Pre-Roll is Not Dying, Outstream May Be

An article appearing a few weeks ago on Mediapost appears to be singing the burial songs for pre-roll advertising. The author is right about the need for user experience to come first but they argue that it should proceed from outstream video and that is ill-founded. The author further labels pre-rolls as intrusive while at the same time promoting outstream and this is ridiculous.

**Social Video or Outstream? **

True, outstream has seen remarkable growth. However, this growth is underpinned by social video in-feed. IAB puts this under outstream. Their most recent research reveals that 81% of all video display happened in social. By extension, one can say that outstream grows because social video grows as opposed to in-text video on news sites, for instance.

It is about time to reassess this fact. This is because watching a video in a social stream cannot be compared with ripping apart text on n site by an outstream player. Social in-feed needs to be separated from outstream for one to see the real picture.
Outstream started during a period when it was expensive to produce video content, hard to scale it and impossible to create it in time when it came to news stories. Time has made it that that is not the case anymore. Thanks to automation and machine learning, video content can be delivered to all publishers, even the smallest.

Contextualizing instream

While outstream was dominating the headlines, publishers were busy improving their abilities to host in-stream and pre-roll. Now instream is no longer preserved for YouTube, it has begun to appear on sites too since they can automate their delivery. It is now possible to drop video content into a site quickly and in context. According to Lumen’s research, this practice has caused a 33% increase in the amount of time visitors spent in a page compared to videos that are dropped out of context.
This gives advertisers who are looking to run pre-roll, new inventory. The same study by Lumen also discovered that users engaged with pre-roll more when the videos they were shown were contextualized. So it follows that when pre-roll is delivered against true instream, it becomes very effective.


Another common misconception around native is that it is a domain of outstream alone. When images, text and video content co-exist on a page, the user must have a coherent experience, that is also aesthetic and marries with the topic of that page.
Video content then forms part of the experience. However, by its nature, outstream is interruptive. Claiming such a video display ad to be native is baffling. Then again, perhaps all that is necessary is a bit of a clarification.

Users do love the video. That is sure. In fact, the next time you go on public transport or in a queue or a park, look around. You will notice that publishers have put up video content to enhance the text. You will also notice that this approach gets longer dwell times that translate to higher revenues.

Stepping into the new age with pre-roll

A lot of the research that has been conducted around the benefits of outstream versus instream has failed to account for the new era of pre-roll. Between 2018 and 2019, it is expected that instream inventory will increase rapidly following the low barriers to entry for in-stream sources. For publishers, this will mean an increase in revenues because instream provides more value to advertisers than its counterpart.

You do not need to read much to know that the past 12 months have been rough on digital advertising. Part of the reasons behind this is that users took the background. App ad industry players started taking personal data loosely and failed to take the inline experience seriously. The next stage of online advertising will have to treat user experience as a core factor, not just as an optional extra. Players will need to create business models that not only help publishers to thrive, but also make the process enjoyable for people.

With poor user experience and low yields, it appears as though outstream will need to change the way it is done and consider the user. The truth of the matter is that while pre-roll is old, it lives on because it works.

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