The Relative Importance of Click-Through Rates (CTR) Versus Watch Time for YouTube Views
43 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2019 Last revised: 27 Jan 2021
Date Written: January 26, 2021
In 2018, YouTube began releasing click-through rates (CTR) data to its video creators. Since 2012, YouTube has emphasized how it favors watch time over clicks in its recommendations to viewers. This is the first academic study employing that data to test what matters more for views on YouTube. Is watch time or CTR more important to getting views on YouTube? This paper finds no to limited evidence that higher percent audience retention or and total average watch time per view are associated with more views on YouTube. Instead, videos with higher CTR got significantly more views as did videos on trending or newsworthy topics. The marginal benefit in terms of views scaled by subscribers of increased CTR is between 71 and 318 times larger than the marginal benefits of increased watch time per view.
Keywords: YouTube, algorithm, search, discovery, video, CTR, click-through rates, clickbait, watch time, audience retention, neural networks, recommendation systems
JEL Classification: D12, D22, D26, D83, D85, L15, L21, L82, L86, M15
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