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Creators posing for a picture at the Las Vegas Creator Collective event

Rene’s Top Five on YouTube: January 18, 2024 Edition

These are the top 5 things I saw this week.

Ok. Wait. Hold up. Not only is it 2024, but we’re more than halfway through January 2024 already! So, just who exactly is holding their finger down on the 2x button and can you let go a minute please? At least long enough for me, your Creator Liaison, to hit up YouTube, X/Twitter, Instagram, and Threads and find you all the most impactful news this week!

Two YouTube creators smiling and holding up a pair of branded socks at the Creator Collective event

🥰 #YouTubeCreatorCollective: CES, the don’t-call-it-consumer-electronics-show-anymore show, has just wrapped up in Las Vegas, and not only did Google show up in style, creators showed up with swagger! I covered CES from 2009 to 2020 but I didn’t go this year, and wow, I’m feeling more than a little FOMO’d about it! That’s mostly thanks to my longtime friend, Andru Edwards, teaming up with YouTube to host one big banger of a Creator Collective event at the show. So. Many. Tech. Creators! And so much fun! Can’t wait to see what #YouTubeCreatorCollective has planned for the rest of the year.

💛 Goodbyes: Huge love and respect for Tom Scott who, after celebrating an incredible 10 years of weekly uploads on his main channel, is taking a sabbatical to enjoy life in, hopefully, the same place for more than a week! You’ll stil be able to find him on his podcast, Lateral and elsewhere on the web, and maybe even back on his main one day. Meantime, second star to the right, and straight on till morning! Likewise MatPat and Stephanie who, after an FNAF-ton of Game, Film, Food, and Style Theorists, announced they’ll be moving from in front of the camera to behind the scenes and also exploring some new ideas for some new channels. There are still 8 or so episodes of each to go before new hosts will be taking over, and a couple or few months of livestreams to look forward to before they ‘Just a Theory!” us for the last time, at least for now, but their constant presence on the platform will be missed by fans who loved the videos and creators who learned from them alike. Several other creators have announced similar plans, or just changes in general, which has led to a lot of wild speculation and forced narratives about the state of the industry. My take is pretty simple — the creator economy has matured and is thriving to the point where OGs, like actors in long-running TV shows or film franchises, can afford to take some time and try something new. And that’s not just amazing, it’s entirely the way it should be.

🏞️ Thumbnail A/B Testing: Last year at VidCon, YouTube announced that Thumbnail Test and Compare (thumbnail A/B testing) would be coming this year. That’s the feature that’ll allow creators to upload up to three thumbnails per video and run them in parallel for up to two weeks to see if any of them deliver significantly more watch time. (Watch time, because it includes click-through to watch and retention to accumulate time). So now that it’s this year, one of the most frequent questions I’m getting is — where is Thumbnail Test and Compare? Why wasn’t it released at 12:00am on January 1? Well, thumbnail testing is still in testing. As of late last year, the testing ramped up to 50K channels of various types, sizes, and regions across YouTube (which is still a tiny number given how many channels are on YouTube). That’ll continue until team feels like the product is delivering what it needs to for creators, and then it’ll start moving into launch mode. No timeline yet, because it’s hard to predict how fast or slow tests of this size will go, but as soon as it’s ready to launch, YouTube will absolutely let everyone know!

🙋Q&A: If a video performs poorly at first, but then my audience starts to engage, will YouTube see this as a signal to share it with more people? As creators, we like to think in terms of our audience but, in reality, we don’t owns viewers and they all have agency! The audience is really an ever-shifting collection of different viewers with overlapping interests and a ton of options when it comes to what they can watch. The way YouTube works is — if someone watches and enjoys your video, it will likely be recommended to more people with very similar viewing patterns. If they engage, it will likely be recommended to even more people with pretty similar viewing patterns. Then, way more people with slightly similar viewing patterns. That will continue, with the size of the audience growing but the quality of the match decreasing, until people stop responding at a competitive level (they start clicking on other videos instead.) But YouTube doesn't give up! So, the recommendations system will keep testing, and if someone else watches and enjoys the video, that process will repeat again. And again. And… you get the idea! It’s why we sometimes see repeated spikes and drops for a video in YouTube Analytics. That’s YouTube finding a new pocket of audience that's into it, another creator making a similar video that increases interest in the topic, a real world news/cultural event driving interest, etc. I imagine these audience pockets as fireworks of different size and duration — they burst sometimes small, sometimes big, and last sometimes short, sometimes longer. It’s the algorithm trying to follow the audience!

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📈 Tip of the Week: Thumbnails get a ton of attention in the creator-verse but they’re really only a part of what makes for a successful video. You need a compelling idea, or everything else really won’t matter — the building is only as good as its foundation type of thing. Then you need a thumbnail that both accurately encapsulates that idea but is also visually dynamic enough to get someone to stop scanning the home page or scrolling on mobile. There are a bunch of other thumbnails there, why should they choose yours? At that point, you need a title that creates enough curiosity or interest so people will feel compelled to click on it. That packaging is the promise that your content then has to make good on, starting with the hook which has to reassure someone that the risk they took by clicking is going to be rewarded by the video they’re watching, or they may click out just as fast. Then, of course, the storytelling throughout has to be good enough and respectful of both time and attention enough to keep people watching for as long as possible — right up until an end-screen that’ll throw up another video or few and start the process all over again. Hopefully. In other words: A great meal has to stand out enough for you to order, look good enough for you to taste, taste good enough for you to eat, and delight and satisfy you enough to want to come back for more. So to, a video.

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