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.
The author of the excellent Micro 4/3rds Photography Blog reveals the numbers behind his blog – and with blog ads, commissioned sales links and Youtube videos with ads, the combination earns very little money.
Most of the top video channels on Youtube got started very early back when it is alleged most channel creators gamed the system to increase viewership . While some recent arrivals have achieved viewer success, it may take years to achieve a reasonable following, or money spent on promotion. It is said that even for the successful Youtube channels, the creators most creators must also sell ancillary products (notably music but also t-shirts, hats, etc).
So why blog or produce Youtube videos? For many of us, do these as a hobby. We enjoy sharing helpful information with others. For example, I publish a popular tutorial blog on programming in App Inventor (See App Inventor 2: Learn to Code!). Other reasons include emphasizing one’s credentials in the subject, to advertise one’s skills to potential clients, to be involved in a social web of people with similar interests, perhaps to sell related products and services, and more.
Footnote – The “old” way Youtubers Got Views
 Many Youtubers figured out the way to get viewed – and obtain subscribers – was to generate lots of fake views to jump up high on the “Most Viewed” lists. In the early years of Youtube, it was easy to do this: copy the video player embed code 100 times on an HTML page and just keep reloading the page! (This “feature” was disabled long ago!)
Appearing on the “Most viewed” lists increased visibility and views rapidly. Others say that nearly all of today’s successful channels, which started in the 2005-2008 first three years of Youtube, got there by manipulating view counts.
In 2012 or 2013 Youtube seems to have made changes in the search system that caused viewership of minor channels to fall. Starting about 2 years ago, views of my own videos fell sharply – and I no longer post much on Youtube, having instead migrated to Flickr (Flickr supports videos too!) On Flickr I often get as many views in a day as I would see – ever – on Youtube 🙂
I just noticed that when I watched this video in Chrome (and only Chrome), that the video now has an option for 2D or 3D anaglyph (only 3D option).
I then disabled the HTML5 player to revert back to the Flash-based player and confirmed that the above was really appearing in the HTML5 player, not flash.
Unfortunately, this new HTML5 3D video capability appears solely in Chrome. It did not appear in Firefox, Opera or Internet Explorer when I tested each.
Having just watched The Martian (in 3D) at the theater today, it reaffirmed for us that we really like 3D! Let’s hope that Google is able to bring back more 3D viewing options to Youtube soon!
Starting in the fall of 2014, Youtube began dropping support for 3D videos. Now, Google briefly mentions it will be launching 360 degree VR 3D support soon (it’s #7 on this video).
Presumably, 3D VR will also support conventional 3D streaming again, as well.
This implies 3D is returning to Youtube – but in a bigger way – using virtual reality (VR) technology, 360 degree immersive video camera technology and VR viewers.
Source: Jump – Google
Here is a link to the actual US Forest Service “Interim Directive” (ID). The USFS is proposing that this ID be made permanent. Please read the actual text for yourself: http://www.fs.fed.us/specialuses/documents/InterimFilmingQAimprovedjune10.pdf
In summary, it says that:
- you do not need a permit for any still photography including commercial still photography as long as you do not use actors, models and props, or locations normally unavailable to the public. If you use actors, models or props or need special access, you must apply to the USFS for a permit describing your content. Your proposed content must be approved by a USFS censor to ensure that it meets the specific objectives of the agency (see the ID, above).
- you do not need a permit for recreational photography or video
- you are required to have a permit for any motion picture, video recording or audio recording … if it is used to generate an income regardless of whether you have actors, models or props involved. If you post your video clip on Youtube with an ad, you need a permit. Stated another way, pressing the red button on your camera will cost you a bundle.
Still photographers can press the silver button, take still photos and sell them.
However, if they press the red button on the exact same camera, while standing at the exact same location, and post that video on Youtube with an ad running alongside the video, then you are required to obtain a permit, your permit must be approved by a USFS censor, and may be required to have liability insurance and to pay for a USFS ranger to monitor your activities while you press the red button.
The media got excited about this ID when they noticed the USFS has been enforcing part of the rule that says the news media is exempt only for “breaking news”. All other media use would require a permit and approval of the USFS censors. In actual fact, twice in the past month, a local public broadcasting TV show in Idaho was told by the USFS they must have a permit. In one case, they wanted to film students digging for garnets on USFS land (not wilderness land).
Yesterday, the head of the USFS backpedaled and says they never intended this to apply to the news media. That is not true. The Oregonian newspaper, 3 days ago, specifically asked a USFS official for permission to take photos in the Mt Hood Wilderness and was told they needed a permit. The next day, they drove up to Mt Hood, and without permits, took photos and posted them in their newspaper. A day later, the USFS backed off.
However, the rules still remain as I have summarized. The USFS is attempting to select the means of expression (still versus film, video or audio recording), and to approve the content of the latter 3. In the US we have the First Amendment, which is as close to a sacred document as we come here. This Amendment prohibits the government from controlling our speech or our desired method of expression. Citizens and the media are both protected. A professor of communications (journalism) is quoted in an area newspaper as saying he is astonished that this obviously unconstitutional issue was not recognized by the USFS staff when putting this rule together.
In the end, there are 3 main issues:
1. The USFS is selecting the means of expression (still photography given favorable treatment versus everything else)
2. The USFS defines “commercial filming” overly broadly and absurdly. The guy with his tripod, huge camera and 2 foot long lens taking still photos and selling them does not need a permit. The lady next to him shooting video with an iPhone that she posts on Youtube with an ad alongside, must apply for a permit and be approved by the USFS censors. This is utter nonsense.
3. First Amendment issues galore. The USFS is not only controlling the means of expression, but also states (states in plain language in the ID – this is not some wild assertion) that the content must meet their content requirements and be approved by the USFS (literally a censor, which is why I use that term).
The rule should be written to focus on the impact on the land and the USFS resources – and not be focused on the means of expression or the content.
Because the USFS has backed off the media requirements, the media may fade away from this issue. And because they exclude most still photography, I’ve seen still photographers posting on social media that this is just an old rule, nothing to worry about. Because it does not impact them.
Big production companies know they need permits and plan for it.
That leaves individuals that wanted to press the red button under threat as most do not have the legal resources to fight this absurd rule to the Supreme Court. Literally, press the silver button and drive to the bank; press the red button and pay a fine. Or use an iPhone. It’s absurd.
Some are now posting on social media and blogs that this is all blown out of proportion, etc, etc. Apparently none of them have read the actual text of the Interim Directive. Some are partially correct in that it mostly does not apply to still photographers – but it very much applies to individuals pressing the red button on their camera. This is not a time to tell people to ignore this and claim there is nothing to see here. This remains a very big deal.
This is our government and our public lands; this is not their private kingdom.
I encourage all still and video photographers, including hobbyists, to read the full Interim Directive above and then to file comments at this web site: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/09/04/2014-21093/proposed-directive-for-commercial-filming-in-wilderness-special-uses-administration
To further clarify their “means of expression” control, consider a different example. Suppose a poet sat in a meadow writing poetry (for later resale). This would be considered acceptable and no permit would be required. Now consider a person sitting next to the poet, but composing music (for later resale). The USFS makes poetry permit free but requires a permit and liability insurance for the composer. Makes no sense does it? But that is what the USFS is doing.
As mentioned on my blogs, Youtube is an advertisers dream for reaching young audiences. Big business – namely traditional Hollywood production companies – are buying up Youtube content, talent and “multi-channel networks”.
As Youtube becomes a traditional commercial programming adventure – the “big stars” have turned into mini production companies with producers, directors, stunt coordinators, writers, composes – will Youtube still appeal to the youth demographic?
As Youtube turns into something different than what it is today, will other content producers – the individuals and small groups that were producing video content for fun – leave for other online video platforms?
My own viewership has dropped off dramatically. There may be many reasons for that unrelated to Youtube changes. But Youtube viewership is changing – and content is increasingly created by production teams rather than the stereotyped kid in his bedroom. Even if it still is a teen in a bedroom, chances are increasing that there’s a business manager, producer and other staff involved now days.
I reviewed the stats for my own Youtube channel and discovered that 77% of all viewers are between the ages of 13 and 44 and about 60% are between the ages of 13 and 34.
Youtube does not present statistics on those under age 13 (think this is due to Federal laws to protect children) but there are third party reports that suggest the very young also view a lot of Youtube videos. Would be reasonable to add another 10% to 15% in that age group, meaning 90% + or – are below the age of 44.
But merely counting viewers by age does not give us the full story. I suspect that younger viewers also watch more minutes than do older viewers. If we had access to that data, we would probably see that nearly all of our channel views come from a young viewership.
This age skew is why some topics get large viewership, notably:
- Video gaming videos
- Hair, makeup and fashion videos are targeted at “tween” and teen girls – and older. Surprisingly, 25% of “Generation Y” and “X” have dyed their hair a non-natural color at some point. This is a bigger audience category than one might think.
- Music videos (which usually target a young audience)
- “Adventure” videos – often doing crazy stuff or even well organized crazy stuff, score highly too. Remember that the younger demographic has a bias towards breaking the rules and trying new and crazy stuff.
- Some physical activity interest area videos (mountain biking, dancing, skate boarding)
Those topics appeal to the younger viewers that make up the bulk of Youtube viewers. If you want to attract a big channel audience, you will probably want to target topics that interest young viewers.
This demographic is also very important for advertisers – brand identification starts young. Buying habits start young. And many young people spend a lot of money. Youtube is an advertiser’s dream audience.
More Youtube demographics over on my other blog.
Update: No surprise – Youtube “stars” are better recognized/more famous among teens than are “A-list” movie stars and celebrities.
I realized last night that the 4K 3D videos I posted on Youtube are the world’s first ever Civil War era battle re-enactments posted online in 4K 3D format. Kind of cool.
The videos were created using dual Lumix GH-2 cameras, each shooting a 1920×1080/30p video stream.
These were edited and mastered in Sony Vegas Pro and output as full width side by side videos – meaning 3840 pixels wide by 1080 high.
This is then uploaded to Youtube with several “tags” set to tell Youtube how to encode the video properly. When viewed on Youtube, two new viewing resolutions appear: 1440 HD and 2160 4K. Even if you only have a typical 2K monitor, either of the higher resolutions looks much, much cleaner in 3D!
Important – This remains experimental! I can only view the videos in correct format using Firefox. Chrome tells me I do not have HTML5 compliant hardware. I could play all but one video on an LG 3D TV using the LG Youtube app. However, when I played the videos on the same TV using a Sony BluRay player’s Youtube app, the videos have the wrong aspect ratio (3840×1080 instead of 1920×1080). A separate video I mastered as 3840×2160 side-by-side 3D did better, but means I have to double the file size (data rate) to get the same image quality.
We can argue about whether or not paired 2K streams are really 4K video. In one sense, they are half vertical resolution 4K. But when 4K is used to stream 3D, we end up with half size images on the left and right anyway. The effect is therefore the same in terms of what gets delivered.
Additionally, Digital IMAX theaters, as of now, are thought of as 4K theaters but they use dual 2K projectors (they will be upgrading the theaters eventually). Digital IMAX provides a more immersive and louder sound experience, but the Digital IMAX screens are just a little bigger than regular movie screens – and not like the 70 to 90 foot tall original IMAX screens.
In other words, dual paired 2K streams used for 4K 3D end up being roughly equivalent to having been shot in 4K on both cameras due to how the 3D left/right pair has to split the 4K image anyway.