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Exploring the YouTube videos nobody watches

Posted on April 25, 2016

 

Similar to many aspects of the internet, it’s hard to get your head around the sheer size of YouTube. Some of the statistics are just mindblowing; for example, 300 hours of videos being uploaded to the site every minute. That means that since midnight on Saturday, more footage has been uploaded than we could watch in a lifetime, even if we did nothing but sat in front of YouTube from the minute we were born until the day we died.

The most popular videos have been viewed over a billion times, with Korean artist Psy’s 2012 hit ‘Gangnam Style’ still way ahead of anything else, with over 2.5 billion views. In fact, 28 of the 30 most popular YouTube clips are popular music videos. Perhaps if The Buggles had been around today, ‘Video Killed the Video Star’ would have had very different lyrics – I’m not sure we can “put all the blame on VCR” anymore!

In this ocean of instantly clickable video, it’s perhaps inevitable that while some clips are watched again and again by millions of people all over the world, others are barely watched at all. In fact, there are videos out there that nobody has ever seen other than their creator.

If you go to Petit Tube, you can watch a random YouTube video that currently has a low number of views, if any. It’s a weird and slightly nerve-racking experience waiting for that obscure video to upload and having no idea what you’re in for. However, it has been challenged by Google’s test YouTube channel Webdriver Torso, which has spent the last three years uploading very similar 11-second videos during every hour of every day. I would rate the below as one of my favourites:

So why has nobody watched these underperforming videos? They’re not necessarily boring or unwatchable, but simply unloved. For whatever reason, few have ever felt the urge to click through to them.

The likelihood is that they’re not tagged well, or aren’t tagged at all. When you upload a video on YouTube, the site allows you to include some words to help other people find it when they search. If you look at the Webdriver Torso videos, it would be very difficult to stumble upon them by mistake, with their alphanumeric string titles and lack of video description. That said, the ambiguity of the videos, as well as the prolific uploading from whoever was managing the channel, did manage to provoke discussion and capture media attention before Google eventually explained itself.

Of course, it’s quite possible that some people upload videos onto YouTube, but don’t want the world and his wife to see them. If that’s the case, it’s worth remembering that it is possible to set a video’s status to ‘Private’, meaning that it just becomes part of your own personal video collection.

John Murray

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.

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