The War on Autoplay and What it Means for Publishers

Autoplay is a crucial element of social video. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all set videos to autoplay by default (though of course users can adjust their settings). Beyond social, autoplay video is extremely common in online video advertising. Ad placements across the web are autoplaying videos in the margins of sites. But the position of autoplay in the video ecosystem has become precarious, and its days appear to be numbered.

The Big Guns have Come Out Against Autoplay

Ad-blockers and browser extensions to block autoplay are nothing new. But these add-ons were opt-ins that mostly tech savvy users had to seek out. For the majority of people, autoplay is a part of their day-to-day browsing experience. Not for long, it seems.

With the rollout of Safari 11 this year, Apple introduced built-in features to block autoplaying video and audio on most websites. In January, Google will be doing the same in an update to its incredibly popular Chrome browser.

These moves have been motivated, in part, by the Initial Better Ads Standards report and recommendation from the Coalition for Better Ads. Their research has found that autoplay video ads both on desktop and mobile “fall beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability.”

Of course, if consumers are reacting negatively to a particular ad approach, the industry needs to find a way to change course. But autoplay is a big part of the online ad industry, and of online video more broadly.

Autoplay is Critical to Publishers

Many video publishers rely on autoplay for their on-site video ads. Over 60% of digital publishers, in fact. And while publishers of every size utilize autoplay video ads, they are especially important for smaller publishers with niche content or local audiences.

Regardless of the size of a publisher, digital ad revenue on O&O sites is an important revenue stream. Autoplay is a fundamental part of that online ad economy right now.

Beyond the income of video ad placements, social autoplay is just as crucial for publishers. With feeds overflowing, autoplay gives video a leg up. The visual action is eye-catching and if a video’s opening is loaded with some exciting visuals, viewers can be hooked.

Getting new viewers and growing audience on social is complicated by a removal of autoplay. There’s no reason to think video won’t remain the most popular type of social content, but new approaches may need to be taken to prompt viewers to press play.

What are publishers to do?

In a web without autoplay, publishers will face some new challenges. While it will take time to parse out shifting best practices and seachange in the industry, there are some things publishers can already start thinking about.

For both ads and social video, it will be critical to give potential viewers a reason to click play. This means enticing stills and video titles that truly pique curiosity. Intriguing share copy will be more important than ever on social. For ads, creators will have to entice people to click play knowing it’s an ad – not always an easy thing to achieve.

One likely result in the demise of autoplay is a rise in mid-roll ads and sponsored videos. Video advertising is a big part of online advertising, proving both effective and fruitful. It’s unlikely that video ads will go away, but they’ll need to be presented in new ways. Mid-roll ads – either on social platforms or on O&O sites peppered among the publisher’s content – are likely to increase in number and delivery mechanics in the near future. Additionally, publishers would need to invest in strengthening their relationship with brands and come up with new content products.

On many counts, it’s a matter of waiting to see how the ad industry, social media platforms, and major publishers respond to the changes. As the geography continues to shift, we’ll be here to guide you through it.


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