Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Hulu: Turns Out We Didn’t Miss Sarah Palin So Much, After All

File under “interesting and a bit surprising”: Earlier this month I cited comScore data that showed that traffic to red-hot Hulu had fallen off from October to November. That made sense, because the site had shown a huge spike due to interest in the “Saturday Night Live” Sarah Palin clips, and those became less interesting after Election Day.

But here are data that show that Hulu’s post-Sarah letdown may not have been as bad as we thought. The source: comScore.

The measurement company’s “Video Metrix” survey, out today, shows that Hulu’s unique viewers fell 6.4 percent from October to November. The comScore Media Metrix data I cited earlier showed a 10.8 percent drop (click to enlarge).

That’s because the two data sets are measuring two different things. ComScore (SCOR) analyst Andrew Lipsman’s explanation:

While Media Metrix data only accounts for visitors to the property URL, Video Metrix accounts for viewers across the expanded network of sites where video might be viewed. So while only visitors to Hulu.com are counted in Media Metrix, viewers of Hulu videos anywhere on the Internet would be credited in Video Metrix.”

In other words: The new data also include the audience from Hulu distribution partners like MySpace, as well as all those blogs that became de facto distribution partners by taking advantage of Hulu’s handy embedding feature. Once you factor them in, the joint venture between News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox and GE’s (GE) NBC becomes much stickier. (But keep in mind that the distribution deals–at least the official ones–cut into Hulu’s slim margins).

Note also that the number of videos viewed dropped by an even smaller margin–3.6 percent. And note that engagement numbers–minutes per viewer and minutes per video–increased during the same time. Finally, note that all of this comes after a huge spike from September to October–uniques had jumped 91 percent–which means that the site was still able to keep most of its new audience.

It’s still worth watching to see how much of that audience sticks around over the long haul. Hulu’s most popular clips for December are almost entirely composed of “Saturday Night Live” bits. And unless I missed something, bits like this Obama parody aren’t generating the same kind of excitement that the Palin clips did. But I gotta say–it sure is easy to embed these suckers.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald