As part of my work as a missionary I create short, low-quality, low- tech videos for friends, family and supporters back home. Because of my context I upload some of those to YouTube, others only for my FaceBook friends and others to a server and link to the video in an email which I send out selectively. I do this to protect the identity of the participants.
But the folks at YouTube have given me another reason to host my videos there: mini-analytics. You can now know how many times your video has been watched, when and in which country.
For example, in December we participated with Samaritans Purse to distribute Christmas giftboxes in Kosovo. To document that effort I shot a two-minute video at the gift distribution site, an elementary school in a nearby city. Here is that video which was posted on December 15th, 2007.
It's easy to see how many times the video has been watch; it's out in front. In this case, it's 184. That's about average for my videos; my audience is very small. That doesn't really tell us much though. When did those 184 views happen? My assumption, before discovering the analyitics, was that most of those views came within a few days of the video's original post. I should have known better and learned a lot from this new feature.
Finding the Analytics
You'll be taken to an interactive map with a scrollable timeline on the left and a map on the right. The timeline can be moved from the video's original post date to the current date. By scrolling through the view history you can easily find when the most views occurred; the map shows you the view density for that period.
What I found surprised me. I had assume that most people would watch the video within a few days of it being uploaded. I could not have been more wrong. In fact, based on the timeline above, only about ten people watched this video within the first three days. Had I known that then, I probably would have quickly quit shooting video!
But if you look closely, you'll see a big spike about halfway through the timeline. When I scroll over to that peak and select USA from the map view this is what I see.
Now I can see that on about February 18 about fifty-five people viewed the video. Slightly less than a third of the total views happened on one day, two months after I posted the video. They were mostly in North Carolina, but also in WI, NY and a few other states (the shading represents view density). So what happened on Feb 18? I have no idea. But here are a few implications I've gleaned.
- Videos have much longer legs than I thought. Their timeliness isn't determined by the poster, but by the viewer. Videos are watched months after their posted. They need to be easy to find.
- I cannot predict when a video will attract someone's interest or why.
- Because of the first two points, missionary videos should be posted to a service that allows them to be aggregated under the poster's identity. They should be easily searchable and storable.
I mentioned before that I post some videos to a server and send the link in a prayer letter. I do that if the video has a lot of church members' faces or other identifiers. Because I work in a nominally Muslim country I try to be careful. But that "security" comes at a cost. Most viewers will watch a video in ones or twos in the months that follow, not within a couple of days of the video becoming available. A prayer letter with a link will get deleted or forgotten before the video's "long tale" has a change to grow. Videos I distribute by link alone will be watched much less than those posted to a hosting site like YouTube (there are many others too).
If you're using video to communicate your work or ministry, I would highly recommend that it be permanently linkable, searchable, storable and aggregated under your identity. People will watch your videos long after you've forgotten about posting them. Make it easy for them to find.