Hey, people who watch YouTube regularly can rejoice...the mystery of the riddle-wrapped-inside-an-enigma that is the frozen 301 view count on popular videos has been...somewhat revealed. It looks like a combination of things have brought this 301 scourge upon us, and because YouTube is kind of secretive and can't tell us everything, we have to come up with our own ideas. Numberphile's Brady Haran got a chance to speak to YouTube Analytics' Ted Hamilton about it, and posted the video to YouTube, and the answer is...kind of what we expected? Hat tip, Megan O'Neill at Social Times.
YouTube Analytics' Ted Hamilton - The Story Behind 301 Views
Here's the video:
So Hamilton basically says, "It was like that when I got here." At some point in time, the early YouTube Analytics team decided that 300 was a good place to start figuring out if a video on YouTube was getting actual views or bot-driven views. Because of a mathematical formula in the YouTube view count, it adds 1 or even a few more, if the view count hits 299 and multiple views come in at the same time. Once that magical count is achieved, we stop seeing how many views are coming in until later in the day or the next day.
301 is either arbitrary, or it's an actual count that YouTube considers to be a good starting point to investigate a video's actual engagement. My guess is it keeps it at 301 because people can easily be led by a high view count to watch a video legitimately, and YouTube wants to better analyze what is actually coming in before the count reaches a publicly-visible high number. Either way, arbitrary or not, it's at the 301 spot that YouTube begins to investigate whether this is a video with real views or fake ones.
I like the statement that Hamilton makes, "We look at views as currency." Especially in this day and age, where YouTube is looking for engagement, the view matters dearly. In this article, I speculated that what constitutes a view has changed, and it hit hardest in that May overhaul where YouTubers were upset about losing views and subscribers. The view probably used to count at a small amount of viewing time at first, then increased, and now, it might require nearly all the video to count as a view. But YouTube keeps those actual stats guarded.
Thanks a bunch, Numberphile! That was a fun little lesson in one of YouTube's greatest mysteries.