Gather around, this is Creator Campfire. We’re like Olive Garden.
When you’re here, you’re family.
50M subscribers, 550M+ views/mo, 50 full-time employees. We had it all figured out, right? Nope. Views were down across all channels. Why? We were thinking about retention in reverse.
I learned this lesson the hard way.
Let me save you some stress:
Why Does It Matter?
Two major reasons + a quick note:
- Informs every production process
- Crucial to video + channel success
- Note: I’m defining “retention” as a general term for both AVD and APV
Impact on Process
When you properly understand video retention, it should impact every phase of your production.
→ Which idea gets published (pre-production)
→ How the story is captured (production)
→ How the story is told (post-production)
More on this further down.
Video + Channel Success
If you already know how retention ties to video performance, feel free to skip to the next section :)
Now that those nerds lovely people are gone, let’s get you up to speed with a TLDR of how the YouTube algorithm works:
→ YT = business
→ Viewers = $$$$$
→ Satisfied viewers = More viewers = More $
→ How to determine satisfaction? [at video-level]
→ How often they click (CTR) + how long they watch a video (retention)
↓ If you want to dig deeper, I wrote a thread breaking it down ↓
Get it? Got it? Good.
What You Need to Know
Now about that mistake: We tried to leverage the wrong production phase to solve our retention issues. As a former editor, it pains me to say that we…tried to fix it in post.
All phases of production are NOT created equal when it comes to retention.
Think of your video’s potential retention like a cup. Each phase fills a portion of the total, but no phase can fill the cup entirely by itself.
Prioritize your time and focus on the right areas.
Your analytics and your viewers will thank you 📈
If you’re anything like I was, you think this is where the most retention magic happens. It’s what the vast majority of people will say. I’m here to tell you from firsthand experience that you’ve been lied to.
Does editing make a tangible difference? Absolutely!
The edit can salvage a mediocre video and turn a great video into something unforgettable.
But no matter how incredible your editors are, they will always be limited by the footage given to them.
Garbage in → polished garbage out
- Story structure
- Story pace
Cup contribution: 30-45%
When our retention rates were consistently low, I had a conversation with the post department. The footage being used in the videos felt lacking, why? They were including subpar fluff in order to hit a certain “acceptable” video length.
Hmm. Maybe that’s not the best idea.
To test, I removed the video length from their consideration and told them to just make the best video possible.*
*Not all editors can handle it - make sure you trust their work before taking a step like this
That 16-ish-minute video was sitting at 5:37 total runtime.
Now we’re getting somewhere.
Onto the production team. What kind of footage are we getting?
My stop here was brief.
This is the lowest leverage phase in terms of retention. Is it important to record things? Duh. The video wouldn’t exist if they weren’t.
However, aside from capturing high-quality assets, there’s little here that has a large impact on retention.
Gear is (mostly) irrelevant.
Plenty of top creators film with an iPhone and maybe a lav or shotgun mic. If you’re deadset on investing in this phase, splurge on audio.
Audiences are much more forgiving of lower video quality.
- Capturing assets
Cup contribution: 5-10%
That leaves the final suspect:
With the production team capturing everything needed, our issues came down to planning. Simply put: we weren’t spending enough time prior to recording.
More effort was needed in our ideation:
→ Is there enough content to be had?
→ Can this be packaged well?
→ What story are we telling?
More effort was needed in our outlines:
→ Does every scene deliver enough relevant content?
→ Are we matching audience expectations?
→ Is every beat valuable to the viewer?
If your video is a house, pre-production is the foundation.
Don’t wait. Set your video up for success from the outset.
Cup contribution: 50-65%
A visual reminder before you go:
What You Need to Do
Here is your challenge for this week
- Draw your own cup and evaluate how much time you’re spending on each phase. Adjust accordingly.
Or as Elon puts it:
Don't forget to send any questions/results @trenthaire
All the best,