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Calum Andrew Morrell

YouTube's mid-roll adverts

Written on the 5th of June, 2024

Adverts are annoying. I'm more than a little certain I'm not the only one who holds that opinion. They are, however, a necessary annoyance in order to receive free content: tv channels; on demand services; YouTube; newspaper articles without a paywall; and on and on it goes. This does not mean they can't be presented ethically - something YouTube (owned by Google) are miserably failing at.

Okay, I could make that claim about any of the current advertising methods Google use, but right now I'm specifically annoyed about mid-roll adverts in YouTube content. The adverts that cut into the video while it's playing.

it regularly cuts to an advert in the middle of a sentence

The three main types of video advert - pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll - are standard for commercial TV and as such it's no surprise that Google introduced the format. For longer videos in particular it makes sense for them as they cost more to host and stream, yet pre- and post- does not take that into account.

My particular problem with the way Google has implemented mid-roll adverts on YouTube content is that they have pretty much zero regard for the nature of the video of the cadence of the presentation. This means it regularly cuts to an advert in the middle of a sentence or sometimes even in the middle of a word! This is beyond annoying, it can completely destroy the benefit of the content.

Now, according to their own guide on mid-roll adverts their automatic placement will "find natural breaks in your content to avoid an interruptive viewer experience". Uh-huh. Mid-sentence, which I should add is my normal experience, not the exception, is not what I call a natural break and it very much interrupts my viewing experience. Have a read of the frequently asked questions they supply for more incredible claims which simply do not match reality.

As Google also makes clear, you can actually place the mid-roll breaks manually. Either completely manually, or initially automatically and then fine tune the placement of each break. So basically I have two complaints here.

  1. Google's automatic mid-roll break based on advanced machine learning is awful. Just simply awful.
  2. The content creators I watch videos from are either unaware that they can improve their viewer's experience by manually editing the automatically placed breaks or are too lazy to care.

I have on numerous occasions decided the quality of the content does not justify the frustrations of such rude interruptions and ceased viewing their video, thus reducing their advertising revenue compared to what they'd receive if the breaks were placed sensibly.

Long term I expect Google will improve the quality of their placement tooling so the problem diminishes. It would just be nice if content creators used the tooling made available to them until that happens.

advertising, annoying, google, ux, youtube