Ever wondered about those YouTube stats? How strong an indicator are they of folks actually sticking around? Well, tucked away in the ‘Analytics’ section is a tab called Audience Retention. You can learn a lot there.
The first thing you notice is that people really don’t stick around! Bore them for a few seconds, and they’re gone. Particularly if the content is not what they were looking for. Luring them in with a promising title like “Greta, the spanking nun!” may push up your hits counter, but few visitors will linger.
For the more serious film-maker there are sobering, but useful, lessons to be learned. The beauty of the interface YouTube offers is that you can play the video while seeing on the curve above how many people are leaving your page. So let’s take a look at a few things I’ve uploaded:
The first is exactly what it says on the tin. Someone wanting to see Paul Scofield in Amadeus won’t be disappointed by what they find, nor will they be looking for a quick thrill, so the resultant curve is pretty good.
I’ve had some great responses to my video about Lou Reed’s Walk On The Wild Side, but to my surprise the analytics tell me it nose dives to 75% in 20 seconds, and by the end less than a quarter of visitors are still there. Not a broad audience then. I notice there’s a little peak where there’s some nudity…
‘Sid Vicious auditions for X Factor’ (which I’m proud to say has garnered an honorable mention from Julian Temple) offers a strange curve. 25% are lost in the first 24 seconds! But it picks up when the X Factor logo plays, then falls away (maybe as people realise it’s a fake?) and has another peak when Simon Cowell loses his head. Surprisingly 30% stick it out. Better than Lou Reed. Well done Sid.
So how well does something called ‘Johhny’s Liver (trailer)’ fare? I’m shocked to discover that 30% are lost in the first 10 seconds! But it levels out once the puppet makes an appearance, and 30% then stick with it. So maybe the first 10 seconds needs to be cut..? Press ‘play’ and you’ll see what I mean. It’s only a minute long. Should I re-cut it..?
You’ll have noticed that none of these curves are flat, and certainly nowhere near 100%! They tail off. That’s how it works. You have a fickle audience with a low attention span. Notice also that sometimes the curve arches up for a bit. This is puzzling. I think it’s folks playing back sections they like again, and thus adding to the play count at that point. It may also be that people will scroll through a video and skip the earlier stuff. Like I said, fickle. 😉
So, go now and check out your own YouTube analytics. They are a surprise, and you’re likely to learn something. I wouldn’t suggest completely re-cutting anything as a result, unless it’s clearly losing your audience immediately (and bear in mind the video may simply be crap) but you might consider editing future videos with a different strategy, one that hooks the audience a bit sooner. Or then again, you might not. 😀
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