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If you've ever visited the Akamai Network Operations Command Centers (NOCC) or Security Operations Control Centers (SOCC), you're familiar with Akamai's expansive state-of-the-art nerve centers of data collection.  Every second of every day, the Akamai NOCCs and SOCCs provide customers with a broad breadth of insight into global network conditions and threatening activity, wherever the activity may be occurring.

After a dozen years in the advertising industry, looking back I remember the first few chapters of online video being written, as more and more content began to make it onto the Internet. A few years later the same online video content was starting to be accessed on mobile devices, and I was trying to pitch a partnership with a video ad network; a couple of executives at the online advertising network I worked at were very skeptical, calling it a fad that will never take off. I remember one saying, "I would never watch a video on a small screen; there's no way this will capture people's attention." 

At that time, people didn't realize how many new handheld devices with different capabilities, screen sizes, and formats would start to emerge and take over the consumer market. They had no idea how these devices would change people's viewing habits, in turn affecting the many content providers and publishers to scramble to produce, publish, and repurpose existing TV content. There were very few advertising agencies that understood online video advertising, and if they did, they would include video ads along with their primary request of banner ads as a nice to have or a bonus in the RFI/RFP. Video advertising CPMs were all over the place because there was very little video content, no standards, and limited tracking, so monetization was not taken very seriously. 

The Effects of Video Failures on Your Audience

Last week we published the below high-level info-graphic showing how online video performance impacts viewer behavior. These stats are based on a scientific research paper released by Ramesh K. Sitaraman, an Akamai fellow and professor of computer science at UMass-Amherst, and S. Shunmuga Krishnan, a senior system software engineer at Akamai. One of my favorite key takeaways is what we're calling the 2-second rule, which shows that videos with a start-up time that exceeds 2 seconds tend to have higher abandonment rates. With each additional second another 6% of viewers abandon, and by the time you get to 10 seconds, half of your audience is gone! As you can imagine, this impacts not only that specific viewing experience, but also the general impression of that publisher's/website's reliability for disseminating information. In fact, according to the research paper, around 91.8% of viewers do not return within 24 hours of a video failure. 

What does this all mean? It means without monitoring the quality of your video streams and how your viewers are engaging with your content, you are literally streaming blind and have no ability to know what is working and what is not.
Check out the below info-graphic for more interesting stats that have a real impact on businesses who rely on video streaming.
Noreen Hafez is a senior product marketing manager at Akamai.
This is the second installment in a series of posts that discuss various challenges of online video and how Akamai's Sola Media Solutions can be used to address those challenges.

What goes into a successful media analytics strategy? How can video analytics help you control costs, ensure service delivery quality and maximize ROI? This was one of several recurring topics during the many conversations that we enjoyed during last week's NAB show. 

Understanding how - and where - content is being consumed is a challenge that companies in virtually every industry are struggling with. From media and entertainment sites where streaming media is a core business focus to social media sites, retailers, and corporate training teams, maximizing engagement and driving adoption are critical challenges.

Ensure freshness and verify adoption
This is particularly true of live streaming video, given its growing adoption, time sensitivity/"freshness," global universe of users, and variety of device/browser platforms that must be accommodated by providers. Forecasts point to a burgeoning business, with global online TV and video revenues expected to exceed $28 billion and 480 million homes in 40 countries watching online TV and video by 2017.1

A Key Launch: Ad Integration Services

Last week, Akamai launched Sola Ad Integration Services, a cloud-based solution designed to enable targeted, dynamic ad insertion into online video streams on live, linear and VoD content. Why is this so important? The simple answer is a projected $4.14 Billion in ad spending in 2013 that's growing to $8.04 Billion by 2016 according to eMarketer. Reaching your audience when they're viewing their favorite video content across a dramatically growing range of connected devices is essential, and employing ad targeting is now a basic requirement. Delivering both conditions using the best video viewing quality, in a simplified workflow, on an open flexible platform at scale is central to participating in the ad industry's growth.

By developing Ad Integration Services within the Akamai network -- built upon the Akamai Intelligent Platform -- the solution offers reliability and scale matching content, bitrate matching, a simplified client, and many built in feature integrations not available anywhere else.

Akamai's Ad Integration Services solves the many challenges facing the advertising industry by delivering the capacity to monetize HLS connected devices like iPhones and iPads, which are harder to reach but amount to a huge portion of on-line Internet traffic. It delivers customized or personalized advertising that drives higher visitor engagement and ad revenue for publishers. By simplifying the client with ad stitching inside the network and building upon Sola Vision's Stream Packaging, the solution facilitates a better video ad quality that matches the video content for a smooth, TV-like viewing experience. The simplified workflow for content owners has a flexible and open ADS-agnostic platform, giving the choice of working with the Ad Decision Systems and OVP/CIS of their preference. In leveraging the Akamai Intelligent Platform, Akamai's Ad Integration Services is able to offer broadcast-level services with the availability, reliability and extensibility for quality performance at scale!

Do Analytics Need Your Daily Attention?

Weeding your lawn every year can seem daunting, time consuming, and when not done correctly, ineffective!  The same goes for analytics. With so many charts and graphs, you can get into data overload if you don't know what to monitor. Understanding the most effective ways to engage with an analytics tool will not only simplify matters, it can save you time and transform your business!  Depending on what type of publisher you are, monitoring audience behavior and quality of service are the two most important factors that analytics can help with.
Girish Bettadpur, Sr. Product Manager at Akamai, outlines a few ways to best capture the value of analytics in the below video, filmed at Kaltura's recent Connect Conference.

You'll hear best practices for:
•    how often to keep an eye on your site's analytics
•    how understanding analytics data can improve your video strategy, and,
•    market trends that influence and drive the need for analytics.


Noreen Hafez is Senior Product Marketing Manager at Akamai

Video Therapy: How Can I Get More People to Like Me?

When offering video online, there's a lot to think about. So much goes on before a viewer even has the opportunity to play back your content. You need to produce the content, edit it, test it with an audience and encode it. Then there's the player design, player functionality, multi-device support and apps strategy... Apple, Android, streaming, storage, HTML5...Meltdown.

There are many aspects of successful video delivery. Drawing the audience to your site through social media campaigns and designing a great user experience for playback are just some of the intricacies involved. However, once a viewer gets to your playback experience, whether that be an iPad™ app with video or a themed video portal on your website, you need to understand what factors (and why!) cause a viewer to linger and watch more content.

From a playback experience and content delivery perspective, the key drivers of audience behavior are: content, packaging and quality. Tracking and correlating these three dimensions provides key insights into how your video experience is influencing the audience behavior. Let's look at each dimension in detail:

Content. It is important to catalog your video library using a robust taxonomy, so that you can measure audience behavior across categories. For on demand content, it is important to have at least four levels of categorization. For example, Genre, Sub Genre, Show and Episode can be applied to most episodic content. Knowing the audience's preference for different types of content will help you improve content production and editing processes.

Packaging. Content length and placement are important considerations: long form vs. short form, full episodes vs. clips, and highlight reels vs. full event replays. Overlaying ad density and packaging information can reveal insights into the optimal ad policy for your content. Your ad policy should ideally be acceptable to you in terms of revenue-generation, and acceptable to your audience in terms of user experience. The optimal ad policy can be determined with the added context of content popularity and content length. Having this information at your fingertips can help you drive decisions around how many ads to insert, when and where to insert ads into the content, and how to vary the ad density and placement so that you can maximize revenue generation potential while monitoring the effects on viewer engagement.

Quality. It is very important to understand how quality of service impacts audience behavior.  You should know how long a viewer will wait for video to start, how much re-buffering they will tolerate before navigating away from your site, or if you need to increase the video bitrate in order to increase the amount of time viewers watch your content. With the knowledge of how quality issues affect the behavior of your audience, you can plan appropriate capital outlays for technology and delivery services to focus investments on solutions that will drive viewer engagement, and ultimately revenue.

Akamai Media Analytics uses the advice and feedback from many customers who wanted an easier way to grow their digital media business. Akamai Media Analytics tracks content, packaging, and quality trends, allowing customers to understand their audience and act on that data to influence audience behavior.

Here are some scenarios we heard from customers and how to get actionable insights:

1.     Your ad ops team wants to know if their ad policy is optimized. Can they add more pre-roll ads without driving viewers away? How many?

With Akamai Media Analytics: Knowing your audience allows you to sell ads more effectively, and understand audience motivations to optimize the ad policy without driving viewers away.

2.     You want to increase overall viewing time on your site by 10%. You know that your sports content is popular, but how can you use that to your advantage?

With Akamai Media Analytics: Easily monitor the number of plays and minutes watched per visit, and see how it contributes to the overall amount of video watched. Increasing overall viewing time on your site is really about attracting new viewers, or getting each viewer on your site to watch longer. You can easily monitor the effects of a social media campaign or a newly-installed "related content" sports widget to reach your goals.

3.     You're at a friend's house and proud to show them how easy it is to watch video on your site with their iPhone. They access the page, but the video takes a long time to load and then playback stutters. You're sure this has something to do with your friend's iPhone. I mean, this can't be affecting your entire digital audience, right?

With Akamai Media Analytics: View real-time quality of service reports to troubleshoot quality issues on the spot, or replay performance issues later to investigate and resolve issues.

4.     You have a big product launch coming up, say iAnything 6.0, with a fresh new video experience built for the occasion. Your marketing team wants reassurance that this new version of the player isn't going to ruin the big launch initiative...how do you reassure them?

With Akamai Media Analytics: Monitoring launch success is easy. Use quality of service reports to track audience behavior in real time, and view audience and content trending post-launch to report on the overall success metrics.