I am programming a more intense study as I write, but I wanted to close out my initial study on the best length for a YouTube video. Common knowledge has it that since most videos on YouTube are less than 3 minutes that it is best to follow the pack and make many short videos. My study of the differences between randomly selected videos and those deemed popular/most viewed has questioned this pack logic.
What I have found is that videos under two minutes are less like to be widely watched that expected by their frequency in the population, while videos 5 minutes are over are much more likely to become popular that expected by chance and their population frequency. The strongest performance beyond chance comes from 8 minute videos, which have a stunning chi-squared value of 188 on 1 degree of freedom. Scores higher than 10.8 are able to reject a null hypothesis of the observed being the same as the expected with a confidence level of 99.9%!
I have charted this patterning by plotting the runtimes of YouTube videos against the chi-squared values looking at the expected number of popular videos based upon the population frequencies for those same runtimes. To make the chart easier to understand, I made the chi-squared values negative for cases where the observed was less than expected. Enjoy.
I have been doing more research on the state of affairs with Optimization of YouTube videos. At least publicly, there appears to be not much substance published on the topic beyond common sense and the application of SEO rules to the platform.
The most notable source I have found so far are Jonathan Mendez’s blog “Optimize and Prophesize” and a post at UndergroundConfessions.com. These two site focus on tags as the means to drive viewership much in the same way that webpages are optimized for organic search.
The upshot of these blogs is that optimization should focus on tags by:
- Matching tag content to titles and description
- Using unique tags for each video (along with unique descriptions and title)
- Make tags relevant
- Use adjective to help better engage your audience
- Avoid use of standard stopwords using in Natural Language Processing
- Use as many tags as possible (although this point by Mendez’s blog was debated in the comment responses to this point, based upon a searching index’s tendency to become unfocused when too many options are given).
What you should notice in this work is twofold – First it does not transform YouTube optimization beyond standard natural SEO and it seems very anecdotal based. The method and data backing these recommendations are unproved by information to back their assertions. Second, it is unclear how to apply this advice for impact since it is unclear beyond some loose description what make a good tag beyond it should not be from an undefined list of stop words.
Beyond these tag based insights, I found these others pearls of YouTube optimization from other sources (unvalidated by hard data as well):
- New video do not get search preference at YouTube over older content.
- Many views are driven by becoming a featured video, but this process in an internal one.
- Inbound links are important from trusted domains.
- Use the social aspects of YouTube and the 2.0 web to drive viewship/li>
- Sex and humor sells. It is a good strategy to find strongly performing content and make a lampoon of it or create a response to it.
- Carefully consider the category to be used for the video to make sure it matches the content
- Some blogs advice that voting and comments matters, while others think this is not the case.
- Make you title catchy, but don’t give too much away
All in all there is not much good content on how best to market your video on YouTube beyond just making it findable by standard search. It seems to me that insights from work I have done for optimizing films for festivals, advertising messaging, and e-mail for delivery would provide some much needed heft to the YouTube optimization toolkit.
I need to plan my big test….
My initial work on analyzing factors for success on YouTube has continued with a quick analysis of Titles. It is clear to me that a bigger, longitudial study is now needed with a much larger sample size. The initial work has oriented me well, but it has its limits especially since the life cycle of typical YouTube video remains in the shadows.
The initial title work has focused upon title length in characters. It is not earthshaking, but it does provide some an initial view into the psychographics of the video posters. Again, I have compared popular/most viewed distributions against a random control.
What I have found is that there is a natural mode at a length of 32 characters for the title in both segments. The random segment has a second mode with fewer characters (<25 characters), which suggests that these might be largely hastily posted video with little effort crafting an involved title. There is one last mode at 70 characters which is the saturation point of naming -- in other words the point at which names cannot be longer. Are these extra-long names attempts at making video more findable by organic search, or just the verbose efforts of passionate uploader? I don't know yet. Anyway, here is the chart...
I have been researching the state of the art for YouTube optimization and I must admit it is weak.
What bugs me most with the previous work on this subject is that it lack any baseline to compare. Just because most popular videos are shorter than 5 minutes does not mean that it is wise to make your hopefully popular video shorter than 5 minutes.
Given that all videos on YouTube tend to be short, the question should be are five or less minute videos represented in the popular category more than expected by random chance sampling from the greater population. They are not. My early work suggest that it would be foolish to cut your video short to optimize its chances for popularity.
The other recommendation for optimization I found are equally poor and under theorized… the influence of tags needs to be better addressed beyond rolling over now dated search optimization strategies for tags.
Time of day and day of the week optimizations exist, but they lack rigor of quantifying why this is important and how this effects the success of videos.
All in all, we can do better.
I have often wondered about tag in video site. Do they make a difference, since they allow videos to be found? Or is the number of videos so vast that they become lost in a sea of other tags? I don’t know the answer yet, but I do know this…. there is a difference between popular/most viewed videos and my random control selection. Popular videos average more tags spread out over a wide somewhat normal distribution, while my control sample has inverse decline pattern with most videos having one or just a few.
Are the number of tags cause for improved performance or are the best performers more carefully crafted? I need to brood on how to show which is the best explanation of what I am seeing.
Given that there are better movie lengths for festival films, I have begun to wonder if the same is true for YouTube videos. I am not the biggest fan of YouTube, but given its importance as a grassroots distribution channel I thought I should get over my personal biases and take a deeper dive into what makes it tick.
My initial study has involved capturing data on 2,600 video submitted yesterday. I drew the sample from YouTube’s top 13 channels (minus Movies and Music, which seem to play by different rules) for a collection of 200 videos for each channel. Those 200 hundred videos were split evenly into two segments: popular videos for that day and a control group of randomly selected videos.
I am still early in my analysis, but it is clear that these two samples are distinctly different. Randomly selected videos tend to skew shorter with the largest mode occurring with videos less than one minute long and all others being 10 minutes or less in length. If you look at the distribution of this random control segment it is a classic inverse power drop off with the count of videos dropping as the lengths go up. The Popular/Most Viewed segment has a very different form. There is a mode at less than one minute, but it is much less pronounced than the control segment. There is a second mode for the popular segment at 10 minutes with a tail of lengths extending out past 10 minutes.
It seems that popular videos tend to be longer than the average video, which is a pattern not unlike what I observed for short films in festivals. Despite not be normal in distribution, the averages run times are interesting with the control group having an average run time at 2 minutes 37 seconds, while the popular segment has an average run time at 4 minutes 52 seconds (almost twice the length) .
I have added a bunch of new data to the Lathrios Film Festival database for 2006-2008…
Asian Film Festival of Dallas (2008)
Atlantic Film Festival (2008)
Austin Film Festival (2008)
Baltimore Women’s Film Festival (2008)
Barbados International Film Festival (2008)
Bayou City Inspirational Film Festival (2008)
Big Bear Lake International Film Festival (2008)
Boston Film Festival (2007)
Brooklyn International Film Festival (2007)
Calgary Underground Film Festival (2008)
Camden International Film Festival (2008)
Cannes Film Festival (2007)
Chicago International Film Festival (2007)
CineSol Film Festival (2008)
CineVegas Film Festival (2008)
Connecticut Film Festival (2006)
Cornwall Film Festival (2008)
Daytona Beach Film Festival (2008)
DC Shorts Film Festival (2008)
Edmonton International Film Festival (2008)
Eerie Horror Film Festival (2008)
Fantastic Fest (2008)
FirstGlance Film Festival (2008)
Full Frame (2008)
Global Peace Film Festival (2008)
Hamptons International Film Festival (2007)
Heartland Film Festival (2008)
Hollyshorts Film Festival (2008)
Hot Docs (2008)
Human Rights Watch Festival (2007)
Impact Film Festival (2008)
Indie Memphis Film Festival (2008)
International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival (2008)
Jackson Hole Film Festival (2008)
Jacksonville Film Festival (2008)
Landlock Film Festival (2007)
Langston Hughes African American Film Festival (2008)
London Film Festival (2007)
Lone Star International Film Festival (2008)
Los Angeles Film Festival (2007)
Marfa Film Festival (2008)
Maryland Film Festival (2007)
Mid Atlantic Black Film Festival (2008)
Mill Valley Film Festival (2007)
Moondance International Film Festival (2008)
Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival (2008)
New Hampshire Film Festival (2008)
New York City Horror Film Festival (2008)
New York Film Festival (2007)
Newport International Film Festival (2007)
Non Violence International Film Festival (2008)
Ourense International Film Festival (2007)
Outfest Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (2007)
Over the Top Fest (2008)
Palm Springs International Film Festival (2008)
Palm Springs International Short Film Festival (2007)
Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival (2008)
Prince Edward Island Film Festival (2008)
Rhode Island Film Festival (2007)
River’s Edge Film Festival (2008)
Rockport Film Festival (2008)
Rome International Film Festival (2008)
Rooftop Film (2008)
Rotterdam International Film Festival (2008)
Sacramento Film & Music Festival (2008)
San Diego Asian Film Festival (2008)
San Diego Film Festival (2008)
San Diego Women’s Festival (2008)
San Francisco Black Film Festival (2008)
San Jaoquin Film Festival (2008)
Seattle Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival (2008)
Seattle’s True Independent Film Festival (2008)
Sidewalk Moving Pictures Festival (2008)
Silver Lake Film Festival (2007)
Solstice Film Festival (2008)
Southern Winds Film Festival (2008)
Tacoma Film Festival (2008)
Telluride Film Festival (2007)
Temecula Valley International Film & Music Festival (2008)
The B Movie Celebration (2008)
Thiller! Chiller! Film Festival (2008)
Tokyo International Film Festival (2007)
Toronto International Film Festival (2007)
Tulsa United Film Festival (2008)
Urban Mediamakers Film Festival (2008)
Vancouver International Film Festival (2007)
West Hollywood International Film Festival (2008)
Woods Hole Film Festival (2008)
Woodstock Film Festival (2007)
Movie: Dead Snow (2008)
Designed by: Unknown
An extremely simple flash site with an embedded trailer over the top of splash image.
Zombie Nazis in Norway. Do I need to say more? Maybe a little more. The film is a Norwegian language horror/comedy, which was picked up after its Sundance 09 premiere by IFC films.
There is not much here in terms of marketing. The site and its buzz strategy are fairly simple.
The splash background image is cool with the film title in red and a series of three Nazis in the snow. This image is textured to appear as if the image is painted on canvas. The colors are nicely shaded in mottled dark blues and greens with occasional punches of red. On top of this background, the trailer plays off to the left side.
In general, I like the look of the site. The trailer is fine. I think the trailer could have been more playful or suspenseful, but than again this is a film whose premise sells itself. It does not take much to market a film about zombie Nazis, since the draw is the concept. Too artsy a trailer is probably over-thinking things.
I would have like a few more marketing features on the site such as a signup for updates or some way of contacting the production company Elle Driver. That being said, the site works for me, since it nicely focused on creating buzz by having a home for trailer. The idea of a film about zombie Nazis will probably do the rest. You really don’t need more.
It is very good that they were able to get the URL deadsnow.com. It makes them much more findable than using less obvious URLs such as deadsnowthemovie.com. BTW, the title of the film is excellent. The combination the works Dead and Snow makes for a memorable and evocative title. I like it.
I do not like the fact that I cannot pause, rewind, forward, or mute the flash video. I can hide the trailer via a button at the bottom of the page and start it up again, but that is all. The size and quality of the video is good, but it is clearly only directed at broadband users. The design is likewise optimized for at least 1024 pixel wide screen.
What I like least about this site from a tech standpoint is its use of a frameset to place the flash movie on the page instead of using DNS, redirects or content publishing to make a more seamless implementation. The real content sits at http://kampanje.filmweb.no/euforia/deadsnow/. There is no excuse for this kind of sloppy use of frames in my mind. The HTML is sparse, except for a large number of largely unused meta-tags, which suggest this site was developed using some sort of publishing framework (maybe hosted by filmweb.no). In general, these issue are not so good for search optimization.
The site’s traffic is being tracked by Google Analytics.
Movie: We Live in Public (2009)
Designed by: Unknown – Perhaps by the filmmakers themselves
Reviewed: Feb 2009
Overview: For a net savvy film, this site is amateurish in its design and execution. The site does provide most of the standard needs of visitor, so its marketing faults are largely experiential, design, and organizational in nature. I do commend the director for putting Flickr.com to use in promoting the film at Sundance and beyond. This use to real-time blogging is a nice parity to the subject of the documentary, which deals with what happen when you start living your life 24/7 online exposed to the World. That being said, they could have taken this effort much further and more playfully than the lightweight Flickr coverage they did for Sundance.
A Sundance Grand Prize winning documentary (90 minutes) that follows the founder of the online video network Psuedo.com in his experiments with living life publicly on Internet under around the clock surveillance. Directed by Ondi Timoner.
The marketing of the film is very centered on the filmmaker Ondi Timoner perhaps to the detriment of the film’s content. That being said, her heritage as the director the Sundance winning documentary Dig! does give this project some heft, but I still would like to connect more with the movie itself via the site. The movie itself seems at times to be almost a secondary thought for the site.
The homepage is somewhat emotionally detached and not in a good way … the colors are cold without a punch and there is the lack of human contact. If it were not for the image of Ondi Timoner accepting her award at Sundance, the homepage would be lifeless. This one human image looks away from us and is too shot wide. It would have been better if this image was cropped more intimately so the face is better highlighted, and either mirrored or moved to right so her eyes draw us into the page rather than away to the edge.
The content of the site was generally comprehensive for most visitor’s need and covers most of the standard site visit use cases. Visitors can watch the trailer, find out about screening, know who was involved with this film, and read synopsis. If I want to read more about the film and its characters, the site seems thin.
One of the most glaring marketing issues with this site is the signup for updates being totally buried at the bottom of the homepage way below the page fold. I almost missed it even after a number of visits to this page. This signup is a simple email link rather than a more comprehensive form, which probably came about due to the flat HTML design of the site limiting its functionality.
Given the social technology theme of the project, I would like to have seen a RSS feed option for this site to stay connected with the sites update and news like most blogs now offer. You can follow the film and its makers on Flickr, but Flickr is a better messaging/PR solution than it is straight up direct marketing tool. Flickr is very ephemeral, which limits is ability to broadcast information if someone is tracking many Flickr users at once. I will say that I do wish Timoner used Flickr better. Her posts are not frequent enough and the content reads like a link farm for mobile phone shot images, which limited drawing in outsiders to caring about her film.
Maybe I am just getting older with poorer eyesight, but I struggled with the extensive use of white text on a black background. While this style choice seem cool, it does lead to more eyestrain than black on white text, so it is discouraged. I would also have chopped up some of the text on the site to make it more readable. The web tends to favor shorter paragraphs than traditional print. All in all, I struggled with reading the text of this site, which places a limit on this site’s ability to clearly communicate to its audience.
All the above issues have left me wondering about what the brand actually was for the film. Based on the site alone independent of the trailer, it is hard to tell. The trailer was strong and stood apart from the site in style and tone. It made me want to see the movie and by extension to push the trailer to the front page of the site. The trailer should have been the basis of website in its prominent positioning and by extension of its tone.
An image of the movie poster is prominent on the home page, but its low resolution made it not work for me despite the fact that I do like the design of it. I think that this poster could have been better integrated into site as click through to a high resolution image from the sidebar, as part of the about the film section, or a playful design concept for the homepage. In its present usage, the movie poster is a waste of valuable homepage real estate.
The site has clearly been maintained with updates many of which are prominently displayed on the homepage. The Sundance win is nicely displayed as is the fact that Timoner is the first two-time top winner in the history of Sundance.
I would have liked a press section to help the PR about the movie spread faster. The press section was all about past reviews and not about providing materials to help publishers write new articles about the film and its director.
It was clear from the start of my analysis that a professional Internet person did not build this site. When looking at the source code of the pages, I quickly discovered that the site was actually a giant frame referencing the real site hosted at the Apple managed domain –http://web.me.com/interloperfilms/We_Live_in_Public/home.html. Instead of using 302 permanent redirects, DNS mapping, or content synchronization to make a seamless experience, they choose to use html frames to bring the content into the newly purchased domain. Frames are frowned upon today due to their issues with search engines not always knowing how to index the content within those frames and the general clumsy execution of frames within a web browser.
The site is a flat HTML site coded using Apple’s iWeb, which explains the web.me.com domain. As with all GUI based HTML editors, the code leaves something to be desired with plenty of strange hypertext structures and waste. I did not quality assure the site through a PC browser such as Internet Explorer, but I would not be surprised if there were issues.
The sign up for the mailing list is simple once it is found by user – a Gmail address in a mail link with the subject line of “Add me the Mailing List.” While workable, it would be preferable to have this form feed directly into a database rather than relying up this data being rolled up via Gmail. Databasing allows more information to be collected such where the person lives (a nice piece of information to target emails about local screenings), while easing data entry and management issues. The good news for them is that Gmail has some of the most aggressive Spam filters, so this mailing link will be completely inundated with Spam due the address being public. Even legitimate bulk senders can have difficulty getting past Gmail’s defenses (this in another discussion for a later date).
Movie: Cold Souls (2009)
Designed by: Antimony Design www.antimonydesign.com
Overview: The design is nicely minimalist with a letterbox design to minimize scrolling. The feel has a nice cool emotional feel matching the movie’s storyline and title. There is little waste on this site, but there is also lost opportunity. One has a feel that despite being developed using blogging software it is not being updated.
This site appears to have been put up as a touch point to support the films recent release at the Sundance Film Festival, so it is missing a few critical marketing components in my mind.
I do in general like the feel of the site, which reflect well in tone and color the film’s brand. It is simple and not over worked. The site also does a good job at orienting me to contacting the distribution and producers of the film for sales or other business opportunities from a clearly marketed and nicely detailed contact section.
There is lost opportunity on the home page to: show a trailer to entice me to see the movie, promote the fact that it premiered at Sundance (an official selection logo would be nice), or give a positive quote from a journal I liked. In sticking to a fully minimalist design for the homepage, the homepage is a place where not much happens. If a user does not drill into the site, they would be left with a clue about the film except for the name and an image of main character standing in the cold.
The site falls short as a marketing tool in it failure to allow user to provide their emails for future contact and the site’s poor performance in search engines. Google has indexed the site, but a lack of inbound links has limited the site ability to show up in a search. A query for “Cold Souls” did not have the site in the first page of results. I have to question the tuning of this site by its designers to be more search friendly through the use of text about the film hidden in a unseen DIV tag on the homepage. This is a strategy most often seen in less reputable sites trying to manipulate Google for ill gain, and could be counting against this site within Google’s search engine. Ultimately, the search issue is probably a failure of PR and outreach creating more inbound links to raise the site’s ranking.
The URL for the site is decent, however it would have been better to have coldsouls.com. This domain is a parked site and maybe was unavailable for a reasonable price. BTW, I love the film’s name.
The marketing of this site rests firmly on marketing through its cast, especially its star Paul Giamatti. This is shown in the extensive use of his image, the cast obsessed meta-tag keywords, press kit, and
The site uses a well formatted CSS stylesheet. The description and keyword meta-tags are used on all pages with the tags largely being composed of a list of cast names. The home page description reads — “Cold Souls is a movie starring Paul Giamatti, Dina Korzun and David Strathairn about an emotionally drained actor that has his soul extracted to provide relief from the burden of his soul.” The URL has an icon showing a small image of Paul Giamatti’s face.
I did run into a bunch of Internal Server Errors (500), while looking at the site. This appears to be some issue with WordPress caching. Unlike the branded 404 (page not found) error, the 500 error resulted in a generic error.
The site has a letter box design optimized to 1040 by 600 pixel display. The color palette of White (#ffffff), Teals (#aeebeb, #669a98), and Grays(#666666, #8b9298) on a pure Black (#000000) background gives the site an intentionally cold feel. The homepage is wide letterbox with an image of Giamatti standing on snow against an industrial background with logo above and the navigation below, w hile the sub-pages are divide the letterbox area into two sections with a cropped image in the left third and the right two thirds having content on a white background.
Emotionally, the design works to give the film a feel fitting the name Cold Souls. Despite wanting more marketing on the homepage to better orient and entice the visitor, this design works for me.
The site’s navigation is generally straightforward with the exception of the navigation link to the cryptic soul extractor. There is little secondary navigation, but the site is flat enough to not require it. I would have pared down the main navigation by an item or two . The navigation items and the content of their pages are as follows:
* Synopsis – A short and fine synopsis
* Stills – a series of four small 2 5 5 by 1 4 0 pixel stills with a link to more images. I wanted to click on these images to zoom, but could not.
* Cast – this section shows actor bios starting with Paul Giamatti’s bio with navigation to the rest of the cast. Each cast member has a photo, which is good.
* Director’s Statement – a simple not too long statement about how a dream of director Sophie Barthles turned into a screenplay. Good story telling, a nice hook for the press.
* Festivals – Describes Sundance screenings and no others. Is this a lack of maintenance of the site or a lack of new screenings?
* Press Room – A list of press materials including hi-resolution photos, a PDF of Press Notes, a PDF of Photo Captions, and reviews (a link to the Reviews page via redundant navigation – this is actually smart and not a problem).
* Reviews – List of hot-linked reviews… This is good, but it might prove problematic as this section grows. It will eventually break the design or force older reviews to be archived.
* Soul Extractor – Expected more with such a provocative title, but this actually was a set design drawing for the Soul Extractor within the movie. Good idea, but navigation to it is poor. Would like to see more drawings and maybe have this under stills or some other navigation item. I was kind of relieved that this was not some useless, rarely played game that showed what your soul would look like if it was extracted. That being said, this kind of thing might be a nice idea for a viral piece, but you would have to make it break out of the site proper and have its results on people’s blogs.
* Contact – a nice and detailed list of contacts including Publicist, Domestic Sales, Foreign Sales, and Producer contact info.