Video, once an expensive and cumbersome format for Web users in South Africa, is quickly moving into the mainstream. Marketers that don't buy into its potential are at risk of falling behind the needs of their audience.
We are seeing local users show the same sort of appetite for video content as audiences in bandwidth-rich countries, thanks to faster and cheaper bandwidth reaching the market. There is a shift from consuming video content as an expensive value-add towards seeing it as an integral part of what the Web has to offer.
This trend is similar to the one we are seeing unfold in the rest of the world. No longer is the Web primarily about images and text, but it is also a channel where people can consume a range of video content from entertainment to education and from news programming to sports.
Content is king
So what's behind the growth of online video, besides the obvious boost new undersea cables have given to bandwidth in South Africa? It's the rapid increase in high-quality content, with 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube alone every minute of the day. This is not just user-generated content, but good, professional programming around the latest news, sports, entertainment and more.
Little wonder that online video is continuing to grow in importance as an advertising medium. In the US alone, online video ad spending can be expected to double its share of the digital advertising market from 7.9% in 2012 to 15% in 2016, according to data from eMarketer. This year alone, online video ad spending in the US will increase by 55%.
What all of this means is that to be where the customer is watching video content, advertisers increasingly need to be online. Many users are not just using online video to watch sports, music videos, or news when they're not in front of a traditional television, but are choosing it instead of broadcast.
It's easy to reach the online audience
Indeed, the worlds of television and broadband are actually moving closer together as a result of TVs that support online services such as YouTube and devices that support streaming online media such as consoles and media centre PC.
Perhaps even more relevant for South Africa is the fact that faster and cheaper mobile broadband options in the pipeline will bring more online video to cell phones and tablets. The opportunities for marketers now and in the future are immense.
It's easy to leverage content created for TV to reach the online audience.
Brands such as Nando's already do this to great effect, generating huge volumes of traffic simply by posting ads to their YouTube channels. Other opportunities include pre-roll ads ahead of YouTube videos.
Online video is a great way to connect with the community. It allows you to package content in a way that is meaningful, humorous and authentic. The content - if it's good enough - will be spread rapidly between users and they'll watch it enthusiastically rather than seeing it as an intrusion into their TV watching time.
The trick is that once the consumer commits time - be it 30 seconds or two minutes to watching your content, he or she will expect to be entertained.
Get that right, and the benefits in terms of getting your message to your customers will be immense.