Think You’ve Picked the Best Video Thumbnail? Think Again — 52 Videos that Prove Video Machine Learning can Double Play Rates

I’ve never met anyone who intentionally picked a bad video thumbnail—but they’re everywhere.

To be clear, bad ≠ ugly. Bad thumbnails are sometimes beautiful. Bad means that people don’t WANT to click on them. After all, the point of a thumbnail is to get people to click “play” or “stop scrolling” long enough for the video to start to playing.

KRAKEN Video Machine Learning Rikers Original ThumbnailEditors and content creators with years of experience spend a lot of time picking “best” thumbnails.  And publishers posting hundreds of videos daily rely on content management systems (CMS) that suggest or auto-pick thumbnails.

Guess what? They’re usually wrong.

Almost always, there is a better thumbnail for any given video or set of thumbnails.

How? Why?

Because “best” is defined by your audience, not you. You bring your experience and baggage with you every time you pick a thumbnail—and you are different from your audience.  Why not take the guess work out of the equation and use data, not opinion, to choose the right thumbnails every time?

Real Example

KRAKEN Video Machine Learning Teacher Original Thumbnail Let’s say you’re an editor in LA and pick a thumbnail for a video about the latest breaking news topic. You might choose this image to the right:

Now what if your viewer is from Texas? What if that image doesn’t speak to them at all? That doesn’t mean they’re not interested in the topic or wouldn’t want to see the video content, it means that the thumbnail doesn’t make them WANT to click “play.”

KRAKEN Video Machine Learning Teacher
If you had asked your viewers, they would have told you that they preferred seeing the images on the left—all taken from the very same video.

 

 

Our recent post “The Force Awakens” shows another great example and the science behind data-chosen thumbnails.

Your audience isn’t one-size-fits-all. Your thumbnails shouldn’t be either.

Here are 52 videos from last month that prove intelligent selection of images can greatly improve video play rates.  Each has an optimized set of thumbnails that performed 101%–425% BETTER than the original thumbnail.

KRAKEN Video Machine Learning Rikers

Quickly though—what is an optimized thumbnail?

Optimized thumbnails are dynamic and rely on machine learning and audience feedback. Our product called KRAKEN does this all in real-time

So, what the heck does that mean in english???

It means that our computers examine a video and pick a bunch of ‘best possible’ thumbnails, then A/B tests them to determine what ones people actually click on. It will serve different images to different people depending on a variety of factors, including device and placement. Hey, it’s a patented process!

Said another way, we crowdsource what thumbnails people actually engage with, then show them to future visitors.

Results – Before & After

Think sports fans will click on any video related to their team? Think again. Optimized thumbnails performed 198% better than the original:
KRAKEN Video Machine Learning NY Giants Original Thumbnail KRAKEN Video Machine Learning NY Giants
                    Original Thumbnail                                 KRAKEN Optimized Visuals

Optimized thumbnails work for ‘hard’ news videos, too. This video about Enrique Marquez’s ties to the San Bernardino gunmen had a 205% lift:
KRAKEN Video Machine Learning Enrique Original Thumbnail KRAKEN Video Machine Learning Enrique
                    Original Thumbnail                                 KRAKEN Optimized Visuals

Kardashians—love them or hate them, right? It turns out that optimized thumbnails can produce a 128% lift in video play rates:
KRAKEN Video Machine Learning Kardashian Original Thumbnail KRAKEN Video Machine Learning Kardashian
                    Original Thumbnail                                 KRAKEN Optimized Visuals

From earlier in the article: the Rikers Island Guard video saw a 157% lift, while the video of a Teacher under fire for her lesson on Islam saw a 127% lift.

Our top performing video of December saw a 425% lift.  Here’s an overview of all 52:
KRAKEN Video Machine Learning Graph Videos with 100 lift Dec 2015

 

What could you do with double the video plays (or 3X or 4X)?

Would it double your video revenue? Satisfy your audience because more of them are seeing your awesome video content (after all, that’s why they’re on your site in the first place)?

The good news is your “best” thumbnails already exist and are buried in your existing videos. You just need to release the KRAKEN and get them to the surface.

Leave a comment below and tell us your thoughts. If you are interested in links to all 52 top performing videos, send me an email at ryan.shane@infinigraph.com—I like talking with new people.

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