As an operator of multiple websites, I periodically share knowledge for other website owners. This is one of those posts. If you prefer my short stories or photographs, don’t despair. The next chapter of Pestilence will be live Thursday!
Just over a month ago, I was notified that The Thundering Herd – my website about my dogs – was being removed from the YouTube Partner Program effective February 20 (today).
Previously, the partner program required 10,000 lifetime views to be eligible (a view is a video being watched once). Starting now, the eligibility requirements are BOTH 1,000 subscribers AND 4,000 hours (240,000 minutes) of watch-time within 12 months. As I demonstrate below, these two rules discourage certain types of video producers – myself included.
As I explained in YouTube – Quantity not Quality, I decided to stop posting my videos on YouTube and have subsequently moved to Vimeo. Since announcing my decision, I have received numerous questions about my reasoning and the results, so I thought a follow up post was in order. I will let you know both what I like about the switch, what has been the negative impact, and potential strategies for the future.
4,000 Hours of Watch-time Discourages Artistic Creators
A minute of watch-time is a single minute of video viewed by one person. A two-minute video watched in its entirety by 1,000 people is 2,000 minutes of watch-time. A ten-minute video watched in its entirety by 1,000 people is 10,000 minutes of watch-time.
Thus, the more minutes of video posted, the faster someone can achieve watch-time. This favors people who make longer videos, more frequent videos, or both, rapid filming and editing are rewarded. The easiest type of videos to create are “talking heads” – where a person talks directly to the camera – with content like stunts, news/opinion, product reviews, how-to, personal journals or lifestyle videos.
To be clear, “talking head” is not a disparaging term, but rather a style of film making that has the advantage of being both easy to film (not a lot of set up shots or graphics needed) and to edit (errors and brevity). A skilled presenter speaking to the camera can be quite entertaining and educational. I regularly consult “how to” and product review videos on YouTube.
If, however, your video has extensive set up and editing time to produce a single minute of final product – such as cinematic shorts, animations and timelapse photography – you will struggle to meet YouTube’s watch-time gate without a much larger fan base.
In my case over at The Thundering Herd, I created 49 videos last year which were viewed 33,301 times for a total watchtime of 70,281 minutes (2.1 minutes per view). To achieve 240,000 minutes (and assuming I don’t increase the number of viewers which I will get to in a moment), I would have to do ONE of the following or a combination of the two:
Increase the number of videos from 49 to 168 – or one every other day rather than weekly.
Increase the length of the video from 2.1 minutes to 7.2 minutes
Since each video already requires several hours of production time, I would need to reduce time from other projects just to produce more videos OR dramatically change the type of video to reduce production time. Neither choice is acceptable to me.
1,000 Subscribers Discourages Broader Content Creators
At first glance, the easiest solution would be to increase my number of YouTube subscribers from 258 to 1,000. Assuming all new subscribers watch the videos at the same rate as my existing subscribers (a big assumption, but go with it), I would achieve the watch-time goal as well.
Just one problem – YouTube subscribers aren’t my goal. Overwhelmingly, people who watch my video on YouTube then watch someone else’s video on YouTube. They don’t come to the website. In all of 2017, 0.2% of my website visitors came from YouTube. Zero point two percent. I get more visitation from every other social media network with significantly less work.
Videos are a piece of a bigger content strategy, not my sole strategy. My hope is that after you read this article, you will click a link to go read a short story or view some photographs. Maybe you will sign up for the newsletter. For that reason, I want viewers to see the video on the website.
Because of YouTube’s conflicting desire to attract the viewer to other YouTube videos, they are not the best partner for an embedding strategy.
Who Should Use YouTube?
To be abundantly clear, I think YouTube brings a lot of value to two types of video creators:
The video IS the product. The creator either does not have a website or the website is of secondary importance. The goal is to produce a video and hope it is watched by others.
The video is a commercial, a call to action because the producer wants the viewer to buy something. These can take many forms such as product reviews or “how to” videos, but the primary goal is for the buyer to use affiliate links to buy commissioned products or to purchase directly products such as seminars, movies, music, video games, etc.
The biggest YouTubers do a mix of the two earning far more money outside the Partner Program.
Impact of Leaving YouTube?
Since my primary video goal is to be a part of a larger strategy within my website, did I make the right decision to move to Vimeo? Here is a summary of the impact, good and bad:
Vimeo is not a free service. Based on the size and frequency that I upload, I pay Vimeo $84 a year to host my videos. YouTube is free. Without a doubt, YouTube wins the cost category.
In the last month, I have created four new videos. This is a very small sample size, but I compared the results to the four videos I made prior to the switch. Some very interesting statistics come to light:
Overall views (number of times the video is watched) are down 13%. YouTube, with its large audience, can attract more viewers than my website can.
At the same time, page views (number of times a page is loaded on the website) for my Film Friday blog posts are up 9%. Thus, many of the people who were previously viewing the video only on YouTube and not visiting the website are now coming to the website.
What does that tell me? Many of those people who were viewing my videos on YouTube made the switch and are now on my website instead. I lost some viewers of the video (13%) but gained visits to the website.
For me, Vimeo wins this category because my goal is website traffic. If your goal is video views, you are better off at YouTube.
Videos, like most social media, have a very short life. Most of my videos get 85-90% of their views in the first 48 hours they are available.
The exceptions – that is, the ones with “legs” – are all about products. For example, my most popular video on YouTube is also one of my least favorite. I aimed my camera at dinner bowls and had the dogs try three different brands of food. The video has been seen 27,742 times – ten times as much as my second most popular video. That single video also accounted for 36% of my YouTube earnings last year (yes, 36% of that whopping $34.85).
Once again, for my purposes, the potential for longer life of product related videos adds no value for me since few, if any, of these people later visit my website. But, if your goal is earning revenue through affiliate sales, YouTube is your choice.
Views for Old Videos
Each Monday, I post a link to an old video via “Movie Memory Monday.” You may share links to your old videos for “Wayback Wednesday” or “Throwback Thursday” or whatever alliteration you like. Since my videos are now available exclusively on my website, those are now all becoming page views. In the last four weeks, this change has accounted for 83% of the increase in my page views. Previously, those links created traffic for YouTube.
Running a website – particularly a popular website – is not cheap. The Thundering Herd sells no products, so my only source of revenue for that website is advertising. My source of costs, however, are numerous. The website runs on its own Virtual Private Server. The design software has annual license fees. Several of the features on the website have costs. The advertising revenue helps defray that cost.
As I said earlier, the YouTube revenue is irrelevant – $34.85 a year which is less than a month of my server costs alone (much less software, etc.). But advertising revenue on the site itself is much more valuable. Since my page views have increased on the website via Film Friday and Movie Memory Monday, I have recouped the lost revenue, though I certainly haven’t covered the cost of the Vimeo subscription.
A creator of animated shorts could embed their animations on their own website, earn advertising revenue, and continue to retain the audience to potentially sell other products – calendars, books, or collectibles. That may be a much better strategy than using YouTube even if they qualify for the partner program.
As I mention above, YouTube’s strengths are cost (free is hard to beat), views (because of their large audience), and the potential for advertising revenue if you make the type of videos that hit their hurdles. So, why do I think Vimeo is better?
Viewer satisfaction – I have received several notes saying the videos are clearer, easier to play, and aren’t cluttered with ads.
Control where the video is seen – Vimeo offers restrictions so that you can limit where a video can be viewed. This allows you to show the video only on your website (or anywhere else you want to restrict it to) or open it up to be seen anywhere – or any option in between. In my case, I use this to make it a part of the website experience. While YouTube has some controls, they are much less flexible.
Upload time – In my personal experience, Vimeo’s upload and processing time is much quicker than YouTube’s saving me production time.
End screens – Something I didn’t anticipate, but love. Vimeo has several tools for your endscreen to allow you to link a viewer to different options. In my case, I provide a link to subscribe to my newsletter. This blows YouTube’s clunky endscreens and links to others’ videos out of the water.
Thus, for me, Vimeo is the huge winner. While I am sacrificing a small number of views, I receive greater end user satisfaction and control on my video in return.
Possible Alternative Strategy
I am considering a hybrid strategy. Continue to use Vimeo as my primary video tool, embedding the videos on my website. This will allow me to provide great service to my readers, my primary goal.
Recognizing that 90% of a videos views occur in the first 48 hours, I might post that exact same video on YouTube several days later. While I would never achieve partner status using this approach, I could still leave the videos out on the world’s largest video platform with the potential of capturing some of that audience. Perhaps I even convince a few of those viewers to come visit the website. And stay.
Hope other content creators have found my experience useful. Any questions or thoughts?