A loyal reader shared this forum post where YTPaul explained the YouTube changes that have sent many amateur creators into a nose dive (see my Gremlins article).
I quote below, and pay special attention to the bold. Seems those sexy thumbnails are as important as ever!
Hi all – thanks for your patience as we have been conducting a thorough investigation into those partners that were adversely effected and observed a significant drop in views coming from Related/Featured Videos in early August.
Near the beginning of August, we made a material change to the way in which we select and rank suggested videos that appear on YouTube watch pages. In fact, it was the most significant change we’ve made to this aspect of our site in some time. Like many of the changes we experiment with and launch, the aim of this update is to enhance the user experience by displaying the most relevant, engaging content from our vast, rapidly growing catalog. Simply put, this change is designed to primarily increase the rankings of videos with high user engagement and reduce the rankings of those with lower user engagement. We measure user engagement through a number of factors, primarily CTR, but also include other metrics such as time spent watching video and likelihood a user will watch the video.
The collective results thus far have been overwhelmingly positive. Users are watching more videos and our suggestions are driving more traffic than ever before. Despite these positive indicators, though, we realize this change has had a negative impact on some of our partners and uploaders. With any significant change to our suggestion rankings, it’s simply impossible for each video’s ranking to improve on every watch page — some will go up, while others go down. After careful investigation, we believe those videos whose rankings decreased on certain watch pages as a result of this change were rightfully demoted in favor of higher-engagement content.
While we realize that our suggestions on the site drive large portions of many of our partners’ and uploaders’ traffic, this is an ever-changing aspect of our site. To enable more consistent, sustainable traffic to your videos, we are continuing to work on tools to help diversify your traffic sources at YouTube, like our Creator Playbook or the Promoted Videos platform. Ultimately, we believe that continuously working to improve the user experience to drive more traffic through our site is in everyone’s best interests. We will keep you posted as we roll out new updates and changes to our suggestions and video-discovery models.