It's been an interesting week for YouTube this week--especially for those of us working in SMO or SMM (social media marketing), who spend our days marketing clients through YouTube videos. On Tuesday, YouTube abruptly stopped counting and updating views for all videos. The "blackout" lasted about 40 hours, and during that time no videos moved in or out of Most Viewed lists, other than those that expired (i.e. they had been uploaded more than 48 hours ago and so could no longer be in the Most Viewed Today list).
YouTube has admitted that they were having server problems, and that does seem to ring true. View counts have generally been updated at a slower pace recently, and many users have complained about issues watching newly uploaded videos. Some users think the view count freeze was a response to the plethora of Anonymous-vs-Scientology videos that have flooded the front page of YouTube recently. Whether that's true or not is up for debate. The Tom Cruise video remains on the site, and the Anonymous warning remains high on the Most Viewed for the Month list. The freeze count did occur on the same day as videos from global Scientology protests from the day before were uploaded, so it's hard to tell whether YouTube subscribes to the "Don't Be Evil" motto of its parent.
While the servers were acting up, the brains behind YouTube were at YouTube's Videocracy event in New York, where they debuted some cool new features for the video sharing site, including:
* Video recommendations based on your viewing habits
* Active Sharing
* Better Video Editing Tools
* Multiple Platform Distribution
* Advanced Analytics for view of your video
For marketers, the last point seems most important. Currently, you can only see the same data about your video that everyone else sees: how many views, comments and ratings the video received; the honors it acquired; and the top 5 sources of embedded views. These new analytics will give video publishers the ability to see where the viewers are geographically, and will hopefully give a breakdown of embedded views vs YouTube views, bounce rates, average time spent on the video, view/subscription and/or view/channel visit rates and other demographics—as well a complete list of embeds driving views.
This is the data we've been waiting for, that will finally let YouTube marketers know what methods work—and the real, intrinsic value of each view. Do some videos lead to more subscriptions? Do some videos appeal to a certain demographic? Are people watching the entire video—and which people are not leaving immediately?
Video recommendations and multiple platform distribution are important too. Finetuning your YouTube video collection could potentially mean someone watching more of your videos on TV, and a much larger potential audience. All these changes taken together should mean more views for savvy YouTube marketers—provided they fix those servers!