Video View-Counting Standards Examined

    May 23, 2008

Content creators often decide where to place video clips based on an idea of how many views they’ll receive.  Yet new research shows that not all official view counts are created equal, and some of the most popular sites may be given to boasting.

It seems fair that, if someone sits through an entire video, the experience gets counted as one view.  But what if someone watches half a second and then clicks on the "back" button?  Or if someone or something behind a single IP address refreshes a video 200 times?

TubeMogul found that YouTube, MySpace, and Yahoo Video are willing to count views in all of these scenarios.  A number of less well-known sites take the same approach, too.  Metacafe and stand out with stricter standards, only adding to tallies when half (or at least 30 seconds’ worth) of videos are watched, and not when they’re refreshed repeatedly.

Evolution of Dance
 The Evolution Of Dance On YouTube

This doesn’t necessarily make Metacafe and Blip heroes; if they’d conform to YouTube’s standards, at least the inconsistencies would be eliminated.  Still, it’s the sort of thing people should keep in mind when they’re looking at view counts.  About 86 million individuals – or a group greater in size than the population of Germany – probably haven’t sat through "The Evolution of Dance" in its entirety.

Also, as Michael Learmonth notes, TubeMogul has looked at these measurements before.  "The biggest difference since their first test last June?  Both YouTube and Yahoo lowered their standards.  Previously, both logged only one view per IP address and now both count multiple views from the same computer the moment the user presses play."