ReelSEO’sTim Schmoyer interviewed Jason Urgo about his Social Blade, which helps YouTube creators track fellow YouTubers. The website captures public information from YouTube’s API and databases them — to help creators “stalk” top YouTubers, but also see what “competitors” are doing.
People are obviously interested in how much income YouTubers earn, and Social Blade provides a broad earning range based on total monthly views x estimated income per view (maybe 50 cents to $5 bucks per 1,000 views). There’s also an “SB score” that tracks YouTube influence (ala Klout). The site also makes projections around YouTubers hitting certain subscriber milestones, and provides simple graphs on any YouTube channels; these display data otherwise difficult or impossible to access (see chart).
Vidstatsx has a similar offering, but SocialBlade goes deeper by tracker YouTubers that are getting smaller viewers. Urgo also is helping smaller YouTubers become YouTube Partners, which gives them advanced functionality on their channel page. Here’s where you can become a Partner via Urgo and “RPM Networks,” which is a division of web studio Maker. Not everyone is approved, but it helps to have at least 1,000 daily views, clean content, and no copyright infringements.
See the video below for more info, and check out my Nalts page. You’ll see my ever-shrinking subscriber list (from 244K to 225K subscribers). I’m losing about 600 per day since YouTube is scrubbing out old, inactive accounts that subscribe. Obviously this won’t effect me since dead accounts don’t watch a lot of videos. By comparison, here’s the VidStatsx page on my Nalts account. It focuses more on top YouTubers and hour-by-hour changes.
The data sites continue to emphasize subscriber data, which to me is not as important as a) a channel’s total views to date, and b) the average number of views on a creator’s recent videos. The former drives a creator’s income, but the latter is important for brands looking to sponsor YouTubers. How many views can they expect on a sponsored video? To get an answer, look at the past 10-20 videos and average their views.
We’re three days away from when participants of the Kony 2012 movement will be blanketing the town with posters, but one could argue they won’t do much better than the 180 million views to date.
Visible Measures has a stat roundup of the social-cause campaign that popped in early March 2012. For comparison, M&M’s 2012 Super Bowl ad, Just My Shell, has 41.7 million views. Honda’s Matthew’s Day Off, another top five Super Bowl campaign this year, has 25.3 million views.
And I have 250 million after 6 years of posting, so… yeah, they should have monetized it. It would have raised about $100,000, assuming advertisers wouldn’t mind appearing next to it.
While 20% growth on a low base isn’t perhaps “colossal” or “massive,” it is impressive for Yahoo. Yahoo always fancied itself as a portal, hence its loss of audience to search-engine giant Google. In early 2000s I would have expected Yahoo to be the rightful owner of the online-video battle. But it hasn’t captured online video despite many attempts.
Now Yahoo has bumped Vevo out for the #3 position last month. Sure, the audience bar chart shows a steep cliff after Google sites (YouTube). YouTube streamed about 50% of the 40 billion video views in February (and has about 3x the viewers of its nearest competitors). But Yahoo’s growth still warrants some exploration.
So what’s going on with Yahoo? Pick below:
a. Yahoo could be doing a better job of convincing its 177 million unique monthly viewers to consume video.
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.
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 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…
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.
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).
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 Talent” right 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.
YouTube clearly changed its algorithm for getting views. As you can see in the chart below, I’ve dropped from 320,000 views per day to 80,000. That’s a nice number, but 25% what it was just months ago. I was on a nice streak for a few months, and before that was anywhere from 100,000 to 400,000.
I think it’s been several years since I averaged 80,000. Well… fun ride while it lasted. Maybe the 15 minutes are over. Still, I’m working on my first web series (Unlicensed Therapist) with hopes this is temporary.
I love it when I see odd patterns through varied stimuli, and here is the latest. I’ve done my best to relate these disperate thoughts, but I’m growing increasingly skeptical of my ability to communicate the connections I see. Still I’ll try, and it has implications on video discovery, how they’re classified, what can motivate viewers and creators, and ultimately what YouTube, the largest video site and 2nd largest search engine is (teaser: I believe it’s more of a network than the video search platform it seeks to be).
I am aware that almost nobody will read 1200-word treatise, so I must have created it for myself. If I had more time, I’d refine it and actually make a salient point… but let’s get started with today’s inquiry and lesson!
I awakened at 4 a.m. curious to finish watching this kickass presentation by Deborah Prentice at a live meeting of The Institute for Advanced Studies. Notice her hypnotic repetition of the word “popular,” which creates a cognitive pull. The central theme is that changing human behaviors is easy but often counter-intuitive. Many of her examples were familiar to me via Dan Pink, like the fact that statements about social norms can validate negative behavior or influence positive behavior. Give someone a moderate fine for picking up their kids late at daycare, and you’ll see an increase in that behavior (the “fine” allows parents to purchase a cheap ” free pass” from the guilt of a moral transgression). Likewise providing cash prizes to reward a behavior (donating blood, achieving in school) can often remove someone’s intrinsic reward… having the opposite of the intended effect. Simply put, little things can make a big difference (thanks Malcolm Gladwell for popularizing that encouraging notion with the seminal book, Tipping Point).
Inspired by recently reading “Aspire” by Covey alumnus Kevin Hall, I’ve been curious about word etymology for terms we use daily. As a Johnson & Johnson colleague jokes, “words matter… because they mean things.” I’d go a step further and suggest that almost no word we use has truly universal meaning. What happens in your amygdala when I say ROCK is indisputably different than what happens to your best friend. I started this bullet with the word “inspired,” for instance. What did you hear? The word originates from Latin for “breath life” and even has some spiritual origins (infusing someone with God). For that matter, a “coach” didn’t originate to mean “someone who pushes you to achieve your highest potential,” but “someone who takes you from where you are to where you want to be” (origin: the region in Hungary, Kocs/kocsi, where stage coaches originated). “Life coach,” a more recent term, is probably truer to that definition than the coaches we remember from agonizing athletic moments. Simply put, since words have varied meaning, the “law of averages” suggests that even slightly MORE categorization words can increase precision.
While presenting at the Institute for Humor Studies, someone asked about who “classifies” a video’s topic… I explained that the creator did. Not the viewer. NOT the viewer. It made me pause because it’s actually quite arrogant to think I can classify my video better than a dozen viewers. Lesson: the category has an inherent bias by the creator: its intention might be radically different from the way it’s received, and we viewers should help decide if it’s actually “comedy” or “education.” Furthermore we need to get far more specific than these arbitrary and broad categorizations.
Finally, Jan, a long-time member of the WVFF “back row” (the people brave enough to comment below, and tell me to stop being so damned long-winded and random like this post). Jan writes, “It’s a shame you tube doesn’t have something in the profile settings that allows users to list what your channel is about that connects directly to an index with a list of categories.”
So let’s put all this together. If YouTube invited a creator to be more specific about the video category, here are a number of theoretical benefits:
People could find the right content with greater ease. As Jan observes, one could search Genre: LOL, Topic: Slapstick, Subcategories: farts, boob, damaged genitalia, Ages: 14 up. Then you’d “mouse over” the creator or video to read a 144-character description such as “me and ma homies are crakin’ it up /w stuff that makes you silly LOL.” This could be crowdsourced or creator driven.
By asking the creator to specify the video, it would provide them further clarity on their “category,” which is derived from the Latin “categoria” or Greek “katagegorein” (and these ironically meant “to speak against, declaim or accuse.” This could provide a “feedback loop” to the creator that might be more constructive than the comment “I’d like to defecate in your mouth” (one of my favorite viewer-generated responses.
By inviting the user/viewer to co-categorize, we’d increase the accuracy of a video search. Humans know the difference between “Tom Cruise” and “Cruise missiles,” and Google seems to do better at emulating that than YouTube.
Google is trying to organize the world’s information, yet is failing mostly in the field of video. Until technology can transcribe the spoken word and detect visuals contained in a video (right down to facial coding), we’ll need human workarounds.
So why has the #2 search engine (YouTube) not replicated the sophisticated model of search from its parent (Google)? I first explained this to myself and others as “they’ll get there.” But since it’s been lagging for many years, I’ve had to reconsider that explanation (from the Latin explanare, meaning “to smooth out, to make clear”).
Eye-tracker studies reveal that our eyes tend to lock on YouTube’s search bars (can’t source but trust me). Yet I can not find sufficient evidence that search drives a significant portion of views. On the contrary, only 5 percent of my views in the past 5 years appear generated by YouTube search (and .26 percent via Google search). In 2011 those numbers have gone DOWN not up by percent (3.8 and .14 respectively). Before you jump to conclusions on this data, realize I’m far from the norm. If Neilsen and Comscore and other third-parties proclaim YouTube as the #2 search engine (after Google, and before Yahoo and MSN) than search volume is extraordinarily high. I’d be thrilled to know the ratio of views on YouTube initiated by search versus other forms of “discovery” (links, subscribers, related videos, spotlights, features).
Percentage of search aside, the quality of video search is simply not as “smart” as Google. So we have a vicious cycle or what Prentice might call a “negative feedback loop.” Video search (for me) is declining as a percentage of how my videos are “discovered” perhaps because search isn’t effective. And unless my videos are an anomale (and the rest of videos are indeed search driven) we might not see the emphasis on improving it. Certainly this will change as advertisers disproportionately reward video views driven by search: for instance, if I’m marketing a medication for “restless leg syndrome” I’m far more interested in targeting those people searching “restless leg syndrome medications” on YouTube than those watching Ray William Johnson. Even if viewing him my cause restless leg syndrome.
Alternatively one could argue that video, by virtue of its heritage, is something we receive not search out. We have a nearly 80-year-old habit of being doled content like fatties at an all-you-can-eat buffet. If that’s true (and I hope it’s not), than YouTube is less of a search engine and more of a network (despite its vigilance to be seen as a platform).
And I’ll end on this… I probably spent a couple hours on this post, but I’m too lazy to categorize it. Irony?
In general, YouTube creators (and viewers) are a bit obsessed with sheer numbers of subscribers. It’s fool’s gold, friends. While early views are often predicated on developing a subscriber base, as a creator’s presence on YouTube matures, subscribers simply don’t matter nearly as much as people think. What matters is quality not quantity. I’d trade you half of my 250K subscribers for 1000 actively engaged viewers.
I say that to offset the prevailing belief that subscribers are everything, but recognize it’s a provocative overstament. A solid base of “fans” or avid viewers is invaluable. But after a while, the “subscription obsession” can be lazy and dangerous. Here’s why:
There was a time where we thought most subscribers viewed videos, and in fact that was more true in 2008-2009. Today (with the exception of a dozen top channels), the majority of views by the top 500 YouTubers are driven by “related videos” and micro-featuring (spotlighted videos). Almost 80-90 percent of my daily views (ranging about 200-250,000 daily) are not from subscribers, and “search” drives only about 1 percent. Obviously a healthy subscriber base (especially those who interact with the video) has a cascading effect on related videos and microfeaturing. But…
One loyal/active subscriber is worth more than 50 passive ones. Since only about 1 percent of viewers tend to interact with a video (and the creator’s relationship with his/her audience has a lot to do with that), the active viewer is GOLD. The passive troll (or dead account) is fool’s gold.
Let me put this in simple terms. Of the quarter of a million views I get, perhaps ONE PERCENT of those are driven by subscribers deciding to check my latest video. That fact initially demotivated me and I shared that with YouTube staffers: why kill myself making new videos if it barely makes a difference to daily views, which sets my income? Lately, however, it makes me highly motivated to create more regular and better videos to maintain and grow a recurring audience. Sure- I feel fortunate that I have some momentum from the thousands of hours and thousands of videos I’ve created since 2004, but also very nervous about losing that momentum because of a simple shift in YouTube’s “programming” or algorithm.
All subscribers are not created equally. Those who subscribe to my channel via “box-for-box” are often inadvertent viewers prone to leaving hate comments. As time goes on, you invariably increase the percentage of total subscribers who are not fans… they may find one video they like, subscribe, then complain or bail.
I define the “health” of a YouTube channel as the recurring views that recent videos get. So while I’m happy to be getting millions of views a month, they are radically tilted toward old videos. My new videos get seen, with some exception, about 20K times… which is just 10% of my total subscribers (250K I think, but I’ve stopped checking).
Even when I was about 100K subscribers and getting about 40-100K views per video, that was deceptive. First, a lot of those views came not from subscription but from the 10K plus people that would check my channel daily to see what’s new (that’s dropped). Also my recent videos were automatically adjacent to my legacy videos, which changed a few years ago. So what I saw as subscriber views were often driven by the dozen enduring videos (Scary Maze, Farting in Public). Now the videos that surround those are unlikely to be mine, thus the “binger” is less likely to get caught in a Nalts binge.
Finally, I suspect that the increase in “trolls” on my Nalts channel may partially be the result of the kindness of BarelyPolitical to “box” me on its channel (this morning, I respectfully invited them to remove me from their “related channel” box). It drove high numbers of subscribers, but mostly people unfamiliar with me. For instance, my daughter posted a video last night (embarrassing brothers) and it fetched about 80 comments before day break… about 10 of them I needed to delete before she saw them. I expected the “get back to prank” comments, but the 10 were lude and clearly not people you want subbed. The video, which is consistant with what I’ve been making for 5 years, is simply not going to please a typical BarelyPolitical subscriber. The trolls come from a variety of sources, but when I see people refer to me as a third person I generally assume they didn’t subscribe with any premeditation.
So why is this important? It means independent creators are highly dependent on YouTube’s “programming,” which is currently an algorithm. If tomorrow YouTube made a change, my mature channel would evaporate instantly. These rules apply to all channels, but especially to those that have already built some momentum and wish to build on it…
The New Rules…
Stop checking subscription numbers and focus on the quality of your relationship with fervent fans.
Produce regular videos. I used to post daily, and when I stopped (on advice of many that said they’d prefer a good video weekly than decent videos daily) I lost a lot of momentum. Frequency is as important as quality. We are creatures of habit, and we’ll push that peddle over and over as long as a food pellet comes out (or to use gambling terms, we’ll keep playing the slots as long as we occasionally get a prize). But after a while, people stop checking your channel for new content. A month or two of zero or poor content can produce enduring damage… people simply forget to check your channel.
Produce what Ryan Nugent at YouTube calls “Temporal Programming.” Produce content about current events, and plan content around major events… Shark Week is a nice example, and so are videos posted days before a big event (post your 4th of July video on July first so it builds steam).
Third, BYOA. Bring your own audience. Annoying Orange drives a large chunk of his views from a very popular Facebook page. I’ve not had as much luck driving traffic via other mediums, but “seeding” is another way to garner views. Produce content that a popular blogger may enjoy and let him/her know about it. Look for other ways to syndicate your YouTube content beyond YouTube.
Reconsider your “ask.” Should you ask for comments/ratings/favorites? Sure. That’s what makes a video jump on YouTube’s “most viewed” charts. But also consider other “asks” of your audience… subscribe via e-mail, check every Friday, etc.
The Onion used to publish online on Wednesdays, and I still wake up on Wednesdays and reflexively check (even though content is now regularly updated).
The bottom line is that audience development is about building yourself into the habit/routine of an active audience, not by getting a quantity of lukewarm viewers via a magical orange button.
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).