Despite a great deal of hype surrounding its launch, Google's video content distribution network is in its very early stages. Even Google admits the new product, which comes on the heels of the introduction of similar YouTube player ad units, may evolve in terms of the ad formats offered. In fact, the latest product is a culmination of previous video-related tests by the company.
"We're still iterating" on the new AdSense video units, a Google spokesperson told ClickZ News.
For now, Google is sticking to what it knows best: text and display units. Text overlay ads are rotated within the lower portion of the video player on AdSense network publisher sites, while display ads run at the top of the player. The video distributed through the network player comes from YouTube content providers including Expert Village, Extreme Elements, Mondo Media, Ford Models, and TV Guide Broadband.
The text ads rotate every 20 seconds, and a portion of the ad copy automatically collapses into the bottom of the player if users don't interact after two text ads are served. In a sample player shown on the Google Inside AdSense blog, seven different text ads were displayed while a 2:00 video played.
"As the program expands, we may test additional ad formats to find out what works best for users, content creators, advertisers and publishers," added Google's spokesperson.
Ads are sold on a CPM or cost-per-click basis, and targeted contextually according to network site and video content; they can also be targeted specifically to network sites that have selected to run it.
Other firms like Adap.tv and blinkx are also offering textual ads in video.
Last summer, Google partnered with Viacom's MTV Networks to distribute MTVN video clips and in-stream video ads within its AdSense network. That trial, along with another test of video ads in its network, contributed to Google's decision against offering in-stream video in the new content network.
"I think it's really smart that [Google is] not running video-based ads," said Bill Hildebolt, president of consumer-generated product review video publisher ExpoTV. Hildebolt argues video ad matching technology, reporting and targeting is "really, really immature now."
The entrance of Google into the ad-supported video distribution space, he believes, "should dramatically open up the market." Google is "going to suck video down into that core layer where true interactivity can occur between the text Web and the video Web," added Hildebolt.
ExpoTV is participating in YouTube's new overlay ad program. Announced in August, the YouTube InVideo offering allows advertisers to include animated messages within the bottom 20 percent of the video frame -- where the new AdSense text unit is displayed. Similar ad overlays are also available from ad networks such as VideoEgg and YuMe.
While the YouTube overlay ads are served only on the YouTube site, the new AdSense video player ads will run in video players placed by publishers on their sites. Some company observers can't help but expect changes to either of the products, or perhaps even a meeting of the two.
"Quite possibly...this may be a beta test for additional YouTube monetization," said industry consultant Greg Sterling. Indeed, the YouTube video distributed across the Web has no ads attached to it -- yet.
One concern, which explains the limited amount of video and partners participating in the new content network, is the quality of video content and its appropriateness for advertisers. Google reportedly is working with about 100 partners for the AdSense video network. The company also must ensure video content is tagged well for ad matching before the program is rolled out more broadly.
Content publishers will also want to have control over where their video is distributed. "That will be critical," said ExpoTV's Hildebolt.
AdSense network publishers do have some control; they can run video only from specific content providers, solely within certain content categories, or have video display according to keywords associated with their site content. Network publishers are allowed to place just one customized player on their sites, which according to Google will update video content "frequently and automatically."
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.