A growing factor to monitor playbacks in YouTube is the watch time metric. Watch time represents the aggregate amount of time that people spend watching videos in your channel. It is available in YouTube Analytics. YouTube Analytics treat watch time as a primary metric among the standard metrics — impressions, click-through rate, views, and viewer watch time. Watch time influences the YouTube algorithm to optimize search results for videos that have increased their viewer watch time.
Watch time has a value to YouTubers in the same way as another advertising metric, dwell time, has for marketers and advertisers. Dwell time is the amount of time a customer remains in a venue, or in a specific area within a venue. The origins of dwell time comes from television’s golden age, but because YouTube videos can be seen on multiple channels, monitoring watch time is a meaningful proxy for dwell time. You can use it to audit how video content and its associated media is being consumed. That can be a particularly useful value signifier for a set of search terms that brought people to view video content
Watch time has become significant because YouTube has deemed it an essential metric for monetization. 4000 hours in a 12 month period is a goal for monetization of a YouTube channel. There are other stipulations. The video channel must have 1000 subscribers, for example, and should be linked to an Adsense account. But the ability to achieve 4000 hours, and thus focus on watch time, speaks to the need to create engaging content.
YouTube also holds the most potential for linking viewing to sales. The reason lies in the click-to-buy features that have been offered over the years. TrueView ads, a type of Google Ad that appears before, during, or after a video, to provide a clickable offer, have been available on YouTube since 2015. True View ads were initially meant to augment the video subject. Because of the growing variety of creator videos uploading to the platform, YouTube can leverage features like TrueView to better place product and service ads alongside a program series.
Let’s say you are a retailer working with a social media influencer. You schedule an “in-store” offer to appear during playback of that influencer’s YouTube video. The ad can direct an audience viewing on a smartphone or tablet to a landing page that contains the offer. The analytics reporting associated with the landing page can highlight user engagement with the offer, while viewers can enjoy their favorite program. Contrast that arrangement against traditional television, which uses ratings to demonstrate commercial value. The result is an appreciation of how YouTube generates the opportunity to more deeply relate engagement to conversion.
So if you are planning to create video, you are not alone at this point — YouTube claims watch time has risen sharply since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing more creators of all scales. Managing watch time can help create video for the long term.