Creators are making longer videos to cater to the YouTube algorithm

YouTube has frustrated digital video creators for not always displaying their videos to the people who subscribe to their channels and for sometimes pulling ads from their videos that people do see. So YouTube stars are increasingly responding by extending the lengths of their videos in order to curry favor with YouTube’s watch-time-minded recommendation algorithm and to be able to feature more ads per video.

“I’ve figured out ways to monetize and to take advantage of the power of the algorithm,” said Cody Ko, a comedian whose main YouTube channel claims more than 1.1 million subscribers. “Obviously, it preferences longer videos, throwing multiple mid-rolls in, which tons of people do now.” Last year, Ko typically posted videos to his channel that lasted between six and seven minutes. But as YouTube cracked down on which videos were eligible to carry ads and removed ads from some of Ko’s, he upped the average length of his videos to range from 12 to 16 minutes.

The move by creators to produce longer videos “is very much correlated to over the last two years when YouTube switched the recommendation engine and search and discovery [to push new channels and creators to viewers],” said Rafi Fine, CEO of Fine Brothers Entertainment, an entertainment company that produces videos and shows for digital platforms like YouTube as well as for traditional TV and whose main YouTube channel counts more than 17 million subscribers.

While YouTube’s algorithm has prioritized watch time since 2012, creators have seen it shift toward favoring videos that people are likely to click on, but from channels they don’t subscribe to over videos from subscribed channels, Fine said. But if creators can demonstrate that their audiences spend more time on YouTube in order to watch their longer videos, they may be able to retrain YouTube’s algorithm to promote their videos in order to generate the desired watch time.

Other creators and media companies are similarly lengthening the videos they upload to YouTube. Remi Cruz, a lifestyle vlogger with 2.3 million subscribers on YouTube, usually posts 20-minute videos, she said. Gwen Miller, vp of content strategy at digital video network Kin Community, said 10 to 16 minutes has become the sweet spot for YouTube videos. And Whistle Sports, a digital video network that works with individual creators and produces its own original programming, tries to stick between the seven- and 12-minute range.

“We’re trying to generate watch time because we know that’s favorable to YouTube,” said Josh Grunberg, Whistle Sports’ head of community development and growth. “We know that they want meaningful views.”

Meanwhile, the move to increasingly insert mid-roll ads within these longer videos coincides with YouTube’s push over the past year to more aggressively restrict ads from running against some videos in an effort to reduce its brand-safety problems. A video may still risk being stripped of ads, but creators can hedge their bets by attaching more ads to a video so that a monetized view can generate more money to offset a demonetized view.

Once Ko’s videos began to exceed 10 minutes, he could run multiple ads in the middle of videos in order to make more money per view. Sixty percent of viewers probably won’t even be shown an ad, said Ko, “but it ups the chance that someone will get an ad, so the [per-video revenue] goes up, and you make more money for your video.”

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Facebook is Opening up its Video Platform to More Creators

Facebook Watch, which initially launched with a mix of short- and long-form TV show-like programming, will soon include content from regular creators.

“We are now bringing videos from Pages into Watch,” the company announced in a blog post this morning. “In our testing, we’ve found that people enjoy discovering and watching a combination of shows and videos in Watch — and for creators, this means their videos may be eligible to show up in Watch to be discovered by a broader audience.”

A Facebook page is a public profile specifically created for businesses, brands, celebrities, causes, and other organizations. Unlike personal profiles, pages do not gain “friends,” but” fans,” which are people who choose to “like” a page.

In addition to widening the content on its Watch platform, Facebook announced plans to open up Ad Breaks to more creators, starting with those who are creating longer, original content that “fosters a loyal community.” The company also plans to open up fan subscriptions to more creators in the coming months.

“We’ve been testing a way for fans to support creators they love by pledging $4.99 (USD) per month in exchange for perks like exclusive content and a special badge highlighting their status as a supporter, and we are now expanding to more creators,” the blog post read.

On the interactive side of things, Facebook is launching a slate of new shows that utilize interactive features like polls and quizzes with the aim of fostering a greater sense of community between creators and users.

“We’re starting with polling for both Live and on demand videos, as well as gamification for Live,” the blog explained. “With these tools, our partners can add a range of new interactive features to videos such as: polls, quiz questions, challenges, and more. These can all be used within an individual video or to create a standalone game show.”

In the coming weeks, a range of creators will begin to incorporate polling and gamification into their shows and videos, including Brent Rivera and That Chick Angel. Facebook also announced several interactive game shows that will be launching in the coming weeks:

– “Confetti” by INSIDER: A live interactive game show made in partnership with INSIDER that will air daily. It will challenge people to answer pop culture trivia questions alongside — and with the help of — their friends. Players can see which friends are playing at the same time, and be able to see how friends answered questions. Players who answer all questions correctly will split a cash prize.

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