Does Google Know How To Count? Some YouTube Views Don't Seem To Register

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A large portion of YouTube videos are watched on other sites in embeddable players (like the one below of Erepublik CEO Alexis Bonte giving us an Elevator Pitch). But if someone watches a YouTube video on a site other than YouTube, does it count towards the total views of that video? Apparently not, or at least not always.

One TechCrunch reader had a video of his picked up by a popular site, where it generated 15,000 views, but the YouTube view counter for that video only went up by about 1,000 views. Perplexed, he sent YouTube an email, and received the following response (bold added for emphasis):

“Hi there,

Thanks for your email. I would like you to know, if a user views the video
on the external website itself, it is not added to the view count of the
video on YouTube
. However, if a user is directed to the YouTube site on
clicking the embedded video on the external website, it would register as
an additional count to the video views.

Additionally, changes to video and account information on our site such as
video view count can take a few hours to update and synchronize. We’re
constantly working to make that happen a lot faster and appreciate your
patience.

Regards,

Shweta
The YouTube Team”

This is just from a support rep who may be mistaken about YouTube’s policy on counting views (we have an email in to YouTube asking for clarification), but her response does suggest that at least some views from other sites do not count. One reason for this might be that some external sites put YouTube videos on autoplay whenever the page they are on loads. That can game the whole YouTube popularity system, so YouTube does not count autoplays, as NewTeevee recently found out. And indeed, our reader’s video was on a site that autoplayed his video. (For more on how the various video sites count views, see this TubeMogul report).

Mystery solved, right? Well, not exactly. We use YouTube for all the videos on Elevator Pitches, and we don’t set those to autoplay. Viewers have to click on them to watch.

Yesterday, we hit play repeatedly on a bunch of videos on Elevator Pitches, and then went over to their YouTube to see if any of the views registered. Nada. Then we started watching the videos on YouTube itself. Still nada. Maybe it’s the time delay, though. We really can’t tell. Because the views do change a few hours later, there is just no way of knowing if it was from us or someone else.

So as a final test, I’ve embedded an Elevator Pitch below from the CEO of Erepublik, a massive online social strategy game. At the time of this post the video has been viewed only 490 times. We’ll see if we can move that number up at all from here.

Update: We’ve received word from a YouTube spokesperson who told us:

Viewcounts are important to the community and are a reflection of the interests and intents of video viewers. Autoplaybacks are not counted toward the visible “views” numbers displayed on the YouTube site because autoplaybacks are not viewer initiated. The majority of videos are not affected by this.

Update 2: The view count for the video below is up to 1,786 views by Saturday morning. Most of those are presumably from this post, and took a while to register. So maybe Google does know how to count but it can only count very slowly.

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