Engagement, Not Views, is Driving Today's YouTube

Engagement, Not Views, is Driving Todays YouTube

We all are a bit guilty of checking out a video's view count and using it as its one and only metric for success.  Although more critical thinking has made view counts less important, it's still the easiest way to judge a video's success.  But YouTube has apparently wised up in the last few months as they have spent money on premium content and are looking for as many advertisers as possible.  This very interesting article from Ad Age using Comscore metrics shows that while total views have dropped from the highs of last year, the amount of time spent on YouTube has increased.  Let's take a look.

Views Down, Engagement Up For YouTube

Let's take a look at the graph from Ad Age with statistics from Comscore:

Engagement, Not Views, is Driving Todays YouTube

You'll notice a peak this past January of nearly 22 billion views and 74 billion minutes spent on those videos, for an average of 3.39 minutes per view.  Now, notice that the view count drops to close to 16 billion in April, with nearly 62 billion minutes spent watching them.  That's 3.95 minutes per view.  This is a fairly substantial increase when you talk about averages, and it's especially impressive when you look at where this graph begins.  In March of 2011, the minutes-per-view was 2.96.

As a side note, I do wonder how KONY 2012 affected these results (a 30 minute video that has been seen about 90 million times), but even without KONY, the minutes-per-view has been increasing steadily over the past year.

The Ad Age article talks about how this is a change in philosophy over at Google, which started in March.  They want to be able to get people to watch longer and be able to sell more ads.  They've been experimenting with the type of ads they think certain viewers will watch or be engaged by for awhile, and getting them engaged requires...what is it again?  Great content?  Yes, this is absolutely essential.

What Does This Mean For Creators/Advertisers On YouTube?

Viewers will stay with you if you provide good content, even if it's longer than normal.  For creators this means they don't have to worry about length as long as the content is sound, and for advertisers, it means they need to get on the ball with unique content that someone on YouTube will want to watch.  I've always preached go the Red Bull/Go Pro route and create stories, not ads.  Sell your product in more of a product-placement way rather than splashing the logo everywhere and going with a typical TV advertisement.

The longer a viewer is engaged, the more likely they'll want to stick around and see ads that are tailored towards that content.  This requires different thinking on the part of brands.  How will they get people to watch their ad, and even if viewers are "forced" to watch, unable to click out of it, how do brands ensure that a viewer will watch the ad and not play Words With Friends while they wait?

I have a feeling we're going to be seeing all sorts of different tries for our attention this year, and hopefully some really creative attempts.

About the Author -
Chris Atkinson joined ReelSEO in 2011. He is a longtime film and television reviewer, and has almost two decades of experience in the theater industry. He also writes on his personal blog - http://nymoviereviews.com. View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • http://www.richescorner.com/ richescorner

    I pay much more attention to a good, well produced engaging video more than simply watching videos that have high views. One of the first things I look at is the length of the video to see if it appear to be long enough to be interesting.

  • Brett Bumeter

    Seems like there could be some other similar correlations there as well, Panda then Penguin updates, Bing rising to number 2 in search in general. Still good article!

  • ReelSEO

    absolutely.. great point

  • SamSimon

    I wonder how much the new channel design of YouTube impacted views vs. engagement. Instead of sifting through seas of somewhat random videos, YT users are now presented with videos from the channels they subscribe to. And I'm guessing most people subscribe to channels with quality content and who post regularly. So discovery of good content doesn't take as many clicks or views. 

  • http://www.kyleclouse.com/ Kyle Clouse

    This is some great insite Chris.  Thanks for sharing!

  • ToddMillett

    Thanks for sharing! It's interesting to see such a large increase in average amount of time spent watching videos. I definitely see where there could be a correlation with levels of interaction. The more entertaining the video, the longer people will spend watching it, and they will probably be more likely to comment. It's good to see encouragement like this for people to contribute with quality content and interact, rather than just signing on and counting views! I admit I am guilty of it now and then with my videos, but it's especially nice to sign on and see real human interactions in the comments (as long as they show genuine interest). 

  • YTMEastCoast

    this is indeed a great piece, views are important though in the sense that the more you accrue in a compressed time period, the better your chances of making it into a trending category on YT's homepage and being seen by many many more people.  Viewcounts along with real views are the holy grail of social video, one of the most powerful tools in the social media/digital media arsenal. 

  • Dan Safkow’s Video Marketing Minute

    Quality over quantity. Yes!

  • http://www.sundaysky.com amitlevran

    Thank you Chris, great post. The convergence of advertising and content is happening and advertisers need to combine the two to get attention
    http://info.sundaysky.com/blog/bid/149717/Online-Video-Engagement-Are-They-Looking-Watching-Engaged

  • http://www.richescorner.com/ richescorner

    I pay much more attention to a good, well produced engaging video more than simply watching videos that have high views. One of the first things I look at is the length of the video to see if it appear to be long enough to be interesting.

  • Brett Bumeter

    Seems like there could be some other similar correlations there as well, Panda then Penguin updates, Bing rising to number 2 in search in general. Still good article!

  • ReelSEO

    absolutely.. great point

  • SamSimon

    I wonder how much the new channel design of YouTube impacted views vs. engagement. Instead of sifting through seas of somewhat random videos, YT users are now presented with videos from the channels they subscribe to. And I'm guessing most people subscribe to channels with quality content and who post regularly. So discovery of good content doesn't take as many clicks or views. 

  • http://www.kyleclouse.com/ Kyle Clouse

    This is some great insite Chris.  Thanks for sharing!

  • ToddMillett

    Thanks for sharing! It's interesting to see such a large increase in average amount of time spent watching videos. I definitely see where there could be a correlation with levels of interaction. The more entertaining the video, the longer people will spend watching it, and they will probably be more likely to comment. It's good to see encouragement like this for people to contribute with quality content and interact, rather than just signing on and counting views! I admit I am guilty of it now and then with my videos, but it's especially nice to sign on and see real human interactions in the comments (as long as they show genuine interest). 

  • YTMEastCoast

    this is indeed a great piece, views are important though in the sense that the more you accrue in a compressed time period, the better your chances of making it into a trending category on YT's homepage and being seen by many many more people.  Viewcounts along with real views are the holy grail of social video, one of the most powerful tools in the social media/digital media arsenal. 

  • Dan Safkow’s Video Marketing Minute

    Quality over quantity. Yes!

  • http://www.sundaysky.com amitlevran

    Thank you Chris, great post. The convergence of advertising and content is happening and advertisers need to combine the two to get attention
    http://info.sundaysky.com/blog/bid/149717/Online-Video-Engagement-Are-They-Looking-Watching-Engaged