Last week, I wrote, "It's almost December and it's fairly easy to predict what's going to happen next month. Everyone from the Official YouTube Blog to the Meme Machine to Visible Measures will take a look at the top YouTube trends in 2011.”
I added, "If what's past is prologue, then 'YouTube's New Year Countdown,' a special destination page spotlighting 31 of the year's most memorable videos, should start on Dec. 1, 2011. The Meme Machine should also announce the 'top 20 viral global video ads of 2011' on Dec. 1.”
So, how accurate were my predictions?
Well, on Dec. 1, YouTube introduced a new homepage, customizable channels, and an overall redesign. But the YouTube Blog didn't start a countdown of the year's most memorable videos.
As Rick Perry would say, "Oops.”
Meanwhile, over on the Meme Machine, there were four posts on Dec. 1: "Reindeer Rocked By Santa's Decision To Buy A Toyota Prius," "Cute Video Of The Day: Crying Little Girl Just Wants Her Sunglasses," "Aubrey Plaza Dumps Boyfriend For World Of Warcraft In (Relatively) New Advert," and "'Yes' Man Stars In Latest Ad Campaign For Martini.” But there wasn't a post announcing the top 20 viral global video ads of 2011.
So, I'm eating humble pie this week.
But it re-teaches me an important lesson: When it comes to predicting YouTube trends, "Past performance is not indicative of future results.”
Just because worldwide web search interest in "viral videos" spiked in March 2006, does not mean that it is just as high today. In fact, look at the chart from Google Insights for Search below, and you'll see that web search interest in "viral videos" has dropped to about 20 to 25 percent of what it once was.
And while we're using Google Insights for Search, check out the worldwide web search interest in "YouTube redesign.” Obviously, data for December 2011 isn't available yet, but worldwide web search interest spiked in April 2009 and to a lesser extent in April 2010, during previous YouTube redesigns.
But web search interest in "viral videos" and "YouTube redesign" weren't leading indicators of doom and gloom. To the contrary, YouTube continued to grow to record levels of traffic, partners, and monetization despite the drop in interest in viral videos and the periodic interest in its redesigns.
So, can I confidently predict what will happen next?
No, but I find it interesting that YouTube replaced Insight with YouTube Analytics on the day before YouTube introduced a new homepage, customizable channels, and a new overall design. I suspect that other YouTube Partners were doing what I did over the weekend: Checked their Analytics to see their performance for the last 30 days.
For example, I looked at the traffic sources for the SES Conference & Expo channel . Within minutes, I'd discovered that 24.0 percent of the total views on the channel so far in 2011 have come from "Mobile apps and direct traffic.” This is up from 14.6 percent in 2010.
It's worth noting that YouTube Mobile (m.youtube.com) gets over 400 million views a day, making it the #2 video-viewing website in the world, second only to YouTube.com.
So, with this in mind, some critics of the YouTube redesign might want to take a look at the site's homepage on an Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, Nokia S60, and Windows phone as well as on a home theater PC. They just might discover one of the not-so-hidden trends that are driving the latest changes to YouTube's design.
One of the other trends driving the latest changes to YouTube's design was clearly identified in the YouTube Blog post on Dec. 1: "From your favorite sports highlights and dance competitions to make-up tutorials, science experiments and great movies, there's a ton of great stuff on YouTube — over three billion views worth per day by last count. More and more, behind every great video is a great Channel, and with our announcement last month that more of them are coming to YouTube, we want to make it easier for you to find and keep tabs of what you want to watch.”
That's why "past performance is not indicative of future results" when it comes to predicting YouTube trends. In 2012, there is going to be a lot more content from many more channels for YouTubers "to find and keep tabs of" than there has been in the past.
That's why I'm not paying as much attention to what media critics are saying about the YouTube redesign as I am to the 20,000+ YouTube Partners from 22 countries around the world have to say. If this new design helps more partners make six figures a year, then it should be judged a success.