How YouTube Develops and Designs New Site Features through Experimentation

How YouTube Develops and Designs New Site Features through Experimentation

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This week on the Reel Web, we share some insight from YouTube regarding how they go about testing and experimenting with new site designs and features.  We also talk a bit about YouTube’s original channel initiative and their recent decision to re-invest in some channels while dropping more than 50% of the original premium channel partners.  Finally, we take a look at a couple “forumlas” for successful video including a look at some interesting information about the optimal length for a social video and a viral video forumla put together by Salesforce.

YouTube’s Process for Testing New Site Designs & Features

YouTube recently answered all of the grumblings about why they make the changes they do by explaining how they forecast the big picture.  Even though some of the changes can seem annoying to us as video creators, they really do have the broader scope in mind.  This explanation from YouTube tells how they decide to make those changes and roll them out, going through different levels of test marketing first.

We experiment and test every change, big or small, by showing it to a small set of viewers. For example, last year we tested removing a thin border from around video thumbnails. Our experiment showed it resulted in a nearly 2% increase in clicks on suggested videos. We also run in-person focus groups with a diverse set of people, some of whom subscribe to hundreds of channels, some of whom watch YouTube less frequently.

YouTube Reinvests in Original Channels, Drops >50%

So how do you get your videos to be the crème de la crème for YouTube?  Well, first you need to know what YouTube is looking for.  They are investing another $200 million this year in premium channels, but only about 40% of last year’s premium channels will make the cut this year.  What they’re primarily looking for in their selection process is how much time people actually spend watching that channel, or their engagement with that channel.  What they are not looking at is revenue generated because they believe that revenue will naturally follow from engaging content.

Is there an Ideal Length for Viral Video?

How do you make your own content engaging so that you can work your way up on the YouTube ladder?’s Greg Jarboe analyzed the top 50 social/viral video ads and found that the ideal length for video content on YouTube averages 4 minutes and 11 seconds. Truth is that I dont subscribe to the idea that there’s an ideal duration but for these results, the finding was interesting.  The shorter the video, the less shares it had. So, it takes a little bit of time to elicit emotion, which is what drives the viewer to share the video.  How do you elicit emotions?  Can you do it in one or two minutes?

A Viral Formula Revealed

Going further with this engagement issue, how does a video go viral? has outlined a formula to determine viral success.

Frequency (Who is talking about it?) x Proximity (How many people have they shared it with?) x Potency (How potent is the message?) x Incubation (How long after someone shares the content is it ultimately viewed?)

Read more about it and the checklist of 7 factor for video success here – Viral Video Formula Article.

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This week on the Reel Web, do you wanna know the process that YouTube goes through to decide what changes it’s gonna make and how it’s gonna roll them out?
We’ll talk about that, also look at a little formula for viral video success. That and a lot more coming up this week on the Reel Web.

Hey, guys! My name is Tim Schmoyer, and welcome to another week of the Reel Web, where every week we just highlight for you guys some of the online video
news from the week before. And this week YouTube wrote a post essentially saying hey, you guys don’t like the changes we’re making here. Here’s how we make
those decisions and roll out the changes and how we decide what’s gonna go out. And basically to me, I summarized the post for you. It’s linked up below.
Go check it out if you wanna read it in more detail, but to me it sounded like they’re basically saying hey, stop whining. Stop complaining. We know what
we’re doing here. We see the big picture. And that is true. I really think that they do. Google and YouTube have no reason that I can think of of why they
would make changes that just screw users over. They really want this site to be as engaging as possible. They want to do whatever they can to help people
stay on this site and help people subscribe to our content and everything. So I know some of the changes they make don’t really work out that well for us,
and a lot of us are seeing numbers go down and revenue go down. And things just seem like it’s going totally the wrong direction. And for some people that
is true, but YouTube is looking at the overall picture. And they say hey, we make a couple little changes in our own control group. We just bring in some
people from the outside. They come into our, like, lab. That’s what it sounded like to me, and they have some people browse the site, watch videos with the
changes, other people without it, and they kind of compare and see how it progresses and what it looks like. And if those numbers are favorable, the
changes look like they’re actually helping, then they’ll roll it out to a very small percentage of some very trusted YouTubers. Then it’ll go live, and
they’ll just test it with a couple of small people. If it works favorably for them, then they roll it out to a larger number, maybe about 2% of some
people, just kind of test it out. And if that seems favorable, then they roll it out to everyone, or at least they’re rolling it out to everyone by that
point. So by the time different changes on YouTube hit you and me, it’s probably likely that there’s already been a lot of rigorous testing and analysis.
If you want to know more details, check out the post below. Maybe it’ll be helpful, maybe not.

YouTube also announced its lineup of new premium channels. It’s investing another hundred million dollars just like it did last year into original premium
content on YouTube, and what I’m mostly interested in in this story is how YouTube is picking the channels from last year that they’re going to reinvest
into. Actually, they’re only taking about 40% of them into this year. They’re dropping about 60% of their channels that they invest $100 million into last
year. And the way they’re picking which channels go forward from this point is looking at the total engagement that that channel has. Primarily they say
they’re looking at total time watched for that channel and selecting from those and going forward. And I think that is just very telling for us as creators
that YouTube definitely cares about engagement and time watched. We’ve talked about that in past videos here recently. It is really super important.

What YouTube isn’t looking for, necessarily, is how much money a channel’s generated and how much revenue it’s contributing. They say that they don’t
really care about that right now because they think in the long run, those who are generating the most views, the most engagement will get to that point.
But right now, they’re just kind of focusing on the engagement piece and trusting that the financial part of that comes later.

And speaking of engagement, this past week we did a post at analyzing the top 50 video ads and looking at how viral they are and what revolves
around sharing them. And what we found was interesting. A lot of people asked how long should I make my videos? What’s the ideal length for my video
content to be on YouTube? And really what we found is actually, the top 10 most shared video ads are 4 minutes and 11 seconds, the average length. And
what’s interesting is actually, as you go down the list of the top 20, top 30, top 40, top 50, is that the shorter the video gets, the fewer shares it
tends to have. Now that’s really interesting. We looked at it as why do we think this is the case. It seems like the shorter videos don’t have enough time
to really elicit a strong emotion in the viewer, and that strong emotion is actually what prompts sharing to their social network. So if you want your
video to be shared a lot, what’s more important than length? It seems like we had to elicit strong emotions in our viewers somehow. And that’s what I want
to hear from you guys about in the comments below. How do you elicit emotions in your viewers? I mean, it could be funny. It could be sad. It could be
terrifying. It could be, I don’t know. There’s like a whole list of emotions that I obviously can’t think of right now, but comment below and let us know
ideas that you have for how you can elicit emotion. And can you do that in like a 90 second video? Can you elicit a strong emotion in maybe a minute or two
minutes video? It seems like, as far as our video ads are concerned, you need at least four minutes to get a lot of shares to kind of muster up the
emotions of the viewers.

Another post at this past week has to do with a formula behind viral videos. What makes a video go viral? And it turns out from all the
analysis and research done by us and, which is kind of where a lot of this data came from, is that it actually has more to do with what you
do after your video is published than it actually has to do with the video itself. The formula actually breaks down like this. Frequency, which is who’s
talking about it, times proximity, which is how many people they shared it with, times potency, which is how potent is the message, times incubation, or
how long after someone shares that content is it ultimately viewed. These four things together equals viral video success. Now we put together a checklist
at, which is also linked up below. If you’re watching this on YouTube, make sure you go check it out. It’s a checklist of seven things for your
viral video that you should check out, you should think of, you should incorporate into your videos, especially after you publish your content. So I’m not
going to tell you what all seven of those things are right now. Make sure you go click the link below. Read that post. I’m sure it’ll be very, very helpful
for you guys.

And while you’re doing that, I really do want to hear from you guys in the comments below or in video responses. How do you elicit emotions from your
viewers? How do you get them to really engage with your content? And we have enough video responses. I love to kind of compile all of them together. Of
course you get full credit with a link to your channel and everything of your ideas, so post those video responses below and be in one of our Creators Tip
videos coming up. I’ll put them all together into one video, so do that.

And guys, if this is your first time hanging out with us, subscribe because for our Creators Tip video on Thursday we’re talking with a lawyer. I took a
bunch of your questions surrounding copyright and how we copyright our content on YouTube and how do we use other people’s copyrighted content. That’s
coming up on Thursday, so subscribe to get that. And check out some of the other videos on here two or three times. Go check us out,, for all
the awesomeness we’re publishing for you guys every week. And I will see you guys again on Thursday for our Creators Tip video. See you then. Bye.


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