I just flew back to Boston, MA, from Anaheim, CA, so I had a lot of time to think about all of the things that I learned by attending (and speaking) at two-days of back-to-back sessions in VidCon’s industry track. Now, I toyed briefly with creating one of those BuzzFeed-style listicles: “The 29 nuggets of news that you missed by not attending VidCon 2017.” But, I decided to go in a different direction. I figured that video marketers would be more interested in the three most significant things that I learned at VidCon’s industry track. I know, three is as arbitrary a number as 29, but it indicates that these are the most strategic insights, critical data, tactical advice, and trends in the social video marketing business. So, without further ado, here are “The Top Three” stories that are worth hearing and then retelling to your colleagues in the industry:
#1 1.5 Billion Logged-in Viewers Visit YouTube Every Single Month
On Thursday afternoon, Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, kicked off her keynote conversation at VidCon by sharing some critical data with Rhett & Link on a set that looked kinda, sorta like the one used for Good Mythical Morning (except the desk was bigger). She said, “A question I get all the time is ‘How many people actually watch YouTube?’ Today, I’m pleased to announce that we crossed a big threshold: 1.5 billion logged in viewers visit YouTube every single month. That’s the equivalent of one in every five people around the world! And how much do those people watch? On average, our viewers spend over an hour a day watching YouTube on mobile devices alone.”
Now, the first number – 1.5 billion logged in viewers – is a significant milestone. Heck, the YouTube statistics page, which hasn’t been updated yet, still says, “YouTube has over a billion users,” which the YouTube team announced back in March 2013. So, YouTube updates these numbers about as infrequently as the FIFA World Cup is held. And, to give you an idea of how big a deal this number is, consider this: Four years ago, when YouTube announced it had hit a billion monthly users, it said, “If YouTube were a country, we’d be the third largest in the world after China and India.” Well, today YouTube Nation would be the largest in the world – ahead of China (1.4 billion) and India (1.3 billion). Yes, I know Facebook had 1.94 billion monthly active users (MAUs) as of March 31, 2017. But, only 500 million of these MAUs are watching Facebook videos. And I think it’s also significant that YouTube is only counting “logged-in viewers.” This means their actual number of viewers is larger.
And the other number that Wojcicki shared – viewers spend over an hour a day watching YouTube on mobile devices alone – is just as significant. It means that watch time has grown way beyond an average of just 1 minute per day watching video on tablets, and 2 minutes per day watching video on smartphones back in 2011. Why use a number from six years ago as a benchmark? Well, back in 2011, only 6% of YouTube views came from mobile devices. Today, 70% of YouTube views are now coming from mobile devices. This means YouTube has successfully made the transition from desktop to mobile viewing – which was a difficult hurdle all by itself – and managed to increase its total number of viewers AND increase its watch time to boot! Two years ago, Wojcicki said her top three priorities were “Mobile. Mobile. Mobile.” Well, she’s won the trifecta, scored a hat trick, or gone three-for-three. So, that a significant accomplishment, wouldn’t you agree?
What does this mean to video marketers? Well, your relationship with YouTube may be “complex.” But, this social video platform has managed to navigate the most significant paradigm shift that we’ve seen in the past six years and still come through with a much bigger audience that is watching videos for a much longer time.
# 2 You CAN Recover From the YouTube ‘Adpocalypse’ But it Takes Work
On Friday morning, I deviated from schedule of 28 must-attend sessions that I had put on my calendar before VidCon. And I’m glad that I did, because I attended the session entitled, “Navigating Algorithm Changes in Social Video: How to Respond When Facebook or YouTube Throws a Curveball,” which featured insights on video strategy and tactical execution from Josh Kreitzman, the Senior Vice President of Publishing and Programming at Jukin Media. According to the Tubular Leaderboards, Jukin Media ranked #13 in May among the top media and entertainment properties, with 1,764,036,628 Facebook views and 136,938,813 YouTube views that month.
Kreitzman showed his audience slides (using gridlines, but not numbers in the y axis) that indicated that a couple of Jukin Media channels on YouTube had lost a significant percentage of ad revenue from late March to early April.
For example, he showed the audience a video from The Pet Collective, which is home to the top trending clips, most entertaining memes, and funniest animal videos online. Entitled “Back to the Future with Pugs,” it had received the dreaded Yellow dollar sign, indicating that the video did not meet the criteria for advertiser-friendly content at the time. Buried in the metadata of this video were the words “Skin Head,” but when this was removed, the video was successfully “disputed” and monetization was restored because it was the stage name of an actor doing a voiceover for a dog, not a skinhead.
Then, he showed a trending viral video from Daily Picks and Flicks, which covers all the funny, interesting and strange stuff that is buzzing around the world. This second video featured a pigeon jumping off a building, but when it was retitled, “Bird Jumps off Roof,” then it was successfully “disputed” and monetization was restored because the pigeon simply flies away after pooping:
Kreitzman told the audience that:
- Monetization rate was an important metric to track,
- Auction activity was an early indicator of change,
- Checking your monetization status was vital and disputing it if you believe your content is advertiser friendly can get results,
- Following advertiser-friendly guidelines was essential and thinking about how your metadata could give the wrong impression was necessary,
- Knowing the difference between demonetization and low-monetization was crucial, too.
Kreitzman followed all this – which was already worth the price of admission – with more strategic insights and tactical advice about small algorithm changes at YouTube that carry massive implications for how users discover your videos. Among other things, he noted that:
- The drivers of discoverability are constantly evolving – with suggested videos becoming less important, but browse features more important over the past six to 12 months.
- Freshness is an important new factor – and playlists seem to be back in vogue again.
- It’s becoming more important to keep building your subscriber base – because it’s getting harder and harder to compete for new viewers.
- Brand identity is also becoming more important as competition for generic terms is becoming tougher and tougher – making it even more essential to differentiate your content and stand out.
In short, this turned out to be a must-attend session, even though it was held in a smaller room, when I had anticipated that most of the must-attend sessions would be held on larger stages. So, sometimes you need to call an audible at the scrimmage line after you see how everything has lined up – and deviate from your initial plan.
Facebook Announces New Creators App
Also on Friday morning, rumors swirled around VidCon that Facebook would be announcing something new for creators. Well, they did. But, it wasn’t what creators were really, really hoping for. During the session entitled, “The Future of Facebook Video,” Daniel Danker, a product director at Facebook, said that the social network will be releasing a new app later this year that will update Facebook Mentions, which was launched back in July 2014. According to Danker, the app will still feature access to Facebook Live as well as a new live creative kit, where creators will have access to special tools that include adding intros and outros to live broadcasts. They will also have custom stickers that viewers can use and custom frames for the creator.
But wait, there’s more! The update will include a new Community tab, where creators can more easily connect with their followers on Facebook as well as Facebook’s other apps, Instagram and Messenger. The app will also have more insights, such as who the creator’s followers are and how they are consuming the creator’s videos.
A couple of hours later, during the fireside chat with Fidji Simo, Facebook’s VP of Video, News, and Advertising Product and Engineering, repeated the announcement for people (like me), who didn’t attend “The Future of Facebook Video” session. But, I learned later that Simo didn’t provide any additional details beyond what Danker had disclosed.
Now, I was moderating a session on Programmatic Advertising that was scheduled concurrently with “The Future of Facebook Video” session, so I couldn’t skip my own session. Nevertheless, I was relieved that I hadn’t really missed that much – because Facebook hadn’t announced the equivalent of the YouTube Partner Program. So, you could say that a Facebook partner program was the dog that didn’t bark at this year’s VidCon. I mean, tools to add intros and outros to live broadcasts are nice features. And so are the custom stickers, a new Community tab, and additional insights. But, nice features don’t pay the rent, do they?
What does this mean to video marketers? Well, your relationship with Facebook may also be “complicated.” But, this social media platform seems focused not only on generating more ad revenue from video, but also on keeping as much as it can all to itself. Yes, maybe, that will change someday – and Facebook will start sharing a standard percentage of that ad revenue with more than a small number of creators who’ve been cherry-picked from the YouTube Partner Program. So, maybe, it’s worth building an audience on Facebook now and waiting for the dog to bark in the night. In the meantime, the social network continues acting like a cat, not a dog. So, waiting for a cat to bark may not be your smartest strategy.
Did I learn more than these top three things at VidCon’s industry track? Why, yes, I did. But, they will hold for other columns on other days. In the meantime, let us know what you think of these strategic insights, critical data, tactical advice, and trends in the social video marketing business. Did I miss something that you saw at the event or heard about later from a colleague who was there? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Twitter.