Back in 2012, views of my hobby videos on YouTube collapsed. Views that had low thousands or occasionally tens of thousands of views were no longer being watched. I hypothesized then that this was due to a flood of new content on YouTube, diluting the views, some sudden change in viewer habits or that YouTube had changed something.
Mostly this is due to YouTube changes. Starting in 2012, YouTube changed its search algorithm to reward videos that had more viewing time. Consequently, search results are steered towards the videos that YouTube thinks you will watch the longest.
A possible side effect of this change, also, is that short form videos may be likely to get higher rankings. The ideal YouTube video length has long been said to be 3-5 minutes. Longer videos get abandoned before they end.
To get seen on YouTube requires a combination of search engine optimization strategies, short videos, some specific types of content, and at least a weekly video release. I suspect that videos that enable advertising are ranked higher (all of mine have advertising disabled by me), which makes sense because ads pay the bills for YouTube.
This has impacted a great many, mostly small hobby producers. I went through my video subscription list yesterday and began pruning out those that have not posted a video in more than a year. I found dozens of content producers who stopped posting content over the past 1-3 years. Looking at their uploads list, it was apparent that their recent videos were no longer getting the views they once had for their older views – and not surprisingly, they gave up posting videos on YouTube.
This result is probably the “right result” for YouTube but not a desirable one for hobby video producers. This turns YouTube away from the serendipitous viewing of funny, independent little videos, to focus increasingly on sophisticated productions. Many of our favorite “channels” may still look like a guy or gal standing in front the camera in their bedroom, but in reality, many now have full production staff behind the scenes.
Today’s announcement doesn’t come as a total surprise. Earlier this year, the company already explained its focus on ‘watch time.” When it updated its suggested videos algorithm, YouTube noted that it did so to “better surface the videos that viewers actually watch, over those that they click on and then abandon.”
Meanwhile, Facebook is now hosting videos, although its search and organization of videos is terrible. Facebook is also faking high view counts by making Facebook hosted videos play automatically in Facebook news streams while YouTube auto play is disabled. Further, Facebook counts any video that plays for 3 seconds as a “view” while YouTube only counts 30 seconds or more as a view.