The Truth About YouTube Ratings That Nobody Wants To Tell You
YouTube is testing removing public dislike counts to improve the well-being of content creators and will not be getting rid of the dislikes button altogether. As part of their experiment, YouTube users are starting to see a few potential new designs for both like and dislike buttons that appear below videos. Outcome tests show they’re responding positively this time around with more likes than ever before – but it’s too early yet to say if hiding these numbers has had any effect on overall viewer behaviour or creator happiness levels.
What is YouTube doing?
If you’ve watched a video on YouTube in the last month, you’ll have seen that, if you look at the top-left corner of the video, there is a countdown showing the number of days that it has been on YouTube and how many views it has received. Whenever someone views a video on YouTube, a like button has also been enabled. YouTube.com The reactions to both the like and dislike button have become very divisive in the YouTube community, with strong feelings for and against the like button dominating the discussion. In recent years, more and more YouTube creators have begun to use the like button to acknowledge the positive reception their videos receive – while also telling people when someone dislikes a video and which of their videos has received the most dislikes.
Why is YouTube doing it?
YouTube announced the test in late October, saying it was looking for “suggestions about how we can better surface connections between you and the videos you care about.” YouTube has been conducting internal research into the effect dislike counts, and placements have on viewership for the past year. The testing follows a similar experiment back in 2013, where YouTube started hiding dislikes in an effort to counterbalance the potential negativity felt by some viewers. However, researchers from the Media Psychology Research Center told Wired that they discovered a 40% increase in dislike counts after the feature was disabled. Why would YouTube want to do this?
How does it work?
This change has been in testing for some time, in small but significant ways. From 18 October to 19 November, if you watched a video and didn’t click ‘like’ within five minutes, you received a note along with your 15-second ad “asking whether you’d like to leave a review or comment below the video”. The only way you could get rid of this was by clicking ‘ignore’ from within the video’s page. That way, if you were annoyed at the noise, you could ignore the note instead of, well, ignoring it. A similar test started testing in 2016, but no decision was taken at that time. Taken together with the fact that YouTube in November replaced the two thumbs up and two thumbs down to a single thumbs-up, YouTube seems to be testing, increasing the value of the thumbs down to creators.
What has been the outcome so far?
A YouTube spokesperson has confirmed that out of 100 tests of the testing and trend started on the web earlier this month in multiple countries (including Australia), they’ve seen more likes than hates on 80% of the videos. On a video with 12 dislikes, they’ve seen the ratio rise to over 70% dislikes to likes. Some examples from the stats YouTube provided to BuzzFeed News to illustrate the test: The opt-in test is being undertaken in different parts of the world at various times to try to get a better understanding of what makes content popular and what audiences want. At the moment, they’re only looking at creators in the US and Canada, although if they’ve got positive results, they’ll widen their coverage.
Does it work?
Though YouTube did not disclose the exact results of the test, a spokesperson told me: “We know when people have a positive or negative experience on YouTube, and there is a lot of research that suggests that expressing a preference can have a very positive impact.” So while it is true that some video creators are unhappy with the increasing amount of hate they receive, so far, it does not appear that hiding the dislike/like counts have affected their audience’s behaviour or happiness. And before anyone jumps to any conclusions, it should be noted that YouTube isn’t the first to try this. A version of this was previously tested back in 2012, but it didn’t include all of YouTube’s viewership numbers – just posts viewed by 18- to 29-year-olds.
In the end, it’s just up to you and your followers whether the videos you post are given a reasonable chance to resonate with them. Videos with a few dislikes as possible might feel too basic, but if you can find the right balance, you could potentially enjoy a booming success on YouTube that goes well beyond the usual trends that might typically be expected.