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Mobile and video tracking challenge the Web analytics

Still, if mobile is very important to you today, you may need to use both a niche mobile player and a traditional analytics vendor. In the longer run, it’s hard to know how successfully the niche vendors will fare, as the major analytics players catch up, and new phones come on the market that support JavaScript and cookies.

Video analytics

The research firm eMarketer projects that by 2011, more than 85 percent of the U.S. Internet population will consume Internet video, up from roughly 63 percent in 2006. Yet, even today we’re seeing a dramatic increase in the use of streaming video for advertising and content, especially by media-oriented Web sites.

Traditional Web analytics vendors can do an adequate job of analyzing when a visitor actually starts a video, through basic page tagging and log file data collection. However, more advanced tracking—such as capturing pauses, stops, rewinds and fast forwards—is a lot more challenging. There are two competing approaches to this: putting logic into individual Flash movies or embedding tags in the video player itself.

Let’s look at the first approach. In page tag solutions, video developers need to insert click event tags within the video application. Those then typically make calls to the JavaScript on the page that your vendor has given you (and you have likely configured). On the plus side, data collection of that granularity is virtually impossible with simple log files because once the application is open, there are no more server calls—hence no record within the Web server log file. Moreover, you can capture as many or as few events as you want, and you can track almost any event that transpires—as long as the associated JavaScript understands the data.

On the downside, you have to embed code in each and every individual Flash file, and you need a developer (or at least someone conversant with ActionScript) to do that. And, as an application, you need to test it to make sure everything’s working properly. So you trade off effort and complexity for richness.

Now let’s take a look at the second approach. Video analytics’ boutique firms, such as Visible Measures and GlanceGuide, focus instead on the video player, rather than the video itself as the source. Those methods focus on integrating vendor-specific code into the video player, and capturing visitor interactions with the video player based on the specific file being viewed at the time.

Because you basically need to implement code only once on the video player vs. multiple times (within the video files), the laborsaving potential is quite compelling to video-driven Web properties.

Of course, your vendor needs to supply the right code for any and each player you may be using, and you don’t have the flexibility to modify or enrich the analytics on a video-by-video basis. But for most publishers, we suspect that doesn’t matter.

So what are the key takeaways here? Well, however critical it is to capture mobile visits and true video activity, you should remember that the tools and methodologies remain very young, with different vendors suggesting different results from the same activity.

To be sure, you can obtain some important information here. If your mobile customers aren’t clicking the "download" button, why not? If the average video viewer clicks to a new stream on average halfway through the video (not uncommon), are they missing key messages? Perform solid diligence, and test solutions carefully before signing a contract. Our research into video and mobile tracking by even the more established vendors suggests there are still a lot of mysteries in the data.

This article is excerpted from CMS Watch’s Web analytics research; complete findings are available on a subscription basis.

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