Road to a Million YouTube Views: Beginning and end of your video are critical

Think like Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross: Attention - Do I have your attention?

Welcome to the twelfth article in our Road to a Million Views series. Stark Insider TV is closing in on 1 million YouTube views (we estimate it will happen this spring) and we’re celebrating by publishing a weekly piece on our experience — good and bad — with video on the web.

What on earth is going on here?
What on earth is going on here?

Attention spans are increasingly short. Perhaps we can blame (and celebrate) the truncated 140-character communication that Twitter has popularized. And because there’s so much information, so many different voices coming at us it’s ever more important to make a strong statement, as fast as possible.

If you’re story-telling on YouTube, here’s something I’ve learned producing SI TV videos for the last four years: get your main message across in the first 30 seconds.

Then, be sure to finish strong. The middle section, at least in my experience, is the least important in terms of leaving a lasting impression with a viewer.

This is not new.

Movies, books, albums – all, for the most part, stick to this formula.

Think about some of the most memorable things you’ve watched, read or listened to over the past few months; chances are, there was a strong–often emotional–hook, that instantly grabbed your attention.

Think like Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross: Attention – Do I have your attention?

“Skimming” is very popular on YouTube (and across other video platforms too). I do it all the time. I start watching a video, get the gist of it, then fast forward a few minutes, and then jump to the end to get the key takeaway. Of course there are times I’ll watching something straight through–anything with Christopher Hitchens; or possibly Andy Kauffman, riveting in an entirely weird way that causes me to remain transfixed.

On average, Stark Insider TV viewers will watch a video for about 2.5 minutes. Not necessarily straight through. Again, many do what I do: jump ahead, watch a bit, then jump ahead again. So I’ve learned to try to get, material depending, the most salient points, the most entertaining bits, or the key messages right up front in the first 30-45 seconds are so. And because I know most will skip to the end to see how a video finishes, we spend extra care and attention crafting a message. In our case often it’s reinforcing a quirky slogan (“Twice as fun… but only half as smart”) or layering on mystery – that host Loni is “walking” the streets of San Francisco 7/24 (“Day+Night”) searching out the next foodie adventure, or wine event, or seeking out the next creative thinker or innovator to interview.

Stark Insider Square Orange LogoROAD TO A MILLION VIEWS

Stark Insider YouTube Channel Views: 975,934

Weekly Change: +7,950 views, +10 subscribers

Most interesting comment this week:Eww. Busted

Most watched video of the week: Christopher Titus – Neverlution

They say you need to repeat a key message three times for it to sink in.

In the new world of hyper media, the social web, and exploding online video, you need to repeat your message 300 times. Maybe even 3,000 times!

Think like Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross: Attention – Do I have your attention?

For Stark Insider, we do have a core readership and viewership that consumes our content. It’s about 20%. But the remainder are net-new. That means we have the opportunity to explain, to educate to about 8 out of 10 of our daily visitors (or YouTube Channel Views) what we’re all about.

Here’s some quick tips for grabbing attention — things I’ve learned from producing videos here on SI since 2009:

1. First 0:10-0:30 seconds of your video is critical. Create a hook. Be concise. If all the viewer watches is the first part of your video is the message/takeaway evident?

2. Repeat key messages, ideally using different techniques, throughout your video. Remember, telling someone 3x is no longer enough.

3. Assume viewers will skip ahead, because YouTube data suggests we all do – rarely do we watch a video straight through. Summarize what you’ve said, however briefly, across the duration of your video.

 4. Keep credits to a minimum. Get to the meat asap.

When in doubt end your YouTube video interview with a butt slap.
When in doubt end your YouTube video interview with a butt slap. This I never expected from Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser).

5. Finish strong. “Act I” and “Act III” are most important. If there’s a lull or non-informative, non-entertaining bit, it’s best to cut it completely. Otherwise put it in the middle where possible. People remember strong endings. Remember The Sixth Sense, or The Empire Strikes Back, or Se7en? Indelible imagery to be sure.

Here’s where I insert my weekly caveat: I’m far from perfect on all of the above points. Yes, it’s easier to say, than to do. But at least knowing the end game helps me improve our video engagement, increase our views, and tell more compelling stories.

Good luck with your online video strategy. Next week I’ll (finally!) tackle the almighty topic of video monetization. Can you make a living with online video? What kind of income can you expect? What does a top performing video pay? Stay tuned next week as I (attempt to) enter the murky, intriguing world of YouTube video monetization.

The Lion King

Summarize in first 30 seconds. Try to finish strong – in this case, hopefully with a laugh or smile.

Vincent Kartheisier – Pete Campbell of ‘Mad Men’

Trying here to grab viewer attention with interesting sound bites up front. Then finishing… well, finishing…. well… it’s different…

Silicon Valley NewsStark Insider: Road to a Million Views

1. Road to a Million Views: The Journey Begins

2. You love Cirque

3. What’s the ideal length for a YouTube video?

4. Get in, get out

5. Name your YouTube video right

6. Forget about perfection

7.Reputation is everything

8. YouTube’s reach can’t be beat

9. Clint’s Monster Video Editing Computer Build

10. The Gear (DSLR Video Guide)

11. Running to Stand Still

12. Beginning and end of your video are critical

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  • Frank Rothman

    Hi Clinton , enjoying the articles!
    We have been researching viral videos, and Youtube views, and have found a number of people are using services like and other sites to get their view stats up; then wait for traction to kick in when people start seeing their video with hundreds of thousands of views. What are your thoughts on these kind of services? We have tried them out, and have had some great success.

    Frank Rothman