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Summary:

Some people won’t pay to see online content. But there’s a chance they’re willing to watch an ad or fill out a survey instead. Here’s how one company is bringing such options to mobile devices.

Online ad provider Selectable Media unveiled a new service Tuesday that lets publishers ask readers to watch a video ad in exchange for getting access to certain types of video game or news content on mobile devices. The service, which Selectable says is the first of its kind for mobile, has been in beta for a while but is now open to everyone.

The offering, which comes at a time when paywalls are finally getting more traction, shows how publishers are also persuading visitors to pay not just with money but with their time.

As my colleague Mathew Ingram explained yesterday, we’re seeing growth in so-called “survey walls” in which websites ask visitors to fill out a survey before seeing a piece of content. The option is a good way to earn revenue from the large number of people who can’t or won’t pay for content. It also presents an attractive option for mobile platforms where more and more people are consuming content.

Selectable Media, for instance, works with both advertisers and publishers to drop a selection of short video ads in front of a story, game or video. The idea is that you have to have to watch the ad till the end before you get to see what you want; viewers get to choose which ad they want to see. While this resembles what happens when a user sees a pre-roll video on YouTube, the difference is that Selectable can plunk the clips into non-video fare like games or text articles. It also offers several different ads at once, in the hopes of increasing user engagement in the ad.

On mobile devices, it looks like this:

Selectable screenshot

CEO Matt Minoff said by phone that, for now, Selectable’s primary customer for mobile is online game maker 50 Cubes which asks players to watch Google and Adobe ads in exchange for game goodies. But he says the company is negotiating deals with news sites and other traditional web publishers.

The company, which has clients like HBO and Kraft and is backed by Microsoft’s Bing fund, says nearly all users watch the ads till the end. It also claims that click-through rates and brand recall is far higher than for standard pre-roll videos. Asked whether the possibility of slow-loading videos on mobile devices might be a turn-off for publishers and users, Minoff says video optimization tools and fast phone networks mean this isn’t a big issue.

So will all this work as an alternative to paywalls? It’s too soon to say but the concept seems sound — especially as publishers keep looking for a mobile advertising strategy that doesn’t involve low-priced display ads. Users too will likely get more familiar with the option of trading their time for content; the concept is now being echoed not just with “survey walls” but with projects like star director Roland Emmerich’s idea of rewarding viewers for watching movie trailers.

(Image by Eduard Stelmakh via Shutterstock)

  1. Because having video ads from Google wasn’t annoying enough.I never expect the damn sound when my mouse is over the ads by accident and ,before noticing the video, i have no idea what window went crazy.
    When ads get too annoying, ad blockers get popular , might be the right time for that.

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  2. Awesome concept, can’t wait to see more of this on mobile and web. The market for value exchange inventory is already very large for social gaming, music listening, and other apps but I believe that premium editorial content unlocking will grow this segment significantly. Congrats to Matt & his team!

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  3. In general, I can’t stand video ads in front of select video content that I am trying to access or view but the statement below in particular, may be acceptable because we have choices on what we watch. The worst place I have experienced video ads in front of video content is http://www.orlandosentinel.com. Even to watch a 5 second clip of video, you need to sit through a 60 second ad that you could care less about.

    “Selectable Media, for instance, works with both advertisers and publishers to drop a selection of short video ads in front of a story, game or video. The idea is that you have to watch the ad till the end before you get to see what you want; viewers get to choose which ad they want to see.”

    I say good luck to Selectable Media. Since the video ad process is here for the long term, let’s make it better for individuals and less painful.

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  4. How is it that when it’s about old-fashioned trad’l TV spots, it’s called “intrusive” – but when it’s the same thing on a smartphone or tablet it’s called “innovative” ???

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  5. Seems a good idea.

    Depends on whether the publisher has a choice as what type of ads go on the front of their content. You Tube stuck an advert for a funeral company on the front of one of my videos. Not exactly in keeping with the content of our video.

    If it is a good mix then it could work without annoying the readers.

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  6. If you go to Selectable Media’s web site you will find they have no demos working. Maybe they should have fixed that before launching the web site …

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