Why Are YouTube Video Views Falling?

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Google is changing the way YouTube does business and also the way they gage their success. While it used to be all about views or how many people clicked on a video, now it also matters how long people decide to view those videos. After all, if Google wants advertisers to view their services like they do television, they have to watch entire shows, not just a 30 second clip of a farmer jumping a school bus with a rocket-fueled tractor.

According to data compiled by ComScore (shown below), total views on the social video site have declined, while the amount of time spent is generally increasing. In fact, according to the graph, views have declined almost 30% since the beginning of the year. Conversely, we see a generally upward trend for amount of minutes spent on the site from March 2011 until January of this year when it fell back down, but then leveled off quite a bit.

ComScore YouTube data

All of this activity can be traced back to YouTube's quest to provide more original content and to get more advertisers onboard. This is how they pay the bills. If you can remember back to the middle of April, we reported on Google's efforts to adapt the gross rating points (GRP) system from television for use in an online arena. Their version, called the "active GRP, is an effort to help advertisers and marketeers assign value to certain spaces at a certain times.

A recent article by AdAge Digital reinforces the concept of keeping viewers engaged longer and addresses the value that has for advertisers. More engaged viewing means users are more receptive to brand advertising. what happens after a viewer sees an ad is important. For that reason Google or YouTube also tracks what happens once an ad is seen. Does it cause people to click away or do they stay and continue watching the program?

Average viewing time on YouTube has grown from less than a minute to about four minutes, so I would say it's isn't quite what advertisers would be looking for yet, but it is a trend in the right direction. We'll see what 2012 brings, but I would imagine it will take more time for YouTube and Google to be working off a similar platform as television.