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YouTube tests skippable pre-roll ads

Behavioral lab rats wanted

Google has begun testing pre-roll advertisements that users can freely skip in a select number of videos on YouTube.

For an indefinite period of time, a small sample of videos on the website will now include a "skip this ad" button that ditches the pre-roll pitch completely.

On the surface it seems a rather half-baked scheme on Google's part. After all, exactly who would choose to sit through a pre-roll ad when they could simply click through and get on with the show? Well, that's apparently exactly what the company is wondering too.

Google is using the test as an opportunity to gather user data that may lead to a new advertising model based on YouTube user behavior, similar to how pricing and placement is determined for search ads.

YouTube said past dabbling with in-stream ads as early as 2007 showed that as many as 70 per cent of viewers abandoned a video when confronted with long, non-skippable pre-roll commercials, according to the company biz blog.

Skip to my YouTube, my darlin'

However, additional research showed that a variety of factors could increase the number of those willing to see the ad through. If pre-rolls are kept down to only 15 seconds, for example, abandonment rates dropped down to as low as 15 per cent. YouTube said the quality and relevance of the ad also plays a major role in retaining viewers.

YouTube reckons that advertisers are often willing to pay more money for an "engaged" opt-in view, versus a forced view like an in-stream ad. Results of the test would be useful in launching a cost per action advertising scheme, where advertisers pay only for a completed view of the ad, but at an increased rate.

The data could also be used to establish a scaled pricing model based on whether Google thinks an ad is more likely to be viewed or skipped.

YouTube viewers, meanwhile, would have more control over what they watch. The plan is just crazy enough to work - but only assuming there's enough people out there who won't be temped to click "skip" every time. ®

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