How To Let Viewers Choose an Ending to Your Interactive Video [Creator's Tip #80]

Giving viewers interactivity can enhance your videos if you have a particular story you want to tell that has multiple possibilities.  Allowing viewers to go from one video to the next can increase engagement, as long as the story is something worth "following down the rabbit hole."  In our continuing coverage of interactive annotations, we discuss how to create a multi-video universe that is easy to navigate and hopefully will be a lot of fun for your viewers.  If you're late to the party, take a look at this post about annotations that let you "skip ahead" within videos to play catch-up.

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-Style Videos

Here's our Creator's Tip video on the subject:

Tips for creating an interactive video:

  • Shoot all of your videos separately.
  • 1 video will be public.  The others will be unlisted but accessible through annotations.
  • When uploading the main video, make sure it is private so that you can add the annotations to the other videos and the incomplete video won't show up in your subscribers' boxes.
  • Set up annotations on all the videos so that they connect to each other and cross-promote each other.
  • Go to the annotations editor, scrub through the timeline to the place where you want the annotation, customize all the different features, and read here if you need further instructions.
  • Go to "Link" and select the video in which you want the annotation to link.  Copy the URL, and paste it in the link box.  If you need the link to take the viewer to a specific time in the video, you have a time code field you can play with to get to that exact point.
  • When you're done, be sure the linked videos are "unlisted." (you don't want your linked videos to show up all by themselves in the subscriber boxes)
  • For mobile, you might want to have links in the descriptions since annotations won't show up on mobile devices.

Does it work?  It all comes down to how compelling a story you want to tell.  Interactive videos are just like any other video on the Internet: you must make compelling content in order for them to succeed.

  • Wrong Guys

    We actually developed an interactive comedy web series called The Wrong Guys for the Job, which you can find at and honestly, I'd say it's not worth it. We have a major drop off from the main video to each ending and it also rules out mobile devices. We have to shoot 4 sections of video for each episode and 3 of them are unlisted, which means now YouTube doesn't use those view counts in your Channel's view number and we lose the ability for people to search for those videos. If we do a season two, we've not going to use the interactive format again. Just too much work and not worth it to grow an audience and to engage people.

  • justinfoster
  • Carl Hartman

    I was producing interactive feature films 20 years ago. While hyperlinking to another video is great in theory, it really is poor structure. I wrote the guidelines that one major tv broadcaster is using as their model for the future of interactive TV. Research shows, that breaking the flow by clicking actually looses the attention of the viewer (in general) and it takes about 7-10 minutes to regain focus. Yes, 7-10 minutes. So, we developed structural models to keep the viewer engaged and participating. - Creating hyperlinks in video begs the question "I can do it, the technology exists to do it, but should I do it?"

    However, this linking technique (listed above) works well if you have multiple videos that promote your site. Keep watching your video for when people tend to jump off and place a link to another video in your library that may be of more interest at that time marker. - Also, take that data as a hint. If you are doing marketing/information videos keep watching that data. If people are leaving early their is an issue wit the video. Recut the video to test for better results.

    Additionally, we tend not to use talking heads or animated explainer videos for attracting business. A well produced mini-documentary or informational video may be more expensive to produce, but get us much better results. Talking heads are cheap to produce but everyone has it and it is really boring. Video is best used for a "field trip" to engage with people and your product. In the past we've produced as many as 400-500 videos in a month for one client.

    • Tim Schmoyer

      Good thoughts, Carl! I've seen the same thing that there tends to be audience drop-off whenever an action is required of them, like clicking to the next video. However, I haven't noticed a huge difference in numbers between how many viewers are still watching a video at the point where an action is required and how many actually click through to the next video. The key is that the reason for clicking through has to be compelling. I wonder if the stats between online video and TV are different due to the "lean in/lean back" experience of the two.

      As far as the talking heads and explainer videos versus a mini documentary, I think it depends on what you mean by "better results," doesn't it? Explainer videos and talking heads both get different results as a mini documentary does. They may tend to engage different audiences, too. I don't have any stats for that -- these are just the questions that came to mind when I read your comment.

      Great thoughts, Carl. Thanks for sharing them!