YouTube vs Facebook Video: Watch Time or Views?

By October 27, 2015Video, Web

This morning as I checked the analytics for several YouTube channels I work on I noticed a new change. YouTube is placing top priority on watch time rather than view count. The difference between those two metrics are basically that a view is when a single user sees a video and watch time is how long they stayed on that video.

Recently YouTube has upped their game on the view counting and made that statistic more accurate by getting rid of the dreaded 301+ view cap. Previously you could refresh your browser and watch a video over and over, each time counting as a view until it reached about 300 and then a different more accurate algorithm for counting individual views would kick in. It was less than useful.

However even with the 301 club gone the metric of views is a somewhat subjective unit of measurement. This is VERY apparent when you bring in other video platforms like Facebook. A video uploaded through Facebook’s video service autoplays without audio by default when you scroll passed it on your newsfeed… and if you happen to have it on your screen for a few seconds while reading the post above or below it, that counts as a view. So when Facebook starts touting statistics about their video platform in comparison to other platforms you should be more than a bit skeptical. We’re comparing apples to oranges here. (And don’t get me started on the issue of freebooting on Facebook and their terrible way of helping creators protect their content. Pretty much if you see a video on Facebook it was stolen from a YouTube channel and Facebook is doing little to stop this because it’s how they can get their stats to look good and sell more ads. Mini-rant over.)

Anyway YouTube view takes a LOT more than scrolling passed it autoplaying for a couple seconds to count as a view. Unfortunately the media tends to overlook this and report misleading information that benefits Facebook. (BTW I’m don’t hate Facebook. They are great, just not in this instance) But this is exactly why I think YouTube has¬†shifted to the more meaningful statistic of watch time.

This shift really began back in 2012. A new algorithm was put into place to give suggested video priority to videos with better watch time rather than the previous algorithm that gave high view counts better rankings. Of course views still have weight, but just not as much as they used to. Think about it, click bait videos may get you long enough to count as a view but if people click away and go watch something else about the same topic for longer, the video with the longer watch time is likely a more relevant video.

Yes it is awesome to have millions of views, but not when those views are one second a piece. The views that matter are the ones that stay and engage in the content. No tricky click bait title and thumbnail can create great watch times.