What is the Value of a View? or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Internet
One of the best parts about making videos is when you get to showcase the final product; the bigger the audience, the richer the payoff. While doing so always makes me, as an editor, very acutely aware of seemingly obvious, glaring changes I could have made in the edit (that somehow went unnoticed before releasing it to the client) it is still super fun and rewarding to watch along with people and see what engages with them and what doesn't. Earlier this year, I was hired to film and edit a series of videos for Sandy City, Utah's annual citizen and business awards recognition programs. I was invited to the event, which had about 150 people or so in attendance. In today's modern, online and always connected age, where internet content creators and influencers on YouTube and Instagram have literally millions of followers, and a single video made in their basement can have as many -- if not more -- views than even mainstream cinema releases, "150 views" seems trivial, even meaningless, certainly nothing to get excited about. However when there are 150 real, living, breathing people in a room, watching your content on a large screen, every single of those "views" feels like it really matters. It's all too easy to see simple, black-and-white view-count numbers on a screen, and disregard the fact that real people, with hopes and dreams and thoughts and feelings took precious time out of their day and out of their lives to sit and watch something I have made, even if they don't make it all the way through. In today's extremely content-rich environment of binge-watching entire TV seasons in near-single sittings, scrolling down never-ending social media feeds filled to the brim with endless new and entertaining content, even a single view directed my way is something to be grateful for and something to celebrate. It's easy to feel bad when you come across some random video online that only has eight views, but I bet that content creator who was brave enough to hit that upload button in the first place would have been exciting, sweating and nervous if eight perfect strangers suddenly came over to his house, knocked on his door, and wanted to sit in his living room and enjoy his content. (Side note: I recently learned about rather interesting sites like incognitube that serve up random, extremely low-view-count videos on purpose). Anyway, I think it is important, as a content creator, to try not to get discouraged about low number of views, and especially not to tie one's creative self-worth to such fickle metrics. My own work, for that matter, definitely falls into this category; I'm not making anything viral, I'm not incessantly demanding viewers to "smash that like button!" or vying desperately for more subscribers. Since the majority of the content I make are created for clients who use and post my videos for their own purposes, I obviously don't have access to the metrics of how many people view what, etc., and ultimately can't really tell how "successful" they really are besides how I feel personally about them and any feedback the clients may or may not give me. That being said, I usually post them myself as well, to my own vimeo page which I don't really promote, but simply have as a kind of repository to advertise my skills, link to things like this website, etc. My point being that for one to happen across my vimeo page (or this website, for that matter) is a pretty rare feat for the average internet wanderer, and I salute you! Since you already made it this far, here's some interesting stats (at least to me). I am writing this blog post on May 28, 2020. In the last month, from April 28 to today, vimeo tells me I have received a grand total of 73 views.
Digging deeper, we can look at those numbers a little further. Vimeo defines "impressions" as the number of times a video is loaded, so maybe I shared a video in a forum post, or somewhere/somehow it shows up on someone's page. As you can see, a little less than 10% of those loads translate into people actually hitting the play button.
"Only" 16 finishes! Again, I think it's easy to disregard or demean that figure, but the reality is, if 16 internet strangers came over to my house to watch my stuff, and not only that, they wanted to sit and watch the entire thing no less, I'd be thrilled! The fact that my intrepid 73 viewers made it through more than half of my video is also a cause to celebrate, because, hey, I wouldn't even have chairs in my house to seat that many people, who chose to watch 63% of something I made, something I spent precious time on, especially considering they could be watching a near-infinite number of other (and let's be honest, far better) things instead. I mean, just check out how cool this is:
People from around the world! What an unprecedented opportunity we have in this internet-connected age where somehow, someway, people from all corners of the globe can stumble across my own tiny, hidden corner of the web and spend a little time with my art and my work. Most people are familiar with Van Gogh's sad life story, and the fact that, despite his legendary and well-respected post-mortem status as an artist, he only sold a single painting during his lifetime. Of course I'm not comparing myself, or my skills to a master like Van Gogh, but still, such a sad story probably won't ever happen again, thanks to the magic of the internet, the ease of sharing content, and how much smaller a place the world has really become. Perhaps it's an apples-to-oranges comparison to equate a "view" with a "painting sold," but still, I'm truly grateful to my 73 viewers and my 16 finishers. So who cares if your stuff isn't viral? In fact, in today's crazy times, we could use some more anti-viral video makers 😉 Thanks for stopping by!