YouTube Views Are Down, Analysis Says

For months, YouTubers have complained that their view counts are down. New data from the third-party stat tracker SocialBlade confirms what YouTubers fear: viewership is lower "across the board."

SocialBlade crunched some numbers for Kotaku and determined that, since the first half of the year, YouTube views are now 5-7% lower. Between July and September, that decrease was 10%. It's pretty significant.

Here's the graph they drew up:

SocialBlade

SocialBlade Community Manager Danny Fratella explained over email how he put together the graph:

"I started by pulling daily view/sub growth data from January 1, 2016 - November 30, 2016 for every channel with more than 10 million subscribers. From there, I weeded out channels that weren't actually YouTube personalities; accounts managed by record labels (like VEVO channels) and television studios (like The Ellen Show), primarily. That left us with 49 of the biggest channels on YouTube."

SocialBlade says their metrics are reliable. They pull data directly from YouTube's API. But over Twitter on Monday, YouTube accused some third party apps of poorly representing subscriber activity, pointing directly to SocialBlade. SocialBlade fired back that they don't make up data, adding that "our data is only as good as what we're able to get from you:)."

It's worth noting that YouTube's view-counting algorithm is unknown because it's proprietary. But Fratella says "we know that watch time plays a role, but there are likely many other metrics taken into account."

Why YouTube views have gone down is unclear, but some good theories are floating around. Fratella pointed to two potential causes: view audits and altered video-promoting algorithms. During view audits, YouTubers don't actually lose views. YouTube is removing botted or invalid playbacks from the view count. This happens all at once in a sort of purge -- something YouTube has explained publicly. But now that YouTubers have tools like SocialBlade to more rigorously moderate their data, they may be noticing these purges more, Fratella suggested.

He added that SocialBlade doesn't see view counts purged as often as subscriber counts -- the main complaint going around YouTube communities. Although YouTubers have widely complained that fans are now randomly unsubscribed from their channels, YouTube and SocialBlade both told me that they have noticed nothing out of the ordinary in subscription data.

YouTube's video-promoting algorithm may also play a role in an apparent decreased viewership. What videos the platform draws more eyes to reflects their philosophy on what videos should go viral. Fratella directed me to a YouTube video by Derek Muller (Veritasium) in which he speculates on why more widely distributed video promotion could affect views. So, for example, when a channel with millions of subscribers regularly puts out a video, the latest of those videos may not deserve to go as viral as some guy's rapidly-shared mobile phone video of a breaking news event.

For more on that:

Why views are 5-7% lower across the board may have nothing to do with audits or promotion algorithms. It may be a ghost, or the hand of God. Who knows? With SocialBlade's stats, the decrease at least feels more tangible. The mysterious subscription declines, however, are still mysterious.


Comments

    more and more unskippable advertising before and during videos is making me watch less YouTube.

      And all those little ads with a tiny little X to close them, and if you miss you just loaded a new video (And sometimes you swear you hit it, but you're going to the next video anyways)

      Yep, especially as the unskippable stuff gets longer. It used to be that you could skip it after 5 seconds. Now it often won't let me skip it at all and expects me to watch the whole thing. I tend to just close it as soon as I see that I can't skip it. I'm not waiting around for that.

      I agree mid roll ads are pretty annoying on a 10 minute video, half an hour, not so much. However, if there were no ads, there'd be no YouTube. Don't like ads? Pay for YouTube Red.

        Or you can use the alternative way using Chrome or Firefox you install adblock free of charge as well kill all the unwanted ads

          Which means your favourite YouTubers get no money, stop making content, and leave you with nothing to do on a lonely Friday night.

      I know some people consider the following idea to be as bad as media piracy or orphanage burning, however, ad-blocking plugins... Hmmm?

        "as bad as media piracy"... it's the same thing.

          So is it also the same thing to mute the ads on TV, or go and do something other than watch them when they come on?

            It's not the same thing, correct. No one is stopping you from doing that with a YouTube ad. Though really, what kind of entitled idiot assumes they deserve entertainment at no cost? Someone spends all day making a video, and a viewer can't sit through 30 seconds of an ad?

              Yes. My 30 seconds are valuable, there's so many more cats that could be watched in that time.

    content quality feels like it's gone down for me, which sucks. A lot of the channels I used to watch are just putting out.. less interesting content.

    I think that was the period when i took my family on a cruise.

    I've watched less this year but its more because the content is stale and I don't want to watch the same things I did a year or more ago. There's 2-3 YouTubers I'm subbed to that I watch...some of their vids.

    The problem to me is the content on the platform. If everyone churns out the same thing over and over it's going to get boring at some point. Look at American Sit Coms...

    Last edited 27/12/16 12:15 pm

      This is a good point. It's highly commercialised now, mostly about making content that will make the most money. When YouTube was fairly new it was mostly just everyday people with a camera doing what they wanted, which made it entertaining. Now YouTube 'stars' are manufacturing their images to get views and keep that cash rolling in.

      Don't forget guys if you liked this comment to like, favourite, comment and subscribe, and hit that bell to get notifications! See you next time! [cue 30 second outtro]

        If you look at the YouTube algorithm you can understand why. YT punishes those who aren't successful immediately and promotes those who are. It forces content creators to engage in a commercial manner.

        I think services like Patreon should have been baked in to YouTube to allow these types of personalities to find success. YT can then take a percentage cut from the direct patronage of users to the personalities they enjoy. It's sad that this isn't a thing and that YT has instead opted to go directly to commercial profits instead of utilising their greatest strengths - individual personalities.

    Ive noticed the related video options on the side have significantly reduced, which impacts how much chain viewing and discovery of content via similar content.

    There used to be a dozen related clips, now theres 3-4, and the same damn recommendations that youtube is thinking I'd like to watch are constantly there, never changing, and I can only remove those by selecting the menu for that video and going "not interested". You'd think if I didn't click on it in the first 4 other videos I looked at, I just don't care.

    This is hampering the old experience of just wandering from one video to another, by removing the potential videos I could be interested in, thus ensuring I'm usually only on youtube for the few videos I found elsewhere.

    Also the new suggestions at the end of the video which have started appearing before the video IS EVEN OVER are frustrating, and block the damn content I'm looking at.

    How the hell any of these decisions passed even a cursory approval of anyone who uses the bloody service in testing, I've got no idea, as each change is detrimental to the use of youtube.

    Because it only takes one person to ruin it for everyone.

    Nothing to worry about. Just a bit of novelty bubble-popping that was to be expected at some point, plus a good percentage of their gaming userbase moving to Twitch, but Youtube is not going anywhere. There's simply no other service to take its place.

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