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Digital Next

Why YouTube Viewers Have ADD and How to Stop It

One-Third of Your Viewers Bolt Before 30 Seconds. Here's What You Can Do

By Published on .

Matt Cutler
Matt Cutler
How often do you click away from online videos while they're playing? Yeah, me too. In a world of nearly infinite choice in online video, it doesn't take much to get bored or distracted or... and poof, we're gone.

This behavior of viewers clicking away or dropping off is called viewer abandonment. In general, how common is this behavior? And how are your campaigns performing versus industry abandonment benchmarks?

To help you better understand viewer abandonment and its benchmarks, we looked at how viewers watched and ultimately abandoned more than 40 million unique video clips, which, in aggregate, have received nearly 7 billion views. We limited our research to short-form videos of less than 300 seconds (5 minutes) in duration.

Finding: Expect to lose 20% of your audience within the first 10 seconds of playback
Our research yielded some compelling findings, including surprisingly high levels of initial viewer abandonment. For instance, our sample showed that, on average, nearly 20% of the audience that starts watching a given video clip will abandon it within the first 10 seconds of playback. So if your online video campaign has 10 million viewers, 2 million of them saw less than 10 seconds of it. Ouch.

In general, viewer abandonment appears to be a function of time spent in-stream and follows a relatively predictable trajectory.
In general, viewer abandonment appears to be a function of time spent in-stream and follows a relatively predictable trajectory.

In general, viewer abandonment appears to be a function of time spent in-stream and follows a relatively predictable trajectory.

Above is a graph that summarizes average video abandonment by time spent viewing, which shows a consistent rate of viewer drop-off. Within the first 30 seconds of a video, you can expect to lose 33% of your viewers. At 60 seconds, 44% of the audience that started viewing the clip will have left. And so on.

Keep in mind that these are benchmark figures and your video content may perform similarly, better, or worse. But this data will hopefully help you better interpret your video metrics.

Viewer abandonment in context
Now that you know you have some benchmarks for short-form clips, you can see how effective your videos are at maintaining viewer interest against the norm. For example, let's take a look at a popular, if somewhat controversial, online video ad for Bud Light: Magazine Buyer.

Bud Light: Magazine Buyer Video

The average 10-second abandonment rate for this clip was nearly double the benchmark. Any theories as to why?

If you'd like to learn more about viewer abandonment benchmarks and how abandonment behavior impacts the effectiveness of your video clips, as well as see a sample engagement curve for the Bud Light clip above campaign, you can read more in our free Research Brief: "Understanding Viewer Abandonment Trends in Short-Form Online Video Content." --- Visible Measures was the source of all the data in this report. You can follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and sign up for our online video newsletter. And sign up for our free Webinar on October 12: How the Best Became the Best in Online Video Advertising.

Matthew Cutler serves as CMO at Boston-based Visible Measures, a measurement firm for internet video publishers, advertisers and viral marketers. He's also an enthusiastic, if middling, soccer player and coach. Matt blogs at Visiblemeasures.com and @mcutler.
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