When the stats are down – a look at YouTube tutorial videos

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Part of our job at Hotfoot is to help our clients grow, to make sure that line on the graph is pointing up as it heads right, whether the metric we’re tracking is voucher redemptions, ecommerce checkouts, Facebook shares, newsletter subscribers, or video plays.

So it’s always interesting to see when campaigns are seemingly not working, when the stats are diving down instead of surging upwards. Wonkblog in the Washington Post delved into the view stats of some popular YouTube tuition videos, which – perhaps unsurprisingly to anyone that’s joined a gym and not kept up the membership – are all heading the wrong way:

Across all five video series, viewership fell by at least 90 percent from the first video to the 30th. The stats for business videos posted the most precipitous decline, a nearly 97 percent drop. The guitar series held on to the most viewers, with just a hair under 10 percent of the initial 100,000+ viewers hanging on all the way to the 30th video. […]

There are reasons for this beyond simple human nature, of course. Many people may view an initial tutorial video out of boredom or curiosity, with no intention of ever seeing the whole thing through. Others may view a few tutorials and get so excited about a topic that they decide to go out and seek more formal instruction than what you can get on YouTube.

But the consistent pattern of viewership across five radically different domains suggests that human nature is being reflected here. What would be really interesting, of course, would be to dig deeper to find some video series where this pattern doesn’t hold true. What would make them different from the largely beginner-oriented tutorials above? And what would that difference suggest about how we learn things?

There is perhaps one bright spot in this for the video makers – in many ways this is the beginning of a classic sales funnel (with a very wide opening thanks to the immense reach of YouTube), and the viewers that do stick with the whole series are the hardcore fans that are likely to buy products and services.

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