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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

YouTube growth flat as brand safety woes continue

June 8, 2018 | By Todd Krizelman, CEO – MediaRadar @ToddKrizelman

In lieu of Facebook’s reputation struggles, as well as changes to their Newsfeed, many publishers are considering YouTube for both inventory and audience development.

However, YouTube has problems of its own – namely, brand safety. According to a brand-new study by Oath and Advertiser Perceptions, polling more than 300 advertisers, 42% say user-generated content sites like YouTube aren’t addressing their concerns over brand safety. This study comes just a month after Cisco pulled all ads from the video platform. Per Cisco’s CMO Karen Walker, in her original blog post (the piece was later edited to remove mention of YouTube), “We have pulled all online advertising from YouTube until the platform has met our standards.”

As digital video consumption rises, publishers see YouTube as an obvious opportunity. Marketers do, too – but they’re also growing increasingly weary of brand reputation across the platform. In looking at our own data at MediaRadar, the numbers bear that out. Across a sample of 70 top YouTube channel pages, advertising spend has been flat in 2018, with only an 0.2% increase YTD. Publishers and marketers alike both want to tap into YouTube’s exploding audience (nearly 1.6 billion watch YouTube content at least once a month right now). But for this to be a go-to platform, there’s work to be done.

To YouTube’s credit, they’re taking on the work. At the company’s NewFront, YouTube talked up its newly expanded Google Preferred lineup, emphasizing its top channels as premium, brand-safe environments. They also touted the increase in human reviewers auditing content. However, as the Oath study shows us, the effort to resolve brand safety and win back trust from now burned and cautious brands will be slow-burn and long-term.

As that process continues, high-quality digital publishers are in a good position either way. While YouTube addresses trust, more marketers will flock to the service. This, in turn, could boost revenue opportunities for the publishers that want to play in that sandbox.

In the interim, however, digital publishers are still the beneficiaries. The Oath report also found that 45% of advertisers are moving spend to “well-regarded premium” digital publishers — think sites like USA Today, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, and The New York Times — until they feel standards have improved on social platforms like YouTube. It’s a win-win for publishers, with brand safety a key theme both now and in the future.


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