Here then is part 3 of the full interview transcript with Seung Bak and Suk Park, the founders of the Asian Media streaming site Dramafever.This section deals with issues of audience measurement and engagement metric, as well as the challenges and opportunities licensed online video platforms face in light of the many unofficial sources of content out there.
Xiaochang: One of the big questions that always comes up is how do you measure audience engagement for advertisers?
Seung: Actually, that’s very easy for us. We have a video platform, so we know basically when people hit play and when they drop out. Mind you, all of our videos are pretty long, about an hour long each. And looking at all the aggregate stuff from traffic to date it was shocking. About half the people stay on until about the 90% of the video. On most video sites I think people drop off after about the first minute or so, but what we’re finding is that our drop off rate is very minimal, every 10 minutes 10% drop off, every five minutes another 2% drop off. We’re finding that about half the people are watching the whole episode every given time. So that’s just on the per drama episode basis and we’ll have to do more research but based on what we’re seeing now, our engagement rate is one of the highest on the internet from a video site perspective. These are very addictive dramas from what you’ve probably personally experienced.
Suk: When you talk about how do you measure audience engagement, what sort of advertisement are you referring to? Banners? Or TV ads? Or mostly online or other platforms?
Xiaochang: I mean, whatever you guys are using. Part of the question is just what sort of numbers are you presenting to your advertisers to tell them ‘this is the amount of people who are paying attention’ to your content?
Suk: It’s interesting because different metrics apply to different advertising platforms, so when you’re talking about impressions on a banner it gets tricky because it depends on the clicking of the banner and so forth. That’s when click-through rates when click through rates become a measure of ROI. When we’re talking about video ads, the conversation with the agency changes a little bit because although click-through rates are asked because they’re curious about what the regular click-through rates are, but what’s understood it that when these ads show up, 100% of the attention is focused on the ads. You cannot click forward, you cannot stop the ads, and if you want to watch the content — and 50% remain until the 95th percentile — you are watching the bulk of the ads. For branding opportunities, it’s as good as it gets in terms of getting attention and relate that particular advertisement to that particular audience.
Seung: Just to add to that, the way we’re distributing videos right now is pure streaming. This is not one of those things where you click play and you wait for the whole thing to download and you go away. Our site doesn’t work like that. It’s only streaming the bit of information you’re looking at at the moment, so if you click pause, that’s not getting accounted for in the engagement metrics. That’s why we’re very pleasantly surprised at the level of engagement that we’re having because these are long videos and to have 50% of the people stick through the end is pretty interesting.
Xiaochang: Where do you think the appeal of this content is for your audience? What makes Asian dramas, or Korean dramas, different from what else is out there?
Seung: I think for the most part, the stuff that we’re showing isn’t just any type of content. We’re curating some of the blockbusters from Korea, and certainly it’s heavily geared towards content that’s proven pretty popular throughout Asia. I think the common thread through Asian dramas and telenovelas and so forth is that it’s somewhat of a refreshing change from what you’re getting in American media. The story lines tend to be, for the most part, wholesome. They’re very engaging and it’s very linear — you can’t start from episode 24, you have to start at episode one and the story kind of pulls you in so that you watch the whole thing. The content itself has proven throughout the world that there’s tremendous appeal in it. What we’re proving here is that in the US where this content hasn’t been distributed in a way where the mainstream has been exposed to it and we’re hoping to be the platform that does that.
Suk: I would that it’s not that the content is better or worse. It is what it is. But we know that there’s a demand for it and we want to make it available in a legal way.
Seung: We had some initial assumptions before we launched our beta, and the whole idea was always to take information as we were getting it and be able to adapt and add new features. So when we lauched beta, we basically had one goal and that was to prove that there is a market for this by providing by far the best experience for viewing Korean dramas online right now. As you can see it’s pretty high quality. There’s almost no wait time. We feel pretty good about the results we’ve seen. It’s only been about a month and we’ve kept it pretty under the radar. We’ve only engaged the select sort of bloggers that cater to this audience. Very niche blogs. And while working with them, we got about 13,000 beta registrations within the first month, which is pretty good. And there’s an additional 20,000 – 30,000 people who came to our site who didn’t register and I think that’s the experience with closed beta in general. I think it shows that even with minimal marketing to date, and with a very small base of content, we were able to prove that there is a demand for all of this. I don’t want to extrapolate too much from a limited sample pool, but we’re getting lots of feedback from people and we feel good that this could easily spill over into somewhat of a mainstream audience based on what we’ve seen so far.
Xiaochang: If the does spill over into a mainstream audience, do you see it going on to some broadcast channels? Do you think will be different sorts of distribution channels for the content that’s not just online?
Seung: That could be. What our content licensers decide to do on their own is ultimately up to them. What we’re focusing on with Asian media companies is to offer them new audiences, to create a platform for them to monetize existing content. So we’re fundamentally web-focused. We want to create a destination site where people can experience the best content from Asia in an english-supported format so people can understand it.
Xiaochang: One of the appeals of sites like Mysoju and sites like d-addicts is that there’s such a wide array of content and this is one of the things that limited the rental circuit and certainly limited the broadcast channels in terms of limiting their audience, so where do you think you guys fit in with that? I mean, it does take time to get licensing deals and you can’t provide the range of content and be as responsive as the fansubbing groups who can turn around content in a day after it airs on TV in Korea.
Seung: That was one of our biggest concerns going into this. We started up the site with basically 10 titles. Even now we only have 14 titles and all of our titles are stuff that’s already been aired and a lot of people have already consumed it throughout the web. But in spite of the fact we have a very limited selection, we’re still able to get 13,000 beta registrations in month one. We’re getting consistent traffic everyday and we’re getting consistent feedback. A lot of this is people who’ve already watched the same content on mysoju but they want to watch it again. There’s also a lot of people who always felt a little weird going to an illegal pirated site, so they come to our site.
Suk: Your question is very interesting. There are other sites that have a wider variety of content, and immediate content that is broadcasting right now. How can we compete in that market? What Seung said it’s right — there are people who come to our site because of the better quality and because we’re a legal site. It’s exponentially harder to do things legally. The assumption that we made in the beginning, that we still hold to this day, is that going forward, maintaining these illegal sites will be harder and harder to do. From two different points: the first one is the advertising model. When you have an illegal site, you cannot bring direct sponsors to that site. You have to live by the advertising network that is willing to sponsor sites that infringe on intellectual property laws and so forth. The second one is that most of these sites, because they are smaller operations, they have to base a lot of their infrastructure on existing platforms. Mysoju loads all of their videos onto Veoh, youtube, etc. These companies also need to abide by much more stringent rules and regulations meant to protect IP, so if there is a site that consistently uploads material that doesn’t belong to them, it is their responsibility upon notification to take it down immediately.
Seung: I think Suk is addressing very good long term considerations that ultimately favor out business. You’re addressing very real concerns that we have, which is that we’re competing with these guys that basically have none of the hurdles that we face because they’re doing it illegally. But in the first month of our beta, we’re competing head-on with these guys. The illegal sites are still up and running, they’re running the same content that we have, and yet in spite of it we’re getting consistent traffic. And in fact, we’re adding new content every week and we’re noticing that every time we add content, we’re getting a spike in traffic. For all these reasons we feel pretty good that even though we’re at a competetive disadvantage when it comes to content selection, the simple fact that we’re offering an experience that is clearly superior to the illegal sites out there, that’s winning over an audience. And we feel that as we add more content, the audience will come, because they’re already coming with just 12, 13 titles.