New ads jar some YouTube fans

Overlays that appear briefly at the bottom of videos annoy some viewers, but overall response to the experiment is mixed.

Matt Harding, creator of one of YouTube's all-time most-watched videos, had a strong immediate reaction to the video site's new advertising experiment: "I'm annoyed."

Harding, who is seen dancing in famous spots around the world in the clip "Where the Hell is Matt?" hadn't viewed the ads until CNET sent him a link to a video featuring one of YouTube's mini-commercials, which the company started testing today against a handful of videos (but not Harding's).

"As a viewer, I don't like this at all," said Harding, whose video has been viewed more than 7 million times since it was posted a year ago. "As someone who makes videos, I would object to allowing them to put an ad on the screen. Put it on the margins, above the player but not on the screen itself."

Fans of Google's YouTube are starting to react to overlay advertisements the company began testing on Wednesday. Some find them jarring, some in international quarters wish they could see them, and still others are wondering if they can make money off their own videos with these ads. While there's hardly a unanimous opinion, one thing is for certain: Google is finally looking to cash in on its $1.65 billion YouTube acquisition.

"If YouTube starts with accessory advertising while the video is playing, I leave YouTube," said one poster on YouTube's blog with the screen name "Amgervinus."

Another viewer who refers to himself on YouTube as "quepasakoolj18" put it more succinctly in his post: "Yuck." Poll

We now interrupt this broadcast...
What's your take on the short ads now showing on YouTube videos?

I hardly noticed.
10 seconds? I can live with that.
10 seconds? Waaay too long.
Adios, YouTube.

View results

The ads appear at the bottom of a video shortly after the clip starts to play and disappear after 10 seconds. They resemble the TV-style ads that often feature the image of a celebrity walking onto the bottom of a TV screen for a few brief moments. YouTube executives said Tuesday that extensive testing showed that viewers rejected any format that forced them to sit through a commercial prior to a clip being played, a process known as a pre-roll.

Using overlays, executives said, was the least intrusive way to get a message in front of their audience, or so they believe.

Critics don't have to worry about the ads appearing on the iPhone or AppleTV--at least at this point. Google has said that the ads will appear only on the YouTube site "at this time." The ads only show up at YouTube in the United States, and some international users were upset when they couldn't check them out.

One British user responded, appropriately, in a video blog he posted to YouTube.

"Now, this idea will thrust the adverts in people's faces, which means the click-thru rate might be a bit higher," said the YouTube video creator who calls himself Nuodai. "In my estimation, if an advert comes up, people are going to be just as uninterested as, say, a banner ad at the top of the page.

"Eventually people are going to get used to these adverts popping up and their automatic reaction will be to click the close button or just letting it go away, which is why I don't think this is going to be as effective as they make it out to be," he said. "Personally I think this is a very disruptive way of advertising."

A smaller number of those who posted to YouTube's site were taking a wait-and-see approach. ThoughtScientist wrote that "as long as the situation doesn't evolve to the point where ads are forced on all videos, there should be no problems."

Others sympathized with YouTube's plight.

The company has long said it was looking for a way to post ads but in a way that wouldn't irk users. "(YouTube fans) can't really complain about it annoying them or being intrusive to the video because you can manually click it away easily," said "123woow." "Good job YouTube."

Plenty of others who posted comments to YouTube were confused about whether video creators could profit from it.

YouTube has said that it will insert ads only into videos created by a select number of "partners." Google, which acquired YouTube last October for $1.65 billion, is planning to charge advertisers $20 for every 1,000 times ads are displayed. Google also will share the ad revenue with those partners.

Even the promise of money couldn't sway some YouTube fans to embrace the videos, and they threatened to unsubscribe to any video makers who were too commercial. But Internet viewers, of course, are often fickle with any sort of ad.

"I'm okay with this," said Rrandiicom on YouTube's blog. "But eventually it would get boring. I wouldn't subscribe to anyone who does this, but it wouldn't stop me from watching one of their videos. It'd be great though to get money for the videos you've made."

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