When users scroll through their Twitter feeds and see a video, it will begin to automatically play while muted. Clicking on the video will play it in its entirety in the full-screen viewer with sound. Think Facebook-style video, as opposed to the model that requires a click to start playing.
The auto-play function, which Twitter has been testing for several months, will apply to all video content uploaded directly to Twitter, including GIFs and six-second Vines.
“We have learned just showing a thumbnail with a play button isn’t enough to entice consumers” to watch, said Adam Bain, Twitter’s president of revenue and partnerships. “Consumers preferred this video viewing experience on Twitter more than any other experience.”
Ramping up the video ad product can’t come fast enough for the 140-character messaging service. Twitter recently reported disappointing first-quarter results due in part to ad revenue coming in below expectations. And just last week, Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo said he is stepping down amid pressure from investors who are worried about the company’s future growth.
For Twitter, auto-play video represents a big financial opportunity, despite the risk of frustrating some users who view the initiative as intrusive. Video ads command higher ad rates than traditional display ads. And Facebook, which introduced auto-play videos in 2013, is now generating about four billion video views per day up from one billion last year.
Still, Twitter has its work cut out for it since the U.S. online video market, which eMarketer expects to top US$7.77bn this year, is dominated by YouTube.
“There are many places for advertisers to consider for video ads and most of the focus is on YouTube and Facebook because of the number of people that use those properties,” said Debra Williamson, an analyst at eMarketer. “One of the things Twitter struggles with is reach because it is not as big as some of the other properties.”
In an effort to bolster its chances of wooing ad dollars, Twitter is leveraging marketers’ growing concerns about paying for video ads that appear on parts of Web pages that people never see. Some companies have suggested that only about half of the video ads across the web are actually viewable.
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