Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Want to Skip a Pre-Roll Ad on Your Free Video? Pay Up.

If you’re the kind of person who complains about “pre-roll” video ads, now you can put your money where your mouth is. Pay up, and you won’t have to see them.

That’s the pitch for SkipIt, a new service from video ad company SpotXchange. The idea: Users set up an account, and when they play videos on sites that use the service, they can pay 10 cents a pop to skip over the ads.

Meanwhile, SpotXchange tells Web publishers it will pay them more than they would have received from the video advertisers if the pre-roll had played. And it says it will end up increasing the value of the rest of the publishers’ video ads, since users will only see the stuff they really like.

All of that sound unwieldy and unlikely to you? I think so, too.

Hard to imagine consumers pulling out their credit cards in order to skip a pre-roll. And while SpotXchange imagines that there will be lots of ways for users to earn SkipIt credits without actually spending their own money — another advertiser could give out freebies for watching one of their ads, etc. — simply registering for an ad-skipping service seems like an awful lot of work. After all, you could just look away.

In any case, this is likely going to be theoretical for lots of Web surfers. SkipIt is launching today on just a handful of sites, none of which are owned by big publishers. But SpotXchange says it has a deal in place with magazine publisher Meredith, so you should start seeing it on sites like Better Recipes soon.

And SpotXchange CEO Michael Shehan, who concedes that this is a work in progress, insists that there has to be an audience for some version of what he’s offering. “There’s a segment of people who will do a lot of work to not watch ads,” he says.

At the very least, SkipIt seems like another acknowledgment that most pre-rolls are clumsy and unpopular. YouTube and Hulu already let users skip lots of their pre-rolls with a single, free click, which they say increases the value of the ads you choose to watch. And last month we told you about Solve Media’s answer to the problem, which involves typing in a brand message in order to skip the ad.

Here’s a video from SkipIt that explains the service. You’ll note that there’s no ad before the ad:

[Shutterstock/Tom Sebourn]

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work