start videos is real, it’s not imminent — at least not yet. Based on past experience – like with Google AMP, for example – we found that most publishers have taken a wait-and-see approach before making a change in their business practices. Apple could be a more interesting company to watch as their advertising interests are limited. They have no dog in the auto-play fight, so to speak, and could dramatically disrupt things for publishers and advertisers if they decide to block these units more aggressively via pre-installed software or hardware.

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