The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.
Jan 11, 2011

In their book, Content Rules, Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman recommend 11 rules for creating great content. I particularly like Rule #2: Insight Inspires Originality.

Insight. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for? Wouldn’t it be great to have a crystal ball that guides us to make all of the right decisions? Well, when it comes to the development of online content, we actually do. Let’s take a look at two insight generators: Facebook Insights and YouTube Insights.

Facebook Insights

Facebook Insights offers a broad view of a company’s Facebook fans (audience), ranging from traditional demographics such as “age,” “location,” and “page views,” to unique Facebook measurements such as “active users,” “likes,” and “unlikes.” If you have admin privileges to a Facebook page, give it a try. Download your entire historical data into a spreadsheet and take a look. Such insight is gold when determining the type of content that satisfies audiences.

Like most analytics packages, Facebook Insights collects its information at the content-level, such as a wall post, a video, or a picture. At the content-level, we learn how many people liked a particular wall post or clicked on an individual photo or a video. But what about data at the sub-content level? Is there a way to find out what piece of the content that people liked best?

YouTube Insights

Youtube has determined a way to subdivide the data that it collects on individual videos. Therefore, in addition to gathering aggregate data at the content-level such as “discovery,” “demographics, “total views,” “comments,” and “responses,” its YouTube Hotspots feature offers insight into what viewers are interested in at various times throughout an individual video. Here’s YouTube’s description of its Hotspots feature:

Youtube Hotspots: The ups-and-downs of viewership at each moment in your video, compared to videos of similar length. The higher the graph, the hotter your video: fewer viewers are leaving your video and they may also be rewinding to watch that point in the video again. Audience attention is an overall measure of your video’s ability to retain its audience.

I’ve chosen an iconic example that many people (well at least those over 40) can relate with to demonstrate the power of Hotspots.  The example, courtesy of The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library (client), is a video of President Reagan speaking before the Republican National Convention on August 15, 1988. To put the clip into context, this is the convention that nominated then Vice President George Bush as the Republican nominee to run against Massachusetts governor and Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis.

Below is the Hotspots data for this 46 minute video.

The user interface for Hotspots is an interactive graph/video combo. The graph shows viewer-interest over time. If you want to see what part of the video corresponds to a particular measurement on the graph, simply drag the triangle pointer at the bottom of the graph and the video will advance to that spot…much like a video scrubber.

Now let’s look at the data. From left-to-right, we can see the ebb and flow of the viewership’s attention:

  • it starts low then builds during the first third of the video
  • then it plateaus in the middle
  • before it spikes at about the three-quarter point
  • and then finally wanes.

Understanding the content of the actual video puts the data into context.

The first third of the video consists predominantly of introductory formalities, such as the President thanking the hosts, the chair, the delegates, etc… Attention then starts building as he hits his speech points, peaking at the 3/4th mark, and then declining as he wraps up.

So, what exactly is happening at that peak? Why does audience interest spike at that time and then diminish as quickly as it rose?

Wouldn’t it be useful for you to learn what part of your content resonates with your audience? How valuable would it be for you to know exactly what your audience is “vibing” on? Wouldn’t such information give you great insight into the type of new content that your company should focus on?

The peak in audience attention comes from one of Ronald Reagan’s most memorable lines. To set it up, here is a transcript of what leads up to and culminates int the exact peak:

“George, I’m in your corner. I’m ready to volunteer a little advice now and then and offer a pointer or two on strategy–if asked. I’ll help keep the facts straight or just stand back and cheer. But George, just one personal request: go out there and win one for the Gipper.”

What is your company using to gather insights into its content?

Photo Credit: C.C.Chapman

YouTube HotSpots Data Courtesy Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library

Filed under: Content Development

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