Sex Up Your Thumbnail: Increase YouTube Views

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!

A thumbnail bait: so retro they work again

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.
Boobs get clicks. Clicks get views. Views get money.

How To Get Views on YouTube (via Kindle)

So you want to know how to get views on YouTube. You want to grow a vibrant YouTube channel, go viral, and become the next Ray William Johnson. Do you cheat, or choose a more proven way?

No Kindle lovers… you could read a great American classic on that sun-enabled iPad you call a Kindle. Or you could dive into some magazine article about the proliferation of germs on door handles. But here’s “How To Get Popular On YouTube Without Any Talentright on the Kindle store. Is this a blatant promotion? Yes!

Oh it’s 34 pages long which is pretty beefy even though the image makes it look like a tomb.

No More Excuses to Dodge Web-TV: Angry Birds on Roku

The Roku turns your Internet into television (and has a cool fiber logo tag)
You cannot resist his face and the clouds and the blue background.

You’ve heard about online video, and you have a few extra large monitors (HDTV) that you aren’t using. Now you’re running out of excuses, because the Roku (which like AppleTV, Boxee, TiVo and other devices) will soon offer Angry Birds… right on your boob tube. To be sure Roku is right for you, check out this comparison (GigaOM) to AppleTV’s fall update and the Boxee.

If you’re already a member of Amazon Prime (free trial here) or Netflix (free trial here), you’ll get better use out of these limited but generous “all you can eat” video collections, although some devices (Wii, Xbox) allow you to search Netflix’s entire collection instead of just your manually populated “Instant Que.” I have just about every web-to-TV box available, and Roku’s my favorite. I use TiVo most often, because it’s my bedroom replacement to Verizon’s crappy Motorla units. And if I’m on a YouTube binge, I do like the simplicity of AppleTV.

Roku wins because it’s incredibly easy to navigate, and the remote is as simple as AppleTV with barely any buttons. I also admit to digging the new fabric tag that pokes out the remote, making it even more unique.

If you’re overwhelmed by the steps required to starting on these devices, here’s the dealeo. In most cases (Hulu as an exception) you don’t even need to pay a monthly fee for additional content, like the library of Revision3 channels.

The idiot’s guide to getting started on web-TV for $99 and about 5 minutes of your precious time.

Get more out of that boob tube and stop pesky burning $4 on "on demand" movies.
  1. Buy the Roku (Amazon affiliate link). That’s the most difficult step, and there’s no service fee required.
  2. Plug the Roku into an electric outlet.
  3. Plug in an ethernet cord from your modem or router (or use one of these wireless internet adapters, which sends internet via electricity).
  4. Connect the Roku to your television via those red, white yellow cords or the fat one called an HDMI cable (audio and video)
  5. Turn on Roku and follow brief instructions
  6. Gorge on free content, and if you have Roku or Amazon, simply generate an approval code then tap that into your account to verify the box is yours and not some nosey neighbor pouching your account.
  7. Write me and tell me how I’ve opened your eyes to the impossible.

 

How To Get YouTube Views and Subscribers Without Getting Scammed

How can I get YouTube views and subscribers without getting scammed? Here’s a video that discourages the use of bots, cheats and ridiculous purchase of views and subscribers (on eBay and other services found on Google searches).

There’s no “magic bullet” or proven way to get views and subscribers overnight (although that can happen with particularly viral videos). Instead, try a) optimism and persistence, b) collaborating and being social (interacting) with viewers and people who already have an audience (give them a reason to “shout you out” or embed your video, don’t beg or pay), and c) learn… links in the video description to my free eBook (How To Get Popular on YouTube Without Any Talent) and book (Beyond Viral).

20 Free Tips to Get Your Videos Seen on YouTube and Beyond

It’s been a while since I’ve summarized some of the most important factors to getting your videos seen. This post is based on my own YouTube creator experience, my work with big brands, and my book (Beyond Viral). I’ve also written a free eBook called “How to Get Popular on YouTube Without Any Talent (version 2).”

Here it is:

How To Get Popular on YouTube (free eBook, version 2)

I’m sure I missed some current best practices so please add your own thoughts below!

1. Hook viewer in first 10 seconds (teasing highlights)
2. Keep it short. A one-minute video will almost always trump a 3.
3. Encourage interactions- get people commenting and, like Facebook, your YouTube video will rise higher. Controversial questions to viewers can jolt views.
4. Personalize it. Look at camera as if it’s a friend’s eyes and don’t assume your viewer knows you.
5. Include real laughter. Laughter induces laughter like yawns influence yawns. Get a sidekick who has a contagious laugh.
6. At the end, provide something unexpected or bedbug. See how you didn’t expect the word “bedbug” there?
7. Include animals. We humans like animals more than humans. Babies are clinchers too. Giggling baby with an animal? Golden.
8. Take the “road less travelled.” Sure, boobies get views but if you base your video on something already seen, your video is less likely to break through clutter. Show us something we’ve not seen (or rare to see) and people will share.
9. Real trumps script. Almost all of my top videos are not scripted bits but real, candid moments.
10. Appeal to heavy video viewers. Teenagers drive significant views, and even adolescents and Tweens (Annoying Orange). Test your video on this audience and note when they laugh or get bored.
11. Post regularly. The most popular and most-viewed YouTubers post daily or on a predictable schedule. Fresh outsells good.
12. Flow with current events. Selectively parody topical news or “Memes” and you’ll be topical and more relevant.
13. Take the title, tags and description very seriously so your video can be found easily on search engines like Google (and don’t think YouTube isn’t a search engine). You can even transcribe the video and add the text. Important terms: “how to,” “why does,” “who is,” “when is…”
14. Watch top creators for new ideas. For instance, most top web stars are providing thumbnails of other videos at the end of their video. This keeps a viewer from wandering off to “related videos.”
15. Post at right time. Stay away from weekends and Friday afternoon (when there’s a lot of viewing but heavy competition). Mornings are good and Tuesday is a heavy consumption day.
16. Someone once said a new blogger focuses on their blog, but a seasoned blogger is roaming. Likewise you want to appear in videos by people getting more views. The kind plug by PrankvsPrank for my recent “Itchy Butt” prank drove more views that from my base of 250K subscribers.
17. Chill out on “subscribers,” which is as meaningless as “likes” on Facebook. 100 fans are more valuable than 10,000 subscribers that accidentally subscribed from the stupid “box for box” feature (where if you subscribe to one channel you can passively subscribe to their friends.
18. Jump start views on other social-media channels like Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and Reddit (watch out for being seen as just tooting your own horn though).
19. Listen and talk back to your audience. When a creator acknowledges a viewer comment a bond is formed that is the lifeblood of a recurring audience.
20. Go for quantity not obsessive quality. I could never have predicted which of my 1000 videos would get tens of millions of views, and there’s a lot of power to trial and error. There’s almost an inverse relationship between the time I spend on a video and the views it gets.

Finally don’t judge success by total views alone. Whether you’re a marketer or entertainer, not all views are created equally. Focus on engagement, comments, view duration, and getting to the right audience. A niche show meeting an unmet need is going to work more effectively than trying to please broad audiences.

What did I miss? Obviously the most popular videos are those involving dancing, music, comedy, satire, politics, sex, babies and animals. Don’t underestimate the power of the thumbnail (image representing the video) too. But any general tips I missed?

Models for “Signing” YouTube Creators; Tips for Advertisers, Studios & Stars

Several trends are causing many independent “YouTube Creators” to sign with “new establishment” (web studios) such as Makers Studios (good luck finding its website), Next New Networks, The Station, Howcast and Machinima. Many early web studios were formed to create and promote custom shows for wide distribution. But the high investment ($1-$5K per edited minute) could not be sustained by the modest advertising dollars moving into the medium. In the past year, most have abandoned custom shows and are signing proven YouTube talent, many who have low costs, but large and steady audiences that are valuable to advertisers.

The trends driving these deals are:

  • It’s a buyer’s market. YouTube advertising revenue is relatively depressed because it’s new and driven mostly by Google Adsense, which allows even small advertisers to target viewers. The revenue model is largely based on “cost per thousand impressions” (CPM), and the income to the creator is mostly hovering at a modest $1 plus range… obviously YouTube pockets a portion before the creator is paid. Since an advertiser is often willing to pay far more for a targeted view, there’s plenty room for an intermediary who can command higher CPMs. Despite Google’s large salesforce, the display team at Google is relatively small. As I’ve said before, most media buyers are opting to put dollars into other sites because YouTube is less flexible.
  • Many solo acts have significant monthly views (mine alone are 5 million plus), but can’t justify selling their own inventory.  However if a network can assemble a collection of creators that are attractive to certain industry advertisers, they can rationalize a salesforce and a premium.
  • The marketplace for talent is growing increasingly competitive, making it more attractive to independent creators to share in such fixed costs as management, marketing and production. Many solo acts on YouTube lack even basic talent representation, and don’t know how to find sponsors or price their sponsorships (and some are not willing or capable).
  • Budgets are flowing online dramatically, as video consumption increases. YouTube has missed a significant portion of online-video budgets because Google’s emphasis remains on paid search (while smaller properties are focused on pursuing larger digital budgets and even television budgets). This is changing, and could become more complex as the lines become less clear between YouTube (which has often proclaimed to be a platform not a network) and web studios (like its rumored acquisition, next New Networks).
  • Cross promotion across creators can grow the size of an audience significantly, and collective groups (like The Station) can expose individual shows/stars to audiences that might not otherwise know they exist. Many creators have sought alliances because there’s strength in numbers. The brat-pack model is not to be underestimated, even though shared successful YouTube channels are rare.

While few web studios and creators will reveal detailed terms, here are a few models that I’ve seen first hand. I will avoid revealing specifics or suggesting which studios gravitate to various models. Even within the same web studios, the deals can vary dramatically based on the creator’s negotiating skills, their content quality, and their audience size. Most deals are more nuanced than the following, but here are some simplified examples:

  • We own you. Small “up and coming” creators were often willing to effectively sell their show to a web studio and become compensated at a fixed price per episode. This is increasingly rare, as it is risky to both the studio (who can’t be sure the star/show will succeed) and the creator (who loses the otherwise unlimited upside potential of a solo YouTube artist).
  • We own 50% to launch you. Some “web studios” sign new talent with a revenue split. A talented but unknown creator can gain accelerated growth via appearances in the network’s already popular shows, and in return provides a portion of his/her YouTube Adsense dollars to the studio. Both this model and the previous require the studio to “claim” the channel via YouTube, and then pay the talent in some form: usually a month after the studio is paid. YouTube is attempting to make this easier for the creator, studio and advertiser… but it’s still fairly complicated to execute. Since the creator can become blind to the actual revenue their channel receives, it requires some trust.
  • We “mark you up.” Since the average ad CPMs remain modest, some studios are able to offer a creator/show a premium CPM (income per view) that is higher than that to which they’re accustomed… but sometimes capped. For instance, the studio may promise to pay the creator $2 per thousand views, and pocket any incremental revenue. This makes sense if the studio can sell the inventory at an ongoing premium, and is even more attractive to the creator if the studio can promote and grow the channel as well. However it means the creator may not benefit from what I’d expect to be higher CPMs in the years ahead.
  • We split incremental proceeds. A more mature YouTube star may negotiate a deal where anything in excess of their regular YouTube “Adsense” revenue is split. The studio may, for instance, sell a series of sponsored shows to a brand or advertiser, providing a complement to typical display ads (prerolls, banners, InVideo ads). The studio also may offer additional “value ads” that are not easy to execute via YouTube directly (such as having a collection of creators promote the brand on their Facebook and Twitter profiles). The creator may occasionally get a fixed sponsorship income (a few grand) to provide messaging within the show, and the display ads are marked up during a specific timeline. We’ve seen programs like Howcast’s GE Healthymagination that involve a number of YouTube stars working together or sequentially. In some cases YouTube manages these directly, contacting top talent to participate.
  • Pay per sponsorship. Some studios remain strictly in the pay-per-sponsored video space, providing advertisers with a flat fee for a series of videos that mention a product or service. A creator who fetches 200K to 1 million views per video can command o5-50K for a single sponsored video, and the studio takes a percent. Again, YouTube does many of these programs directly since the marketplace for these programs is still immature. Hitviews was one of the early companies for these, and Mekanism is doing some now. In my experience, it’s far more profitable to a creator to do them directly via YouTube… but there’s little a creator can do to increase the quantity of these. They’re bought not sold.

In this blog and my book, I’ve argued that advertisers and creators need intermediaries to facilitate sponsorship programs when they go beyond traditional ad buys (invideo, prerolls or adjacent display ads). When I consulted with Hitviews, I helped orchestrate some of these complex sponsorship programs, and they require skills that are rare in traditional and digital agencies. They’re difficult to sell, tricky to execute, and require cash reserves — since creators must sometimes be paid before revenue is received from advertisers. I’ve also done these directly with advertisers since I have a marketing background, but that’s not easy for most creators. Still, these sponsorships are lucrative for creators and extremely valuable for brands. They take the advertising message to where it has greater influence (within the show) and cannot as easily be ignored. They’re also perpetual annuities for brands. Some of my sponsored videos have garnered significant views long past the campaign’s period.

Audiences can be tolerant of these sponsored deals as long as the creative is strong, and a webstar or show does not do them too often. To see some of my own sample sponsored videos click here. You’ll see that most are not heavy on the promotion since that can severely impair views, ratings and comments. My income for these has varied radically, and often does not correlate with the total views of the videos. In a few cases, the advertiser has paid YouTube to “spotlight” the videos, but most of the views are organic.

I have seen some of my favorite YouTube creators fatigue audiences by accepting numerous sponsored deals (especially in a short time period). I’ve seen both extremes: the advertiser paying far more than it should (based on quality of the video or total views), or the creator selling out for a modest fee (and sometimes not paid at all).

Here are some tips first for advertisers/studios, then for creators. My emphasis is on sponsorships rather than “signing,” since the former is more common.

  • Advertisers or studios should not, in my opinion, subsidize a show’s creation. That can get cost prohibitive to a brand, and can result in mostly paid views. Those are not nearly as valuable as “organic” views (where a show already has a recurring or loyal audience).
  • I believe advertisers should provide at least 50% up front (like with any media buy) and withhold 50% based on performance metrics (total views). This ensures the studio has sufficient funds to attract and pay creators, and also reduces the risk to the advertiser. However it seems studios and YouTube often commence campaigns before getting paid, which results in ridiculous long gaps (3-6 months) between posting a video and getting paid for it.
  • Studios (and advertisers) should be careful about the stars/shows they pick. Some have a reputation for delivering content that meets the needs of the audience and the brand, and others are known for turning in marginal content, missing deadlines, or even harming the reputation of the brand. It is difficult for someone not extremely familiar with YouTube and creators to vett them well. For instance, I was approached recently by Best Buy despite my disdain for the company.
  • A good “match maker” will instantly know what creators/shows are right for different advertisers/sponsors, and that requires more than an understanding of a channel’s demographics. Since most popular YouTubers ignore e-mail, it’s not easy to catch their attention even when dollars are involved. If I had a dollar for every false-positive “sponsor,” I could buy YouTube from Google.

Creators:

  • Creators should be very careful about signing “exclusive” deals, which limit revenue in other mediums or distribution channels beyond YouTube. I’ve been offered large monthly sums to move my content off YouTube and have never regretted declining. I’m also glad that I’ve never put a ceiling on my income, or provided any videos to a third-party with exclusively.
  • Since the CPMs are likely to get higher in coming years, I’d be reticent to sign a deal that locks me into today’s CPMs. If an advertiser can command higher CPMs for a specific video or time period, that’s nice. However I wouldn’t want to lock myself into $1 per 1K views, and then watch the average CPM rise.
  • It’s a good idea to have a time period attached to a deal, and opportunities for either party to exit. This is especially important since some of the web studios could be acquired by companies that may change the dynamics between the creator and the studio. It’s also important to have an agreement if an advertiser needs to remove a sponsored video (I’ve seen this happen more times than you’d imagine).
  • I urge creators to seek clarity about studio-exclusivity deals. A smaller creator will delight at signing with a studio that provides lots of new sponsorships. However what happens if that studio isn’t selling deals? Or if the studio is asking the creator to promote brands they don’t like? Or if the studio requests more sponsored promotions than the creator feels is appropriate (Smosh)? Is the creator obliged to take whatever deal the studio secures, or can they decline? More importantly, what happens if the creator is approached directly by a brand? Is he/she still permitted to do a sponsored video, and if so, are they obliged to provide a percent to the studio? Part of the reason I haven’t worked with Hitviews in more than a year is because it resented me working with other companies (YouTube directly or Howcast), and yet wasn’t providing a steady flow of well-compensated sponsorships. I’m still a fan of founder Walter Sabo however.
  • As online video begins to behave more like traditional television (where YouTubers are TV shows, and studios are networks like Fox or ABC) the dynamic could change dramatically. But it’s still a maturing industry, and deals very often favor one party far above another. So regardless of what is in writing, a relationship of trust is vital. There’s a certain “give and take” that is important for all parties involved (advertisers, intermediaries and show creators).
  • In general, I would rather be known as a pushover than a jerk… and the race is a marathon not a sprint. I have been “screwed” a few times, and have left money on the table (and I’ve steered clear of those people since). But I try to be flexible and make concessions knowing it’s a small industry, and that a professional, low-maintenance creator is more likely to earn the long-term trust of a variety of players that can provide income and other opportunities.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to say “no.” I’ve seen several of my friends decline a modest or unfair offer, only to receive a much more generous one.

I’d welcome your comments if you have your own learnings… or your questions if I’ve been unclear. I’m sure it’s not an easy read, since it’s a complex space!

Lastly, if you’re a player in this space and regret not being mentioned, please identify yourself in comments or via e-mail. I am sure I have missed some web studios or intermediaries that are active in recruiting talent and wooing brands.

Free Web Seminar: Online-Video Secrets from Steve Garfield

Steve Garfield,  the “Paul Revere of video blogging,” will join Pixability CEO Bettina Hein in a free 1-hour webinar on December 1, featuring latest trends in online video and related media. Topics include:

  • The benefits of marketing with online video
  • How to shoot video like a pro (recording, editing, exporting, etc)
  • How to build presence with video on the social web
  • How to increase views for your video

Garfield also is raffling off ten copies of “Get Seen: Online Video Secrets.” Space is limited, so register now for the free webinar, held December 1, 2010 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Garfield’s book is part of David M. Scott’s “New Rules of Social Media,” which also includes my book (Beyond Viral).

See You at Blogworld in Vegas

As I mentioned in a recent video (“Advertising Doesn’t Have to Suck,” I’m off to Blogworld. It’s the “South by Southwest” of social media, and packed with bloggers, vloggers, and even stupid people. Steve Garfield (fellow video enthusiast) is leading a session, and we’re both doing book signings on Friday. On Friday, he signs “Get Seen” at 2:00 and I sign “Beyond Viral” at 2:30. I plan to stalk his fans holding a sign that says, “if you liked Get Seen, you might also like Beyond Viral.”

Sadly Samsung’s Galaxy never came through, so I won’t be smashing my iPad. I tried. However I will be stalking Kent Nichols and Jim Louderback (cheesy photo below). You can bet on that.

Jim Louderback Likes Geeky Computer Magazines

Friends, don’t be anti-social media… come hang. (See “anti-social media” below):

Viacom Loses Lawsuit Against YouTube. But Will Get You Next Time.

Yeah Viacom lost that lawsuit against YouTube.

Says da judge: Because Google complies with any request from copyright holders to remove infringing content from YouTube it cannot be held liable itself for those infringements. Only in specific instances of failing to remove copyright-infringing content would YouTube be unable to claim safe harbour; mere knowledge of copyright infringement occurring on its service is not enough for YouTube to be culpable for that infringement.

Viacom executives had this to say (click for video).

“If You Don’t Quit, You Can’t Fail” -NickyNik

We Gotta Get Buscemi,” a film by YouTube legacy NickyNik, will be debuted June 4, 2010, at the Dances With Films festival. NickyNik’s trailer is the first video he’s posted since the days before YouTube had high definition or Spotlighted videos. You youngsters may recall those days where names like Boeheem, Emalina and Renetto drew mouths agape like the name LonelyGirl15 would years later.

Congratulations, NickyNik, who I met at YouTube’s NYC 777 event and who also appeared in “I Want My Three Minutes Back.” You, sir, are the definition of unyielding persistence (see also NickyNik2). You may remember a script floating around called “The Dead Man.”

The cast includes LisaNova, Renetto, Jason Acuna (Wee Man), and Danny Trejo. Not sure if Charles Trippy made it, but I thank him for help getting me some part… I can’t remember if I dropped the ball, or NickyNik gave up on me. In fact I can’t remember the part or the script, but I do recall a person wearing a hot dog outfit. I was hoping for that part because… hey who doesn’t want to wear a hotdog outfit?

Still, what a motley crew, wouldn’t you say?