Neon Lab: pick 'n click

Claude Shannon, the father of information theory, called communication effectiveness a level C problem: if people don't act on what's been communicated, what's the point? That's the Neon Lab video problem.

I met with Neon Lab CEO and co-founder Sophie Lebrecht - Brown PhD and surfer - at NAB 2014 to learn more.

Sophie Lebrecht


The Play
You get a page of video thumbnails. How do you pick one to watch?

Humans are incredibly fast at image processing, which is why video is popular and useful. But what makes you click on a particular thumbnail?

It turns out that there are some basic rules for a successful thumbnail:

  • luminance or glow
  • expression on faces
  • attractiveness of faces

But other things will cause people to want to learn more:

  • people looking out of frame
  • frozen moment of motion 
  • faces partially occluded

What Neon Labs does is automate the process of choosing the best thumbnail from a video to maximize clickthroughs. Sophie says that their software will increase clickthroughs anywhere from 20 to 150 percent over what an editor or designer will choose.

The method
When I first read about Neon's voodoo I had a vision of micro-calibrated thumbnail selection for each visitor. But they aren't there yet.

What they do have is a decade's worth of research on what images people find attractive. They analyze a video looking for frames that maximize the stuff that people like.

Pretty simple, if you know how - and what.

The market
This is for media companies - that's why she's at NAB 2014! - who have lots of video and don't have the time to choose thumbnails. 20 percent more clicks is 20 percent more ads served.

The Storage Bits take
I've produced a few dozen YouTube videos - one with over 365,000 views - and I never thought about how the thumbnail would influence traffic. But now that I have I plan to go back and choose more wisely.

Scale makes it economic to optimize and automate things that civilians would never dream of. Video thumbnail optimization? Wild!

Comments welcome, of course. What makes you choose to click a thumbnail?