A brief history of ‘viewing’ metrics:

The Internet {The Good}. Back in the early days of the interwebs when we all began building websites the key metric at that time was ‘hits’ – which was determined by the number of calls to the server for anything on the page. So if you had 10 separate graphics on a page your website would measure 10 ‘hits’. True, that was a rather useless metric but it did give the lads in IT something to report. “Page views” came next. Although more useful, page views still didn’t tell you anything about individual behavior. Then as we began to track users with cookies (both short term session-based and long term persistent cookies) we started to measure both visits and visitors to a page. Over the last few years web metrics have evolved substantially to where we are now tracking user engagement and business conversions.  (Go Internet!)

Broadcast Television {The Bad}  So while internet metrics have evolved quickly beyond just measuring ‘views’, traditional broadcast television remains largely stuck in the 1950’s measuring… views. Nielsen share ratings continue to be the gold standard in broadcast television audience measurement.  Nielsen still relies on  (as they have for over half a century) user diaries in it’s share measurements and they’ve added meters connected to both televisions and people to provide more accurate data.  While criticisms of Nielsen ratings abound it seems likely that network television (the folks that make you watch shows on their schedule, not yours…) will continue, at least for a while, to sell airtime to brands more than happy to promote their stuff to the idle masses.

Business Video {The Ugly}  That brings us to business video. Up until very recently the measurement of business video hadn’t evolved much beyond the same 1950’s tools of broadcast television – ‘views.’  While broadcast views are subject to considerable error, brands still find value in the overall Nielsen system and are willing to pay premium rates (CPM’s) based on these measured audiences. The web is a different animal all together. There are just too many different methods today to scam or misrepresent views online: Paid click-farms, auto-loading video players, view bots… this list is endless.  At best, views are an indication of activity – that’s it, and that activity, in and of itself, has no intrinsic value.  (“So Biff, how’d your big sale go this weekend?” “Oh, we had lot’s of activity!”) If you can’t further define or understand what that activity means, what’s the point? When someone tells you that their video received ‘X’ number of views here are some questions to ask them:

1. Can you verify if any of  those views were humans?
2. Is that number good or bad? (I.e. is 1,200 hits a lot? Is 120,000 hits enough?)
3. Can you verify if those viewers live in your geographic target area?
4. Do you know who any of those viewers are or anything about them?
5. Do you know how long they watched your video?
6. Do you know how many of them felt about your video?

Like page-views on your website, video views are an indication of activity but nothing else. You can infer anything you’d like about what that activity could mean but you’d likely be wrong. Numbers without context provide little value. Would you rather have 10 qualified potential customers interested in what you sell watch your video or 1,000 random internet views of that same video?

So if views don’t matter as a useful metric of the effectiveness of your business video, what does? Here are a number of business video metrics that you should consider:

1. Watch time. If people are watching your video, either all or most of the way through then you can have some confidence that your message is being heard.

2. Social Engagement. Are people sharing your video, commenting on it in forums or on YouTube? Are they tweeting about it or liking it in Facebook? Are they using the embed feature in your player and sharing it somewhere else? These are all indications that your video is generating interest.

3. Conversion or click-thru rate. Do you ask the viewer to do something explicitly at the end of the video. (Sign up for an appointment, download a form or guide, watch another video, buy your product, etc.)

4. View Through Rate. This is a measure of how many people saw your video and chose to watch it. This is important to measure because it can be a good indication of the effectiveness of how you promote the video (i.e. through title, thumbnail video, prominence on the page, video player, supporting content, etc.)

The  exception where any type of random view might actually matter is if you are running a broad awareness campaign to a relatively undifferentiated consumer audience  (i.e. a viral movie promotion.) In this case the absolute view numbers (assuming they are human and not machine) would have some value and might be a good measure of your campaign’s success. As businesses continue to leverage the power of video it’s important to be able to accurately measure the effectiveness of those efforts.

The next time someone tells you their video has already received 160,000 views your response should be a moment of thoughtful consideration followed by, “Ya, so what?”



3 thoughts on “Views don’t matter for your business video? Here’s what does:

  1. I seriously love your blog.. Excellent colors & theme.
    Did you develop this website yourself? Please reply back as
    I’m looking to create my very own website and would like to learn where you got this from or what the theme is named.
    Many thanks!

  2. You definitely have a point there. No matter how many views you have on your Video, it will only make sense if those audiences are converted as real customers.

    It also is important to really position the video to your target market in order to fully maximize the full potential of your video strategy.

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