Because the nice people at YouTube have access to over one billion human beings who consume content – voraciously – on their website, they have access to far more information about how content is being used (and not used) than any other operator on the planet. No one knows more about what makes people stick around and consume content.

Don’t you wish you could get some advice from YouTube on how to make your fans spend more time with the content you work so hard to make? If only YouTube was willing to share a few thoughts with us.

You see where this is going don’t you?

Yep, YouTube has been kind enough to have created a 92-page Content Creator Playbook that you can download right here. (Okay, they’re not being kind. They’re acting in their own self-interest, given that more time watching YouTube videos equals more time spent on their website. Capitalism can be your friend.)

For folks making video content, the applications of YouTube’s knowledge are obvious. They should be for radio too. Here’s a shocking PPM-generated statistic: in radio, the average time spent listening – by P1 listeners -per listening occasion changes remarkably little by station, format, or market. The number is…10 minutes. Allow me to translate for my non-radio friends: when a listener tunes in their favorite radio station – the one they listen to more than any other – on average, they spend ten minutes listening to it before turning off the radio or tuning out. (Yep, just ten minutes. For their favorite radio station.)

If YouTube is the home of short-form audiovisual content, radio is – without question – the home of short-form audio-only content. Consequently, if you’re making content for radio, this stuff applies to you. If you’re making anything other than feature-length audiovisual films, this stuff applies to you. Oh, and if you’re writing, well…you get the point.

I read the YouTube Content Creator Playbook and pulled out a few highlights (which I’ve italicized). Shockingly, I’ll be editorializing along the way. For radio folks in metered markets, see how much of this sounds like what you’ve been hearing elsewhere. (Hint: all of it will.)

Here’s a simple gem: “If you’re a creator interested in building a successful channel on YouTube, you’ve got to consider your channel’s long-term plan…The answer largely lies in developing a viable programming strategy…’Programming’ means creating a cohesive viewing experience across videos on your channel, where each video fits into the larger channel vision.” You have a cohesive and comprehensive vision for your brand, right?

When creating content, get to the payoff fast: “Many viewers decide whether they’ll keep watching a video within the first few seconds. Hook viewers early, and keep their attention…YouTube optimizes search and discovery for videos that increase watch time on the site.”  Viewers and listeners find ways to optimize their search and discovery too. In radio, listeners use a form of optimization known as “presets”. BTW, YouTube’s recommendations for hooking viewers early:

  • “Make the first shot fascinating.
  • Address the audience immediately.
  • Tell them what they’re watching.
  • Spark their curiosity.
  • Ask a question.
  • Tease the rest of the video.”

Are the first moments of your content always fascinating?

On timing, “The right length for a video is exactly as long it keeps people glued to the screen…Include only necessary footage in your videos. Cut, cut, cut!”

Most talent won’t want to hear this, but this is not a license to go longer. Think critically about what can go and keep thinking about it. If you’re performing live – hello, radio – this means you’ve got to rehearse everything. You can’t decide what isn’t necessary if you don’t rehearse. Go back and listen to your last show critically; I guarantee you’ll find plenty that wasn’t necessary.

Speaking of cutting, brand integration is a key to future revenue generation, but, “Keep branding to less than five seconds, unless it’s hilarious.”

Make it easy for your fans to support you. “Direct viewers during the video to take actions that can help build engagement and audience…many viewers won’t act unless you prompt them. Your videos should have specific Calls to Action (CTAs). CTAs should be minimal and simple; too many prompts can cause confusion. Make it as easy as possible for viewers to act.” 

On that note, “Drive viewers to the next sequential video, a trailer, or a playlist using in-video messaging, graphics and annotations. Provide information about the series, its schedule, release dates and links in the video description.” You’re telling your audience when and where they can get more of your content that they love, right?

When you can pull it off, being topical still matters. “Create, release, and/or package content that is themed around tent-pole events. Create and publish content according to a programming calendar…Develop a programming calendar covering all the videos you are going to create or curate for the event. Repackage old videos in new ways.”  You already know what you’re doing for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Super Bowl…right? At minimum, you’re not going to put off planning until a day or two beforehand, are you?

On timing: “Release tent-pole related videos several days before an event. The ‘pre-buzz’ leading up to an event is just as important.”

One last note on what’s topically relevant, and then we’ll wrap up: “Use the ‘Explore’ tool at to gauge how much early and sustained interest there is around an event.”

There’s a lot more on building a viewer/listener/reader community and on using analytics, but this is getting long, so I’ll save that for a future post.  Let’s wrap up with highlights from YouTube’s Programming Checklist:

  • “Create content that is unique, compelling, and entertaining or informative.
  • Captivate your viewer in the first 15 seconds, and keep them watching throughout the video.
  • Include specific Calls to Action in the video or through annotations.
  • Set a recurring schedule for your uploads, and maximize your production investments.
  • Create a programming calendar. Create content around tent-pole events that are important to your audience.
  • Create a channel experience that guides viewers across multiple videos and communicates everything your channel has to offer.
  • Use YouTube Live to cover timely events. Remember to test the live functionality, market the event on and off-site, integrate Calls to Action and clip out content, and upload clipped content to your channel.”

If you’re not doing this stuff, now would be a good time to start.

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