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Reuters.com Joins the Video Brigade

As part of a redesign of its online video content, Reuters has made its own contribution to the growing field of video advertising offerings.

The product lets advertisers create and run 15-second units, either Flash or digitized broadcast spots, that play before featured video content -- an approach known as "pre-roll." Reuters has offered a version of the product for five months, but today marks its official launch. Advertisers include IBM and MSN.

Reuters chose 15-second units rather than the broadcast standard 30-second spot to preserve site usability and user experience, according to Walker Jacobs, Reuters' VP of media sales.

"We would have unhappy users if we were doing uninitiated full-screen content breaks of 30 seconds, especially on a site like ours where timeliness is of the essence," he said.

Jacobs was referring to one of the more recent developments in the rapidly changing field of online video advertising, Unicast's introduction of its 30-second "Video Commercial" format. The technology loads entire broadcast-quality TV ads in the background and plays them between Web pages. Jacobs likes the Unicast format, but feels the ads are too long for Reuters.com's audience.

Most similar to Reuters' new offerings are video ads introduced along with MSN's recent redesign. Last month, the publisher debuted a broadband video service with 15-second ads that play at intervals within video content.

Reuters' redesign also brings more content to Reuters' body of raw and edited footage. Also, video content is now divided into four channels, including business, world news, entertainment and life; and ads can be targeted to any of these channels.

Jacobs said while inventory is not close to selling out, Reuters has high hopes for the format. In the meantime, users will likely encounter only the occasional video ad on its site.

"They won't play before every featured clip," he said.

Reuters is also offering 30-second video spots and sponsored video units. However, these units will likely see little use because they're "anchored," meaning they only play when initiated by users who want to experience advertising content for its own sake.

Jacobs said these formats are of less importance to Reuters' ad sales strategy, and it's unclear what motivation the company had for releasing them. They may have been launched as a concession to advertisers demanding a 30-second option for their existing broadcast TV spots.