For content marketing to become the mainstream medium it deserves to be, the industry needs to get its act together on measurement.

While branded content is probably the most exciting and rapidly growing marketing medium right now, the industry is being sluggish when it comes to measuring the success of its shiny new output. We’ve lamented this before and suggested some basic common sense approaches to planning and evaluating content. But there are still few even tacitly agreed metrics, benchmarks or methodologies, which means clients and agencies are starting from scratch each time they release video content, if they even consider measurement at all.

It seems that this situation has been exacerbated by media spend, or rather lack of it. The beauty for clients making their first forays into content is that they can make a film and then simply release it out into the wilds of YouTube, to be discovered and loved by millions. No large media bill to justify, no need for research.

But of course the wilds of YouTube are a treacherous and unpredictable place, and shiny branded content, however attractive and gorgeous and entertaining it may be, can disappear into the swamp if its intended audience doesn't know it's there.

Some time after its release, this happens.

Marketing Director (loudly, urgently, to anyone in the vicinity): 'How did that gorgeous, tantalising, shiny film perform?' 
Nearest Marketing Exec: 'Gulp' (no tracking, but I can check the YouTube views...of which there are... five). 'Err, we got five views boss' 
MD: Why only five? 
NME: 'Err, well, maybe it was too long?'

No distribution budget, no measurement, equals no chance, no learning and evolutionary disaster for content.

The good news though is that this is incredibly easy to rectify as the success of content can be measured in EXACTLY the same way as any other marketing activity. If you can measure a medium as broad and broadcast as the faithful old telly ad then surely online video measurement is a relative doddle, what with all the extra measurable bells and whistles available online. It just needs a leetle judicious investment and you will be able to answer all your questions and secure more budget for the all-important distribution of the next film.

Familiar research methodologies including online interviews, both pre and post engagement with control cells, community forums and buzz metrics can all uncover a wealth of insight into the performance of your content. Research could reveal the effect the content has on brand preference or consideration, how it’s building personality, or driving intent to purchase. Being online you can also track how people arrived at the content (were they previously on a competitor site for example) and if they’re likely to share it with friends, right through to brochure downloads or even purchase.

Essentially with bespoke research you can get to a much more rounded and useful picture than the one dimensional YouTube view count, which may not even be relevant depending on your primary objectives. With the KPIs set and the results lining up in an orderly manner from a trusted source we can really start to see and justify the value of great content to ourselves and our boards. Content is not the Wild West nor should it lose itself in wilds of YouTube. It needs to pull on its big boy pants and measure itself up against the other media. It's not that hard.

Kath Hipwell, Planning Director