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A Tough Week To Follow: Decreasing the Variance In Your Viewership

Without having all the stats in front of me, I would venture to say last week's JETSET was the most watched episode ever. As of right now it has over 630,000 views on YouTube alone -- just one of our distribution outlets. Those are crazy numbers for a weekly web show. But this post isn't about tooting our own horn. It's about consistency in the online video space.

For most web shows, including JETSET, viewership varies from episode to episode. Sometimes you have a great week (like we just did), and sometimes you have an off week numbers-wise. Because consistency is so important when it comes to stats -- especially in an emerging arena like online video -- I think it's important to decrease variance as much as possible. And by that what I really mean is decrease the number of "off weeks," because a steady increase (or explosion, even) in views is never a bad thing -- as long as you can keep doing it week after week.

I thought it might be interesting to start a series of blog posts on the factors that influence variance in online video stats. I'm hoping a few of you will chime in with your own thoughts and experiences, and perhaps together we can get a better grip on the part of this industry we think we have least control over.

Let's start with a factor that many content creators are focused on, but at the end of the day doesn't play a huge role when it comes to variance: Subscribers.

Subscribers are our bread and butter. They are the people who commit themselves to watching you on a regular basis. It's your base audience and certainly your most important. However, your subscriber base doesn't have a huge effect on your show-to-show variance -- and for the most part, you can reasonably predict what percentage of your views will come from your subscribers.

Think of it this way. If you screw up and have the worst episode of your career, are you going to suddenly lose a huge number of subscribers? Unlikely. Hopefully you've already won them over, and in my experience the web audience is relatively forgiving (except when it comes to YouTube comments).

And likewise, if you go above and beyond and create a ridiculously amazing episode, can you expect to double or triple your subscriber base? Again, unlikely. As many of us know, getting new subscribers ain't easy. The truth is, as sad as it may be, not that many people are subscribing to web shows when compared to the total number of people watching them. Steve has been talking about this phenomenon lately, too. I can tell you from personal experience I rarely keep up with my subscriptions in iTunes. The majority of video I watch online is browser-based.

This isn't to say RSS is useless, or we shouldn't be concerned about our subscribers. Rather what I'm saying is, there's a huge number of people out there you can reach through a multitude of contexts. You may never get them to subscribe, but that doesn't mean you can't get them to come back every week. And that's really the key to all of this -- penetrating the non-subscribers week after week.

I look forward to continuing this discussion in future posts. Please chime in with your thoughts.

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Steve Woolf said:

A quick update on the stats -- throw in another 300,000+ on Veoh and we've already hit a million views for this single episode in just over a week. Toot-toot!

You're right about the subscribers issue. JETSET has never had a ton of feed subscribers relative to the total views we usually see. I think that's mainly due to the audience we are trying to reach. Teens and college-aged people simply do not use RSS very much. Especially to watch videos.

I think our whole "inside the bubble" thing tends to skew our view of how people watch videos on the web. We're so connected all the time and trying new technologies that we forget a simple truth: you have to go where the people are. Distributing through YouTube was the tipping point for our show in terms of momentum.