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YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley (l) and Steve Chen
We've all clicked on YouTube videos with flashy thumbnail images and high view count, and then abandon the video because it wasn't engaging enough to keep watching.
Well, YouTube is changing that.
The site recently launched the first of a series called YouTube Now, which they'll use to explain how they're evolving the site, and why. In the first installment, YouTube talks about shifting focus for suggested videos from view counts to watch time.
"Why this shift? Our video discovery features were previously designed to drive views," said YouTube. "This rewarded videos that were successful at attracting clicks, rather than the videos that actually kept viewers engaged. (Cleavage thumbnails, anyone?)"
"Now when we suggest videos, we focus on those that increase the amount of time that the viewer will spend watching videos on YouTube, not only on the next view, but also successive views thereafter."
According to YouTube, the changes have so far proved positive -- primarily less clicking, more watching.
If viewers are watching more YouTube, it signals to us that they’re happier with the content they’ve found. It means that creators are attracting more engaged audiences. It also opens up more opportunities to generate revenue for our partners.
How can web series and YouTube creators strive in this new world?
The best thing creators can do to be successful on YouTube is make videos that people want to watch. Simple, isn’t it? Unfortunately, many of the tactics we’ve heard from creators to optimize for YouTube’s discovery features may in fact backfire.
For example, we’ve heard from some creators who intentionally made their videos shorter in an attempt to get a higher retention rate. Unfortunately, this won’t help. While high retention on your videos is a good indication of engagement, we are actually optimizing for how a video contributes to a longer viewing session on YouTube. So your video isn’t more likely to be seen just because it’s shorter.
Conversely, we’ve also heard from some creators who intentionally made their videos longer, assuming that longer videos lead to more watch time. This also isn’t necessarily true, because it can be more challenging to keep viewers engaged through a longer video. (Think of a comedy sketch that drags on... just... a little... too long.)
As a result, our primary recommendation is to simply continue making the great videos your audience loves, and stay away from questionable optimization strategies.
What do you think about the shift? Tell us in the comment box below!
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