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Does Online TV Have a Short Shelf Life?

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New research indicates that online videos get the majority of their views soon after they’re posted. Of 10,916 videos with at least 1,000 views after 90 days, half of those views happened over the first two weeks, according to a study by video analytics firm TubeMogul. Views peak on day three, with 11 percent of all views happening on that day, according to the study.

So what does this mean? Despite the on-demand revolution, we still experience cultural phenomena together. Which is great in its own way. But I’m skeptical — focusing on the first 90 days and extrapolating from there is bound to bias growth towards the beginning of a video’s lifecycle.

And how does it account for classic gems like this one — Mr. T rapping “Treat Your Mother Right,” which I first saw this week, more than a year after it had been added to YouTube? Not to mention however well it did when it originally aired, this version has nearly 2 million views and a full page of comments just from the last day.

But TubeMogul has even created a calculator based on its research that projects how many views a video will get over a year based on how many views its gotten over the number of days it’s been out (scroll to the bottom of the page to see it).

The firm concludes:

“On average, videos are time-sensitive. Trends pointed out elsewhere, such as ‘evergreen’ (non-time sensitive) content always fetching views or videos randomly ‘going viral,’ seem more of a rarity than an underlying trend in the data.”

OK, so maybe Mr. T is an anomaly. Story of his life, right?

7 Responses to “Does Online TV Have a Short Shelf Life?”

  1. I believe they are time sensitive to a degree. Figure a video with content to something relative, or in the mainstream. A video can have a roller coaster life span, considering everything aligns for this to come about.

    i think it’s best to realize that video views will fall off for as long as the content is not maintained. New content keeps the users going through the old, a smaller percentage, but a good number do find a new video intriguing and decide to dive into older content.

    But once that content is seen, unless something brings it back to the forefront (video focus in the media), users are less likely to rewatch something they already viewed. Considering the number of new relevant clips created everyday, there is just too much relevant data to take in.

  2. So what we see here is pretty much the now-classic long tail graph.

    TubeMogul writes: In order to exclude casual creators of online video (i.e. Mikey’s Birthday), each video in the sample achieved a minimum of 1,000 cumulative views over the 90 day time period.

    Therefore by implication, the videos in the sample are supposedly more likely to be professionally produced, right?

    If that is the case, then the sharp skew in favour of more views at an early stage could be a result of:

    The video being topical (sports clip from last night’s TV gets most views in the next day or two) or novel (new episode of an online show).

    And also for a few of them, the video’s owner paying to promote it (a movie trailer on the home page of YouTube or a video supported by a viral marketing campaign).

    The views would of course then drop off very sharply as the clip becomes effectively out of date or the paid promotional support ends.

    What would be particularly interesting would be for TubeMogul to pull out some of the anomalies – a few of the really unusual cases where a video suddenly becomes massively popular after a few months of obscurity. And with some reasons why.

    Is it possible to buck the trend? And if so, how?