What's A Web Video "View"? Whatever A Video Site Says A "View" Is

Ah, the joys of Web metrics — where you can’t compare apples to apples, because each orchard counts its fruit differently.

This is a problem that’s as old as the Internet, but has gotten hammered out to some degree for traditional Web publishers. Not so for the brave new world of Web video, where pretty much anything goes.

Which means that when YouTube, Crackle, or DailyMotion tell advertisers how well their sites perform, they’re all talking about different things. Some video sites, like AOL and Stupidvideos, count a “view” every time a video is launched, meaning that someone watching a dog on a skateboard over and over is counted each time. Others, like Metacafe and, only count one view per IP address.

The differences don’t stop there. Some sites log a view immediately after a video is launched; others only count a view if a video has been watched for a certain amount of time.

Where do the top video sites stand? TubeMogul tested 14 top video sites on four basic metrics: full view, half view, refreshing a browser after the play begins, and watching multiple times through an embedded player. Their goal is to show just how widely sites differ on what they report back as a “view.”

It’s the second time they’ve conducted the test. The biggest difference since their first test last June? Both YouTube and Yahoo lowered their standards. Previously, both logged only one view per IP address and now both count multiple views from the same computer the moment the user presses play.

Here’s a selection from TubeMogul’s study, in increasing order of permissiveness:

  • Metacafe: Counts a view if 50% of a video is watched or if it’s watched for 30 seconds — whichever comes first. Multiple views from one IP address aren’t counted.
  • Logs only one view per IP address, per session, regardless if the cache is cleared after each play or if the user logs in or out of the site. Video is counted as a view the moment it starts playing.
  • DailyMotion: Doesn’t count an additional view if a video is refreshed, but does count full multiple views from the same computer. Doesn’t count multiple views from video embedded on other sites.
  • YouTube: Basically counts everything. TubeMogul tried refreshing 130 times on one video (from one computer) and logged 130 views.
  • MySpace: Like YouTube, counts everything, including multiple refreshes of the same video and all views originating on video embedded elsewhere.

UPDATE: The following table reflects that does count views of embedded video, correcting previous information from TubeMogul:

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