From the ‘Trying to Drum Up Controversy Department’: YouTube Including Paid Views in Video View Counts


ADOTAS – Ah, it’s a Monday scandal! YouTube has apparently been counting paid video ads as views for a video, TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld reports. In particular, movie trailers get the biggest benefit — 5.8 million views of the 7 million views of the trailer for “The Rise of the Planet of the Apes” had their “first view from ad” according to YouTube statistics.

However, we’re not talking about most pre-roll ads, just TrueView units, which give users the option to skip after five seconds. No, we’re discussing the promoted videos in the “Related Videos” menu, video ads featured on the YouTube homepage or paid search ads (from search engine results) that link to a video — the kinds of ads you click on because you want to watch a video. Some people call it “opting in.”

So right now there’s a big banner on the YouTube homepage for the movie “Bad Teacher” that plays 15 seconds in silence before inviting me to “Click to continue.” If I do click, I conveniently watch it right there on the homepage and that gets counted as a video view for the trailer.

Because it is a video view. It’s a sponsored video view that was highlighted to get my attention, and when I clicked on it because it garnered my attention, I watched the video, thus moving the counter up a notch.

Is there something nefarious I’m missing here?

As a YouTube representative explained to Schonfeld, “To be clear, with standard in-stream ads where a viewer has no choice in its selection, we do not increase the videos view count.” The only pre-roll that does count are the TrueView units — if the user hasn’t hit the skip button (opted out), he or she has basically opted in to watch the ad. It’s a video view.

If Schonfeld, who before has shown a lack of understanding about how online advertising works, thinks this is some kind of scam, man, he’s going to be shocked by Google’s whole paid search business. OMG! Publishers are buying those pageviews by the click! They’re not real pageviews!

He seems to believe that movie marketers are buying their way up search results with inflated views, but… They are views! If you paid for 5 million views of a video featuring your dog driving a tractor, I would hope it came up on top when people searched for “dog driving tractor.” It would be the most viewed video. I’m not going to say it was a wise investment or the best “dog driving a tractor” video out there (there are more than you’d think).

Also, as a couple of commenters point out, when you’re searching for a movie trailer, don’t you want to get the official one rather than one somebody caught with their smartphone?

Really, the only way this would be a scandal would be if YouTube was including pre-roll ads they force on viewers (which they aren’t) or counting partial views (which I doubt). In fact, the main reason I’m writing about the story is because it found its way to

But there is very interesting data here, just not the controversial type that garners pageviews. So it used to be that you’d see a short television preview for a movie or maybe read a bit about it in the paper (ah, I remember the days of newspapers) and you’d search for the trailer. Other media were driving the views, but it seems paid ads for videos are now the top driver for traffic.

That strongly suggests movie marketers should put more money into paid traffic. I’d love to see how many who clicked on ad to watch a video ended up sharing it on a social network or commenting on it — it would be enticing if driving traffic to YouTube trailer videos also prompted engagement.

In particular, this data further show the power of the TrueView unit, something I’ve been mighty impressed with lately — if you give viewers the ability to opt out, they seem to pay more attention to the ads.


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