YouTube Changes: Gremlin Enters Pupil Stage

The Gremlin after his pupil stage

YouTube Changes: Phases, Winners, Losers & Gremlins

While preparing for an article for ReelSEO, I happened to be watching Gremlins (1984). I couldn’t help but see the parallels between YouTube changes and the cute and fuzzy Mogwai’s mutating into the entertaining but deadly Gremlins (pictured here). We’re about to see YouTube go “pro” in an extreme form, and that’s one of the biggest changes the video-sharing site has made in its history.

Don’t get me wrong. I like change. Even if it involves some interim puss-oozing pods during the “pupil” stage. And while I mourn for my RIP and decaying fellow independent creators (and my own channel), I am excited to see how YouTube/Google becomes a cable network despite the significant battles by studios, networks and serious content producers. It’s inevitable progress… even though I’ll miss the community (but they’re there somewhere, right?).

This post will be somewhat jumbled since my thoughts for the ReelSEO piece are still sorting themselves out. I would also value some input from people who’ve been watching YouTube’s transitions even more closely than me.

Some facts & phases of YouTube’s evolution (with considerable help from Urgo6667‘s ugly but robust SocialBlade data repository)

  • Phase 1: YouTube in the 2009-2010 placed considerable emphasis on an exclusive and select pool of YouTube Partners. These independent content creators were rewarded with preferred placement throughout the site (driving views), advanced channel features, and premium monetization (sharing the income from higher yield advertisements from brands that feared consumer-generated content).
  • Phase 2: Just as some governments reportedly destabilize other countries by introducing currency, the income caused new behaviors. As Archfiend laments in this video, the advertising income helped fuel desperate habits like faking thumbnail images, begging for comments and asking for 5 stars or thumbs up.
  • Phase 3: YouTube, once the home of free speech and cat videos, began to become increasingly commercial. Once subtle ads soon blanketed the homepage. Optional prerolls became mandatory. The lines blurred between popular content and what was “featured” (based on advertising dollars or preferential content placement for select creators).
  • Phase 4: Some prolific YouTube pioneers left the site jaded. These include Renetto, Pipistrello, and Comedian SeanBedlam (see his frustrated video posted in August announcing he’s quitting).
  • Phase 5: As a great magician distracts you from his slight of hand, YouTube introduced the NextUp program. It gave $35K checks to a new crop of YouTube Partners to fuel their content.
  • Phase 6: Now YouTube is going after cable and investing $100 million in professional content

But as 2011 progressed, YouTube changes resulted in views spread out in cryptic ways. Some YouTube channels have taken significant hits from these changes in which videos appear in powerful areas such as search results, “related videos” and “spotlights.”

I’ve shared my own sharp decline since September (in October I averaged 64% fewer views then 3 months ago), but this chart from once-popular HotForWords tells a typical story…

HotforWords decline is happening to many once-vibrant content creators

Fall of Pioneers… The decline of solo creators is not unlike the fate of Indie singers online… as viewers shifted to mainstream content that arrived late to the party. But check out some non-trivial examples:

  • TheStation, which was launched by top YouTubers, went from more than 272,000 views October 2010 to under 110,000 in October 2011.
  • Smosh, one of the most subscribed channels, is down 94% last month relative to 6 and 3 months ago. They were once the darlings of YouTube with frequent sponsors.
  • SMPFilms, an early pioneer of YouTube meetups, is down 56% from 6 months ago… getting about 63,000 views currently (the drop is almost identical to the decline of Google’s channel on YouTube). MysteryGuitarMan (MGM) took a similar hit, and so did MediocreFilms.
Obviously there are few caveats to these declines:
  • Some (but a minority) of the decline could be the creator’s diminished productivity. For instance I posted less frequently. But this seems unlikely given that MGM and Smosh are still rolling out new videos that get significant views.
  • The decline is, perhaps, simply a return to normal. Most Partners saw a dramatic “artificial” lift in monthly views that were not dependent on their new content. In effect YouTube throttled creators and then stopped.
  • More than 50% of my own views comes from related videos. Some of that might be based on an algorithm that attaches similar videos, and that’s presumably less likely to change. But YouTube may continue to “throttle” my videos as related videos, meaning I’ve got further room to drop. Here’s hoping the Wizards of Al don’t decide to beat me down again for this post.
So where’d all the views go? And why my lip all bufted up?
  • YouTube has not seen a decline in viewers, so the views are being spread out to the new “mini Partners” and other creators.
  • Here are some of the fastest-growing Channels according to SocialBlade analysis: Vevo (which took a 1900% growth relative to 3 months ago), HollywoodTV, StanfordUniversity, and PlayStation with a remarkable 500K views a month.
  • Stay tuned… working with Urgo I might publish a list of the biggest losers/gainers.
Thoughts? Observations? Insights? Bring ’em. And thanks mystery man (you know who you are).
WVFF remembers YouTube solo artists, represented by Gizmo... 2006-2011

Media Buyers Remain Afraid of UGC & Chupacabra

Advertisers continue to fear user-generated content (aka consumer-generated media) and Chupacrabas, according to an eMarketer report. Instead of contextual ads or sponsorships, buyers are sticking with 30-second pre-roll ads that reduce purchase intent compared to control.

Media buyers prefer online video advertisements (versus sponsorships or branded entertainment) because “viewers dislike or distrust video advertising—even though they freely accept television commercials.” David Hallerman, who wrote the report, says that distrust is what wins over digital buyers who overlook the reduced intent test/control data because the CPMs (cost per 1,000) are irresistibly cheap, and media buyers can’t resist a deal.

“Even on their personal time, a good media buyer can’t overlook a sale,” eMarketer’s Hallerman said. “I have a neighbor who is a senior digital media buyer, and he purchases randomly sized dresses and skirts at Loehmans each weekend.” Hallerman added that despite his neighbor’s peanut allergy, he can’t resist the Jiffy “buy one, get the other 50% off“sales. But, Hallerman added, “He’s certainly financially disciplined enough to resist the paltry 25%-off sales.”

Chupacabra Sightings at Major Digital-Buying Agencies Have Created Near Hysteria.
Chupacabra Sightings at Major Digital-Buying Agencies Have Created Near Hysteria.

“Like last year’s study, media buyers remain afraid of the dreaded Chupacabra,” says to Hallerman. “Many of the top digital-media buyers we interviewed at such leading agencies as Digitas, Avenue-A Razorfish, OMD, UMI and even Scient and Viant are terrified of the goat-sucking beast. This is especially true of those Puerto Rican people, whose fear rose from 18% to 37% from 2008 to 2009.” Hallerman believes the Cupacabra threat may have originated via sales representatives of advertising networks and large media properties, who wished to keep their buyers safe.

“More than 78% of media buyers are taking protective measures against consumer-generated content and Chupacabra attacks,” says Hallerman. “It’s not very different from the swine flu, except that the swine flu actually exists.”

“In my country, many beautiful media buyers would having look at consumer-media,” said Marcos Sanchez of Cerebro Muerto Digital (CMD). “And they no coming back from night after Chupacabra eating their blood.” Sanchez said, under promise of anonymity, that CMD invests no less than 30% of its client’s digital media budget on low-cost inventory on websites that have not been operational in five years or more. “We finding on professional sites like “The Daily Reel” that they video prerolls get 500,000 impressions daily and viewers very, very engaged in banners with 94% recall.”

So… umm…. I’m kidding about only some of that. The preroll is all the rage,  while WVFF has showed how sponsored videos have measurable ROI. Did I ever mention on this blog that you can’t get reach without advertising near UGC (user generated content) because the VAST majority of views are of vloggers, YouTube stars, viral hits… not Hulu shows. Did I ever mention on this blog that you can actually pay a YouTube star a small amount of money to make a funny video about your product that you approve?

Anyway, some other key points for those that see online-video marketing as digital ads only:

  1. A 30-second preroll is not as effective as a 5-second preroll and lower 1/3 ad. In fact, purchase intent goes DOWN due to 30-second prerolls as compared to a control!
  2. People under 30 are far more likely to find an ad funny, emotionally touching or informative (3 proxies of purchase). Is that a function of their familiarity with the medium or the fact that many campaigns are targeting them?
  3. Below are other topics the full report hits. Feel free to send me a copy if you buy one. I can’t find a spare $700 of change in my couch. Plus they never interview me for these, so they can’t be that informative. Moo haa.

  • Why do many people distrust online video advertising?
  • What can advertisers do to overcome that obstacle?
  • Can social media and video advertising be an effective mix?
  • What ad methods are needed with short video content?
  • Is the online video audience as large as it appears?