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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Stuff.co.nz goes VOD

6 August 2019

Stuff have launched a new website.

It's a video-on-demand (VOD) site that, according to CE Sinead Boucher, as quoted in this story, has real benefits for advertisers. "Our advertising ustomers want to have their brands presented in a brand safe, quality environment and Play Stuff helps to meet that demand" Boucher says.

This is clearly a dig at the "adpocalyse" that savaged YouTube's earnings in the wake of the discovery that household-brands were being promoted on videos containing violence and terrorist footage.

Indeed, these days YouTube is wildly over-vigilant when it comes to keeping ads off any video that might in any way be considered offensive or "unsuitable".

Unfortunately, since much of the determination as to what passes muster and what doesn't is done by computer algorithms, far too many innocent content creators and their videos are caught in the crossfire.

But let's take a look at Play.Stuff.co.nz and see how it shapes up.

Well first of all, it seems that Stuff sets the threshold for what they consider safe and acceptable content for advertisers way lower than YouTube does.

Right now, YouTube is not allowing advertising on any videos that even refer to the Texas Walmart shootings of a few days ago.

These fall under the "sensitive issues" disqualification from YT's perspective.

Indeed, even videos expressing sympathy for the victims, or which simply mention the shooting in passing are demonetized for doing so on the YouTube platform.

But let's check out Play.Stuff and see if they're just as interested in providing advertisers with a "brand safe, quality environment"...

Obviously not.

As you can see in the video above, there *is* advertising in a pre-roll before the news item.

Compare that to the many clips on YouTube, even those from major broadcasters, which have been demonetized (Example (CBS)).

So Stuff says "yeah, put ads on videos relating to sensitive issues" and YouTube says "no way, demonetize those vids".

Clearly this is simply a difference in policy between the two publishers -- but who do you think has got it right?

Some (including YouTube) would say that it's not okay to leverage tragedy and suffering for monetary gain. Stuff pitches itself as protecting advertisers' brands but then associates those advertisers with the worst of human behaviour and the misery it produces.

What do you think?

As for Play.Stuff itself... well I'm not a great fan of the layout and user-interface but that's often a highly subjective issue.

My biggest complaint would be that there appears to be no way to personalise the content by creating watch-lists, play-lists, etc.

Instead of being able to configure Play.Stuff to show you only the material genres or content you're interested in, every visit becomes an exercise in wading through the ocean of dross to find the gems. With time rapidly becoming our most precious commodity, I predict that this "blunt instrument" approach will drive many people away.

Being able to set up your own personalised Play.Stuff channel would be an absolutely essential part of any site like this. As soon as you logged on (or your persistent cookie identified you), the site could serve up relevant material that you've defined as being of interest to you. That's one of the secrets of YouTube's success.

In the meantime, I can't see myself wasting a lot of time on the Play.Stuff site -- Google News is a far quicker way to find the news and YouTube will offer a wider range of content of all types, with ad-free news (if there are "sensitive issues") involved.

Nice try Stuff but I'm only giving you a 4 out of 10 "could do better".

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