June 28, 2016:Growing YouTube revenues means understanding ‘watch time’

The arguments over YouTube’s safe-harbour status and its interactions with the music industry are important, and will continue.

But there’s a related area of discussion around how musicians and rightsholders can take the initiative and increase their YouTube revenues by, well, getting better at YouTube.

These aren’t contradictory ideas either: there are plenty of music companies lobbying at higher levels for safe-harbour reform while running digital teams tasked with mastering the features of the online-video service.

And a message we’ve heard loud and clear – from music companies like AEI Media and Kobalt as well as from the managers of YouTube-native musicians like Hannah Trigwell – is that there is more money to unlock in the YouTube pot.

With that in mind, an article on online-video industry site Tubefilter digging in to YouTube’s recommendation algorithm is essential reading for the music industry.

It breaks down how “watch time” is all-important in 2016, including explaining that it “DOES NOT mean minutes watched”, but is rather a combination of views, view duration, session starts, upload frequency, session duration and session ends – the latter being how many viewers reach the end of a video.

There is also some good advice on the importance of “view velocity”, which is how many views videos get in their first 48 hours on YouTube, particularly from subscribers to a channel.

“Essentially, there was a direct correlation between the percentage of subscribers who viewed in the first 72 hours and a video’s life to date viewership,” it explains. “If one of your videos is not clicked on by a large amount of subscribers, YouTube will not serve your next upload to a significant portion of your subscriber base.”

There’s a lot more in the piece, but the wider point is what’s important here: understanding exactly how YouTube defines “watch time” and what that means for its algorithm is vital in 2016. As is figuring out what kind of music-related videos work well within this system.

A popular artist may be able to get view velocity by posting a four-minute music video every couple of months, but the importance of upload frequency and view duration should fuel the trend within the music industry of exploring other content, from vlogging and live performances to collabs with non-music YouTubers.

Which brings us neatly onto YouTube’s latest announcement around its live-streaming features, which have been lower-profile than rivals like Facebook Live, Twitch and Periscope.

YouTube Live

“YouTube mobile live streaming will be baked right into the core YouTube mobile app,” explained the company in a blog post. “Because it’s built right into the YouTube app, mobile live streaming will have all the features your regular videos have.”

Including monetisation? We’ll find out when the feature goes live soon.

Stuart Dredge
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