Posted by David Price 01 October 2014
In defence of autoplay: Why IDG UK's sites now embed autoplay videos in our articles
We've received a number of complaints about this practice, so I thought I would take the opportunity of explaining why we have made this decision and to discuss (and hopefully assuage) some of the objections readers have to it. In future we will direct commenters to this page when they raise the subject of autoplaying videos, and we invite - and will engage with - discussion on this subject in the comments field below.
Please be assured that we read all comments and care deeply about our readers' experience on the sites - but while we do our best, we cannot always accommodate precisely what our readers ask for, as I will try to explain in this article.
What we're doing, and why
First of all, I'll be completely honest with you. While we are very proud of the independent editorial video content we are creating here at IDG, the main reason we are making our embedded videos play automatically is because it earns us money.
PCA, Macworld, Digital Arts and TechAdvisor are free sites that are supported by advertising - indeed, we depend on advertising revenue to be able to keep the sites free. Making our videos play automatically when a reader loads an article gives us a higher number of video views. This means we have more opportunities to deliver video adverts, and therefore make additional revenue from video advertising.
That's the simple reason why we - along with many other websites - have chosen to run autoplay videos. It's a question of compromises, of course; there are downsides to this decision, and we must always balance the needs and wishes of our readers against our own ability to keep the sites commercially viable. Getting this balance right is absolutely crucial, and we have always invited readers to give us robust feedback when we get it wrong.
What we're not doing, and why
We don't force readers to watch the entire video: When you load the page, the video starts playing automatically; or, if it has a pre-roll advert attached, the advert starts playing. In either case you can click stop immediately. You are not obliged to watch any of the video in order to read the article. We hope readers will watch and enjoy the videos but won't be offended if you don't.
We don't hide the autoplay videos: This is a big one. A major annoyance with autoplay videos is when you can hear them playing but can't find them to switch them off, usually because the video is embedded halfway down a long article. We have set up our autoplay mechanism in such a way that videos only play if they are at the very top of the article. The video is right there in front of you when you arrive at the page, making it easy to switch it off at once if you don't fancy watching it.
(I should add here, however, that due to a glitch in the way our system was implemented at first, videos were initially autoplaying throughout articles on all four of the sites - which we can imagine was very annoying. Rest assured that this has now been dealt with, and please do get in touch if you see anything similar happening in future.)
We don't autoplay irrelevant videos: Finally, here's the principle we follow when adding an autoplaying video to the top of an article: is it relevant to the article, and does it answer the questions that led the reader to the article in the first place? If you find an irrelevant video autoplaying on an article, let us know!
We know the discussion on autoplaying videos is unlikely to end any time soon, and - as I said earlier - feel free to add your thoughts on this subject to the bottom of this article. Thanks for reading, and watching.