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Analysis of all YouTube trending videos in US for 2019 (ammar-alyousfi.com)
100 points by ammar_x on July 7, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 45 comments

I find it kind of sad looking at what popular Youtube channels looked like 5-10+ years ago, and comparing it to their videos today.

As you scroll down the list of videos from oldest to newest, the lengths get longer. No longer are there any petty three minutes or five minute videos, let alone a one minute video. Now videos are all 10-25 minutes, the perfect length for maximum ad revenue.

Similar things happen to the thumbnails, which start containing more and more exaggerated, sometimes creepily-so, faces, reacting to absurd images that last for a fraction of a second in the video. The titles change too, becoming more and more outrageous, begging for you to click on them and spend hours watching anticipatory and 'exciting' content.

A lot of things have gotten better too, of course, and the amount of content that is available is amazing. But I do really miss when it felt like a place where people went to share videos and socialize, rather than where all the popular channels are ran like companies that follow the same clickbait format news organizations now also follow.

> Similar things happen to the thumbnails, which start containing more and more exaggerated, sometimes creepily-so, faces, reacting to absurd images that last for a fraction of a second in the video.

There was a nice little examination of this phenomenon, dubbed YouTube Face, a couple of years ago.

Article: https://openspace.sfmoma.org/2018/04/your-pretty-face-is-goi...

HN thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16803937

In Japan so much of mainstream prime time TV programming is reactions videos. Often people reacting to food from another prefecture with a minimum of two picture-in-picture heads reach the to the video.

My wife is addicted to YouTube videos / YouTubers and I think there’s a high degree of similarity.

This content feels low quality and cheap to produce.

I think that article captures this phenomenon well.

That type thumbnails just scream desperate me to - the "one simple trick" of YouTube maybe.

Not as bad as the hey watch me neck a bottle of spirits in one go idiots.

I remember back before the ad algorithm was changed to be more favorable to ~10 minute videos, there was some complaining about how YouTube was all short, stupid videos and long form more substantial content was not viable.

Personally I prefer a YouTube where the meaningful 10 minute content is viable, even if it means there's some lame content which extended to meet a minimum time.

This, 100%.

I really wish it was easy to filter and ban videos, artists and types cause I really hate alot of the content on YouTube now.

I've disabled comments via ublock, and the experience is more pleasant, but you do lose those gems from random people sharing knowledge or a similar song or artist.

Not worth it to read through though, to much low hanging fruit and memes.

This and people thinking Facebook is internet. :(

The comment are somehow not as terrible as they used to be. I used to use a browser extension to block comments, so that I would never be tempted to look at them. Now they seem not so bad. (Though this could be a function of the kinds of videos I put on, which are music videos and jokey movie videos like Honest Trailers.)

I love the longer videos, and don't really enjoy the short-form content.

I watch a lot of maker content, and a 15-20 minute clip is great. I'm very glad they are able to make enough money from it to do it full time.

Proper deep-dives into things with long-form content are great. I'll happily watch a 50 minute documentary by History Time, or a 2 hour deconstruction of tropes in 90s crpgs by Chris Davis. For me (and I know I speak entirely subjectively), anything less than half an hour on a subject tends to be just skimming the surface. I'm happy with the way youtube is moving towards longer form essay style content in gaming, music criticism, history, literature theories, science, geopolitics, programming and the like. Often, I wish channels like for example Caspian Report did _longer_ videos on the subjects they handle, because although people have short attention span, I think 10 minutes isn't enough time to properly talk about the politics of the countries they cover.

5 minute videos of disposable entertainment just don't really do it for me.

Can't agree more except for the long-videos thing.

The way YouTube works now encourages clickbait crying-for-a-click titles and silly-shocked-faces thumbnails because click-through-rate plays a huge role in video success now.

In his video [0], that youtuber explains that and why he was going to shift toward using clickbait titles in his channel. Because otherwise, you would not thrive on YT.

For long videos, I think sometimes even 10 minutes are not enough to convey a substantial message in a video. But I think you mean those youtubers that prolong their videos longer—without added value—just for more ads.

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHsa9DqmId8

It's incredibly sad, but it's due to our own collective demand imo.

Andrew Schultz a comedian, saw a huge uptick in his success when he started doing short form videos. Ironically he also saw that people would stay on his channel longer. (described in his ted talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dl2MQq4qO4Y)

Giving the user a random reward and choice more frequently between each video seems to add to the dopamine hit. And thus the addictiveness. I've certainly gone down the rabbit hole of YT myself watching 1min seinfeld clips from different episodes.

My theory is that not everyone has their empathy highly developed, so if you exaggerate an expression you throw a wider net of people picking up the social cue and find it relatable vs micro expressions that only a minority that is observant/empathic would pick up on. This would apply to anything, even day to day interactions.

Well it's also that you adjust your "magnitude" of a reading based on the extremeness of the expression. So if you see someone smiling at a toy you think it's a fun toy but if you see someone MANIACALLY CACKLING at a toy you think MAN THAT TOY IS AMAZING I WANNA SEE IT.

Also, a lot of YouTube's audience are teenagers, who are on average worse than adults at picking up facial emotional cues:

> We tested older children, adolescents and adults on a two-alternative forced-choice discrimination task using morphed faces that varied in emotional content ... adults displayed more sensitivity to subtle changes in emotional expression than children and adolescents ... The results provide evidence for late developmental changes in emotional expression recognition with some specificity in the time course for distinct emotions.


If you miss the "old YouTube" you really owe it to yourself to check out tiktok. The diversity of content there is great and nothing is even close to 10 minutes. Most YouTube videos are 30-60 seconds of good content diluted to 10:01 so they can be monetized.

TikTok might be banned soon, so it's probably not the best time to invest your time into it.

Banned where? This is an international forum.

On Google Play and the iPhone app store. You can physically live in some other country, but it's all for nothing so long as you continue to give all control to two American megacorps.

basically everywhere

TV-style YouTube like Guga or Sonny Side have equaled or surpassed classic “real” TV (eg Discovery channel in the 90s) in both production values and content. That’s definitely something that has happened in the last couple of years

YouTube videos still generate vastly lower revenue per minute than popular 90’s TV shows. Cheaper tools can make up some of the difference, but the economics are very different.

Soon, it will be back to 8 minutes. YouTube is changing the required length for mid-video ads.

Doesn't the one activity wholly subsidize the other?

They might to an extent, but I don't think it's required or necessary. Ads can go on any type of videos, and if Youtube had less traffic as a result of less clickbait, then presumably the costs to host it would be a lot less too.

Apart from this, keep in mind that Youtube TV likely pulls in a ton more money, and even if it didn't, Google/Alphabet has many other larger sources of revenue that could pay for Youtube too.

Another excellent analysis of what Trends on YouTube [0]

"Is the trending tab rigged against creators? Is late night dominating the charts? Why does it feel your favorite controversial creator never trends. All of that and more, in the first ever data-driven look at the trending tab."

What 40,000 Videos Tell Us About The Trending Tab:

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDqBeXJ8Zx8

I like that. Excellent storytelling, inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

This is really great - and kudos for providing methodological details and code! I love seeing this kind of large-scale descriptive research, it's a real bummer that YouTube is starting to close up access to their API. We did a similar kind of analysis looking at videos posted by popular channels last year, including some analysis of keywords that boosted views - figure you might find it interesting (and I'd love to see if our findings hold up with your dataset!) https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2019/07/25/a-week-in-th...

Thank you.. The analysis you've done seems really interesting and gave me some more ideas to implement in future analyses.

For keywords that boost views, I'll run a similar analysis on my data and report the results to you here in another comment. Probably this weekend.

And I just heard from you that YouTube is starting to close up access to their API. I visit YT API website from time to time but haven't noticed such a thing. It's really a bummer. They should be more open not the opposite. Do you have some source if I want to know more about that?

Would love to see what you come up with, will stay tuned!

As for the API restrictions, they aren't advertising it but about a year ago they started warning users about forthcoming extensive audits to maintain access, and about six months ago they started reducing access for API keys if you stopped maxing them out for a day or more. Our last API key got shut down for good a couple of weeks ago. We're going to try to fill out the form and get our access reinstated, but I'm not sure how willing they'll be to allow access for research. The form seems intended for client-facing apps. But who knows - Facebook/CrowdTangle/Twitter have been very supportive of legitimate research initiatives, I'm hoping YouTube follows that trend!

Hey, I was not able to do the analysis we talked about. The analysis received much interaction after I published it here and was contacted by many people. As a result, I've been too busy. I hope I can do it soon. When I do it, I'll notify you in a comment here. Or provide me with your email.

To clarify - the current API has a limit of 10,000 "query points" per day for new API keys (most endpoints cost 1-5 points per query). It used to be 1 million; they've since throttled everyone down and started forcing audits. 10k is still something, but it certainly doesn't allow large scale research.

It used to be 50 million, it used to be 500000% more. I would have expected it to increase as bandwidth got cheaper yet it for whatever reason has decreased.


Wow. That makes me sad and suspicious. Why would they close themselves to this degree? From 50 million to 10,000!

Wow, I had no idea. 1m was enough to work with, but... wow. Thanks for the reference.

It is really sad to see one of the biggest Internet platforms and the biggest video platform apply more restrictions. If they opened their data more and made less restrictions, we would be in front of a gold mine of data.

With current restrictions, maybe multiple accounts + VPN are essential for large-scale research.

This is a lot of work for a lot of practically meaningless results. These are only examples: The urls and social links in the descriptions. The "the" in the titles. The other findings offer very little insight. Be popular, post videos.

My web archival group (nonprofit) has international trending data for the same period. I've been meaning to get around to analysis for a while. This article is a good point of reference.

Glad it helped. If possible, could you share your analysis results with us after you finish?

> The minimum number of views a video had when it first became trending was 53,796 views.

How does that happen?

There is a video that had only 53,796 views on the day it became trending. That video is "Phora - Don't Change [Official Music Video]". If you look at the data, you find that it became trending on the same day it was published. So before accumulating a large number of views, it became trending. Maybe it acquired thousands of views very quickly which sent it to the trending list? Maybe other factor.

Probably easily done if the publisher has a large fanbase and uses other social media channels to send them all to Youtube the moment the video is published.

I do wonder what would be the results for other countries - like in the EU zone (it would be interesting, moreover, to see if / what are the differences between denmark, germany, italian etc.. youtube trending videos)

I have the same data for Canada, Denmark, UK, Malaysia, and other 13 countries. I plan to analyze this data soon. So stay tuned.

From my understanding any channels you subscribe to with new content/video have a good chance to appear there. This is for the generic viewer.

Cool analysis but I don’t think any interesting conclusions came from it.

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