Lies My Youtube Subscriber Count Told Me [Op-Ed]

There is no reliable connection between a YouTube channel’s total number of subscribers and its video views. Fred, at one time YouTube’s top subscribed content maker, has only gotten a small fraction of these subscribers to watch his videos in recent months. Explosive YouTube channels like JacksGap frequently exceed their subscriber count in video views.

YouTube’s subscriber counts fail to describe vital audience behavior. What is this behavior?

To become video viewers, your subscribers must jump through smaller and smaller keyholes that shrink their numbers at each stage. First, they must log in to YouTube. Second, they must have your video thumbnail or channel presented to them in some form. Finally, they must click that thumbnail or channel link to see one of your videos play.

Like Russian dolls, where the biggest doll contains no information about the smallest doll, YouTube subscriber counts contain no information about active video viewers.

YouTube provides very detailed data about how our videos get discovered outside of the YouTube website. Anybody can look at YouTube Analytics for a given video to see social websites and blogs that drive specific traffic to that video.

It’s time for YouTube to provide this same data about how our videos get discovered by our subscribers within the YouTube website. It should be YouTube’s urgent priority to add the following data to YouTube Analytics:

1. How many of our subscribers log in to YouTube?


We need to know how many of our subscribers log in to YouTube. This should be broken down by hour, by country and by platform.

2. How many people see links to our videos?


While they are logged in, how many of our subscribers see the thumbnail for a specific YouTube video presented to them? How many see a link to our channel presented to them? This should also be broken down by hour, by country and by platform.

3. How many people actually click our video links when they see them?


When subscribers log in and see our video thumbnails OR a link to our channel, what is the percentage click-thru rate of subscribers who see and click those links? Like the first two stages, this should also be broken down by hour, by country and by platform.

YouTube has all of this information. They can continue to let subscribers represent a vague, wishful, frustrating number that does not describe audience behavior. Or, they can make the best choice for content creators by letting us see how our audiences behave on the platform.

Tay Zonday is a People’s Choice Award-nominated, YouTube Award-winning, Webby Award-winning singer-songwriter with more than 150 million video views on Youtube.

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