Report: YouTube, Yahoo Relax Standards to Inflate Views

In the last year, both YouTube and Yahoo, two of the three biggest online video sites, have become more lenient about how they measure video views, according to TubeMogul, a video analytics startup.

Last June, we asked “Hey Guys, What Constitutes a View?” after Emeryville, Calif.-based TubeMogul released the first edition of this report. We were surprised to find out how much counting methodology differed between sites. This time around, we’re surprised to find that counting methodologies seem to have changed. It appears that YouTube and Yahoo now register a view every single time a visitor clicks play.

Last year TubeMogul tested eight sites by uploading a video, making it private when possible, and viewing it in different situations. The results showed Yahoo was the most stringent about how it counted views and YouTube the third-most stringent. At the time, Yahoo did not count more than one view per computer, and it did not count videos that were viewed as embeds on other sites. YouTube would only count multiple views from a single IP address if they went all the way through to the end, and would only count embeds once per IP address.

This year, TubeMogul tested a total of 14 different online video hosts and found YouTube and Yahoo at the other end of the list. Each of them ticks off a video view every single time a video is started, no matter if it’s halfway through, if the page is refreshed, or if the video’s played from an outside embed.

TubeMogul suggested YouTube and Yahoo tweaking their formulas could be influencing “the ever-increasing numbers for videos viewed online,” which wouldn’t make sense if we’re talking external measurements from comScore and Nielsen, but certainly makes sense on a video-by-video basis.

When reached for comment, a YouTube spokesperson told NewTeeVee, “We don’t get into specifics on what’s considered a view; we’re less focused on counting what makes a view and more focused on providing the best possible viewing experience.”

So who are the sticklers left in the game? and Metacafe, which only register one view from an IP address. We should note that both of these sites share revenues with their users based on number of views. blip earned the title of most stringent of all by not counting views from embeds (which seems odd, considering they don’t emphasize their site as a destination).Update: TubeMogul retested blip and found it does count embedded videos. See the comments below.

TubeMogul’s conclusion is almost word-for-word the same as last year:

“[T]he lack of standardization presents complexity to content producers and
advertisers in understanding the relative popularity of videos across video sites. To fully
realize the potential of advertising models in the online video medium, increased
standardization and transparency is required.”

True that.

TubeMogul plans to release the full report on Wednesday on the research section of its website.

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