YouTube is addressing clickbait thumbnails and content creators aren't amused

Shawn Knight

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

YouTube over the next few weeks will carry out an experiment that’s already driving a wedge further between the platform and its content creators.

As explained on Google’s product forums and reiterated on Twitter, a small group of viewers – 0.3 percent of YouTube’s total audience – will see the default, auto-generated thumbnail for all videos across all channels instead of the custom thumbnails uploaded by creators.

Considering YouTube now has over 1.8 billion registered viewers every month, that could equate to more than five million people being affected.

YouTube stressed that it isn’t removing the ability to create custom thumbnails but is instead simply testing the effectiveness of auto-generated thumbnails in hopes of improving them in the future.

Thumbnails, along with carefully crafted titles, are arguably a creator’s top asset on the platform. Choose the “right” thumbnail and your video will stand out from the crowd; select a mundane preview and it’ll get lost in a sea of other videos vying for viewers’ attention.

On the flip side, Google’s intentions aren’t exactly unmerited. YouTube is a notoriously seedy environment dominated by clickbait. Aiming to clean up the misleading mess and improve the user experience is hard to fault… but then again, that’s easy to way when you don’t have a financial interest in the matter either way.

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davislane1

This isn't going to work. It's just going to adversely impact people who use attention getting thumbnails to drive people to legitimate content.

Instead, what will happen is the following:

1. Clickbait marketers will assess the new algos.

2. Said marketers will then edit videos in such a way as to achieve the same effect as custom thumbnails.

3. YouTube will attempt another hamfisted measure at combating clickbait.

4. People who do legitimate content creation will be shafted, per standard YouTube practices.
 

VitalyT

Russ-Puss
I'm interested to see how this is going to work.

Much of good content starts with their own AD-s, so does this mean the auto-thumbs will be generated from the AD and not the actual content? Maybe they will use some smart mapping there, based on some average content.

I'm not as pessimistic as @davislane, because if the algorithm is based on what we see on the average, then the authors won't be able to circumvent it in any way.
 

FF222

TS Addict
Much of good content starts with their own AD-s, so does this mean the auto-thumbs will be generated from the AD and not the actual content?
Why would they? Thumbnails can be generated by taking any single frame of the whole video. And there are obviously tens of thousands of frames in a 10 minute video.

If YouTube picks a random frame for that purpose, nobody will be able to game the system. YouTube could also pick let's say 10 frames and then run A-B experiments on them to see which of them generates the most clicks, and use that as the standard thumbnail for the video onwards.

YouTube could also analyze the video using AI and only pick frames from segments (albeit still randomly) where there are people, animals (or whatever seems to align with the title and tags of the videos) visible. This would probably yield better, more relevant thumbnails, and still not allow to game the system.

YouTube could also by default not enable setting a custom thumbnail for creators, but only for those, who have let's say 100.000 or more views, and then take that right back when too many people report the videos for misleading thumbnails. This method would punish those who abuse the privilege, while not affect those who are legitimately using it.
 

gigantor21

TS Maniac
Youtube needs to quit screwing around with it's format. Lately I've noticed the slight changes and it's as maddening as walking into the grocery story and seeing they have rearranged the entire store over the weekend ...... they appear to be rapidly becoming the boobtube!
They want so desperately to be seen in the same vein as Netflix or Hulu, and will stop at nothing until that happens.
 
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davislane1

So what without their clickbait they will be forced to rely on releasing good content instead
Clickbait isn't going away. Clickbait won't even be noticeably impacted by this. All they will do is come up with a new strategy for generating leads without thumbnails.
 

ghostf1re

TS Guru
What YouTube needs to do is fix the "Recommended" section. My recommended videos have been all stuff I don't care about lately, all because I every so often watch a video outside of my normal videos and screws everything up. Whatever algorithm they are using to organize that section is complete garbage.

I will say this, these click bait videos are annoying and need to go. I hate clicking on a video to try to learn something or get information about something and it's all nonsense and not helpful at all. It's just people generating views for monetization, but aren't offering anything at all. They're just exploiting the system.
 
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gnpfrslo

TS Enthusiast
Good riddance let's play channels.
Too bad it won't do anything for clickbait videos. I believe they should just make a rule against them and terminate videos and accounts that get reported accordingly.
Same for the "meme compilation" videos and such, they all need to go.
 
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Digitalzone

TS Booster
I don't care. Youtube content literally sucks and makes your brain melted. People are not able to read, focus, no intellectual performance , they are just poor video-consumers.
 

amghwk

TS Guru
Too many clickbaits... something must be done about these false luring. What's more getting on my nerves is these unscrupulous content creator's clickbait thumbnails which shrewdly raise their viewership numbers for monetary greed, rather than the Youtube's policy itself.
 

cliffordcooley

TS Redneck
In my experience about 40% of thumbnails aren't even in the videos (I.e. completely fake). Priority #1 for these new algorithms would be checking for that.
Too many clickbaits... something must be done about these false luring. What's more getting on my nerves is these unscrupulous content creator's clickbait thumbnails which shrewdly raise their viewership numbers for monetary greed, rather than the Youtube's policy itself.
What they should do is check to make sure the thumbnail is in the video. And if not, then auto generate one from the video.
 
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Bubbajim

TechSpot Staff
Staff member
I don't care. Youtube content literally sucks and makes your brain melted. People are not able to read, focus, no intellectual performance , they are just poor video-consumers.
How dare people enjoy visual media! I for one prefer braille, so I can literally feel the story I'm experiencing.
 
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Capaill

TS Evangelist
What they should do is check to make sure the thumbnail is in the video. And if not, then auto generate one from the video.
That's easily circumvented - simply add the thumbnail to the very first frame of the video. Nobody would notice or would think it's just the transition from thumbnail to video.
Some kind of action is needed though or else half of the videos on YouTube are going to have thumbnails of a sexy lady.
 

IAMTHESTIG

TS Evangelist
The click-bait is incredibly irritating but why don't we just stick to users reporting "misleading thumbnail" and be done with it? Manage that well and everyone will be happy, minus the manipulating content creators.
 

Brach Speicher

TS Rookie
Also apparently destroys your ability to use proper grammar.
Can you correct my mistakes?
How about run-in sentences? Usually I don't care about run-ins, especially if it's one or two, but running in three sentences with completely independent thought trains shows poor grammatical thought. Here, I'll use some improper grammar for you so you can understand. Sentence fragments. They break a thought train up despite being improper grammar.
 

cliffordcooley

TS Redneck
How about run-in sentences? Usually I don't care about run-ins, especially if it's one or two, but running in three sentences with completely independent thought trains shows poor grammatical thought.
I have a tendency not to care at all in a comment section. It is the articles, I don't like seeing mistakes. We peons (in the comments) are not getting paid for our grammar infractions. Neither are we getting paid to correct them.
 

Digitalzone

TS Booster
How about run-in sentences? Usually I don't care about run-ins, especially if it's one or two, but running in three sentences with completely independent thought trains shows poor grammatical thought. Here, I'll use some improper grammar for you so you can understand. Sentence fragments. They break a thought train up despite being improper grammar.
Yeah, thanks for hint. I'm not native speaker, thus complex sentences can make me problem. Funnily, googling for run-in sentences only brought me to that they are called run-on.