iPod video not gaining traction

5th generation iPodYears ago Panasonic’s consumer electronics division used the tag line, “Just slightly ahead of our time.” No one would dare use that today. Something like that is the kiss of death. The video iPod might be suffering the same fate. It seems nobody’s watching. In the year I’ve owned my video iPod I must say that I’ve produced more video podcasts than I have watched. I could never say that about television programs or DVDs.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Owners of Apple’s ubiquitous portable media device spend far more time on it listening to music or audio podcasts than they do using it to watch TV or movies. That was among the findings in an unprecedented preliminary study conducted by the audience-measurement service in October — about one year after a video window was introduced to iPod and its corresponding Internet platform, iTunes.

The iPod research conducted by Nielsen, which is owned by VNU Group, parent company of The Hollywood Reporter, is the first publicly available independently published data on consumption habits for the device. Nielsen monitored a panel of 400 iPod users in the U.S. from October 1-27 as part of its new initiative, Anywhere Anytime Media Measurement, or A2M2, which aims to measure audiences on myriad emerging digital platforms.

Among the findings: Less than 1% of content items played by iPod users on either iTunes or the device itself were videos. Among video iPod users, that percentage barely improves, up to 2.2%.

Even measured by duration of consumption, where 30- or 60-minute TV shows might seem to have a built-in advantage over three-minute songs, video comprises just 2% of total time spent using iPods or iTunes among iPod owners. Video iPod users consume video 11% of the time.

There’s no surprise here. Once again Apple’s hype trumps market reality.

Here’s what these findings mean for the would-be video podcaster.

  • Realize that the overwhelming majority of your viewers will continue to watch your video through a browser. They will not be going mobile with it. Your content will not end up at the gym, in the subway, or on a transcontinental flight.
  • For now, the video podcast is dead. The video blog isn’t. This is where Steve Garfield and company get it, and so many analysts don’t. I’ve lost count of how many industry pros I’ve encountered who use video podcast (vodcast) and video blog (vlog) interchangeably. They are different beasts.
  • The ideal video podcast length is the same as the ideal web video length, from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Again, Garfield gets it, while so many media types don’t.

So why are audio podcasts so darn popular, and video podcasts so unpopular?

  • Users can get something done while listening to an audio podcast. Not much can be accomplished with their eyes glued to the screen.
  • TV really is radio. When you get right down to it, you really don’t have to see much of what’s going on to know what’s going on. Next time you’re in the same room as a TV blaring Two and a Half Men, close your eyes. Promise, you won’t miss a thing.

Going forward iPod video will gain traction in the instructional space. The iPod might also begin to break into the DVR’s space, provided there are viable docking possibilities and the image quality improves. Just don’t expect your audience to be seeking entertainment on the 3.5-inch screen.

6 Thoughts on “iPod video not gaining traction

  1. Pingback: IPTVision

  2. This does not surprise me at all. Portable pocket size television sets have been with us for over twenty years they are only owned by a minority. People just don’t like watching video media on a tiny screen! No matter how sexy the little white/black box is.

    I predict the video podcast is will only be with us until IPTV gains proper traction, and then everyone will jump ship onto that platform. I know I certainly will and i’d like to think I’m ready for it. All this video podcast stuff is just a rehearsal.

  3. I think we have to be careful to differentiate iPod as the viewing device versus Internet video as a medium. Although many people won’t view “TV” on an iPod, there may well be quite a lot more willing to download videos from iTunes (especially at 640×480) and view them on their laptops and desktop computers. Hence the success of YouTube juxtaposed to the shutdown of channels like ESPN Mobile (for cell phones). It’s a matter of appropriate technology.

  4. Pingback: The TV Weasel :: Out with the old

  5. JeffDM on June 26, 2007 at 1:52 pm said:

    You say that video blogs and video podcasts are two very different things, but you don’t say why, or why you believe a distinction is merited. As far as I’ve read, nobody makes that distinction between audio blog and audio podcast, it’s all podcast. I don’t really understand why the terminology has to be differentiated in the video realm.

  6. Actually Jeff, I did explain the difference. The issue is not semantics, but user experience. The blog is PC browser-based, the podcast is a portable experience.

    Common misuse of terms aside, video is not a great on-the-go experience. Audio is. It will be interesting to see if the iPhone begins to bridge the gap. (Not likely in the near term, possible in the next 18 months.)

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