There’s no shortage of innovators when it comes to online advertising—especially when considering the nascent world of interactive ads generally finding their way into online videos and video players. So it was perhaps no surprise that News Corp’s social networking giant MySpace—whose star has fallen behind Facebook on the popularity scale but whose voracious advertising environment continues to plow forward—announced Mon it will use online ad-insertion firm Auditude to place ads within video clips from Viacom nets like MTV and Comedy Central.

The MTV factor makes a lot of sense, considering that MySpace has focused much more heavily on music than Facebook, providing a robust platform for artists and their fans to connect. Facebook may look cleaner and attract a more “adult” audience, but MySpace remains the place where the younger crowd goes to trick out their pages with graffiti, gab about the hottest bands and generally revel in a more chaotic and free-for-all environment. That, of course, plays to MTV’s demographic strengths. Meanwhile, Comedy Central’s young, “hip” audience also is perhaps more the target for shows like “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” whose constant postings to sites YouTube led Viacom to sue the online video site last year. That lawsuit is still pending.

As its past actions against YouTube may suggest, Viacom—perhaps more so than any other big media company—is wholly focused on “getting paid” for any content that lands in cyberspace. Others may hope for promotional boosts that lead to higher linear ratings, but Viacom has generally taken a hard line in order to ensure its content is protected no matter on what platform it resides. By linking up with MySpace and Auditude, Viacom will be able to monetize its content even though it can’t technically control where it gets posted. “Auditude is opening the floodgates for users to program video on MySpace and ensure copyright holders get paid,” said Jeff Berman, MySpace pres, marketing and sales. “In one fell swoop, Auditude and its partners are empowering consumers and building a better business model. That’s a good deal all around.”

Perhaps. To be sure, Auditude brings certain assets to the table. It boasts more than a billion minutes of professional content already indexed, including more than 250 million videos, and 4 years worth of 100 TV channels. It’s also launching an “Attribution Overlay” feature, which automatically identifies content and provides additional details on shows as viewers watch. For example, the content owner could integrate information about the video clip being played, including access to e-commerce links to upsell viewers on similar shows or related products from sponsors. "We embrace the fact that online video is fundamentally social and created the identification technology and advertising platform to include the power of audience syndication—fans uploading content to the Web—as a form of content distribution," said Adam Cahan, CEO of Auditude. "We hope to grow the market for monetizing online video by simplifying ad targeting and providing scale through audience participation."

The bottom line is that content owners are finding more ways than ever to integrate advertising into online video. And with the economy faltering and overall ad spend expected to wane in 2009, such flexibility comes not a moment too soon.

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