Video Retention Rates
July 08, 2014
By Chris Pagoria • Marketing Manager

If you don’t know about video retention rates, they’re quite fascinating!


First let’s make it clear that video retention rates measure the percentage of people that drop off from viewing a video as the video continues to play. In other words at what exact second in the video do some viewers click away to another screen and stop watching the video.

Now the idea of retention rates didn’t start with video, it has been around for a long time. You can measure the retention rate of almost any activity. For example the retention rate of someone reading a book, reading an article, reading a sign at a museum, listening to a recording of a speaker, or even watching a live event. The fact of the matter is, that no matter what medium you use to express your message there will be a percentage of the population that drops off and does not complete it.

A huge positive to video, especially online video, is you can accurately track video views and video retention rates. This is compared to print resources, such as a flyer, which you have no way of knowing if people are reading it at all, reading the entire flyer or at which exact point they are dropping off. It’s a total guessing game of which messages are working and which messages people are not finding relevant.

For the purpose of this post we will look into the analytics tools provided by YouTube, the number 1 video search engine in the world. However other video hosting websites, such as Vimeo, offer tools to track the analytics on your videos as well.

YouTube offers analytics on everything from reports on views to audience demographics to traffic sources and more. While these other tools can be very helpful, we are going to focus in on the audience retention tool. The tool is made up of two segments: absolute audience retention and relative audience retention.

Absolute audience retention shows down to the exact second when your audience is dropping off. You can see in the chart below the absolute audience retention rate for a video Motion Source produced for the camera shoulder rig that we designed. Basically here is what the numbers show us: At the 0:01 time mark we have 100% of our audience, which started the video, still watching. Then by the 0:13 time mark only 75% of our audience is still watching. Finally by the 0:32 time mark 50% of the original audience that started watching the video is still watching. The retention rate for the rest of the video floats between 40% and 50%. So one question you might ask is, is that a good rate of retention? 

The answer to that question is a little more complex than just yes or no. Some things to consider are...

  • Do we know if the entire audience who started the video were “qualified viewers”? That is were they viewers who were actually interested in this content or did they just land on this page accidentally thinking it was something else.

  • Was the entire viewing audience able to finish the video, if they wanted to? The video is over five minutes long, a lot of things can happen in five minutes; your boss could walk in the room and you are forced to click away, your internet connection could experience difficulty streaming the video and you click away.

  • Did the viewer get inspired by something they saw in the video and click away to a new screen to take action? Hopefully to the action you wanted them to take. For us this would be click the link to our website and buying the featured product; our camera shoulder rig.

  • What is the average retention rate for a video this long?

This is where the power of the relative audience retention tool comes into play. YouTube provides you with a chart that compares your video’s retention rate with the average retention rate of a video with about the same length. You can see in the chart below that the 50% drop off by the 30 second mark as described before was not extreme, it’s actually quite normal for a video of this length. 


Now I’m not saying that video doesn’t work. I know video works, the statistics prove it! To name a few:

  • "Adding video to your agency’s website makes your site 6 times more likely to convert a “browser” into a paying customer." (Source: Forrester Research )

  • "Video enjoyment increased purchase intent by 97% and brand association by 139." (Source: Unruly Media )

  • "The average user spends 88% more time on a website with video than a website without one."  (Source: Gary Lipkowitz of Marketing Profs)

And did you know that the average website bounce rate is 50%? That is 50% of visitors to your website leave your site without viewing more than the first page they landed on. So just because you have a bounce rate of 50% doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a website. The same can be said about video. Just because your audience is dropping off doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a video. Imagine what your business would look like without its website. A video can be just as powerful!

Here is what I am saying. Video retention rates can teach us about the videos we produce. These rates can show us what is working and what’s not. Video retention rates are one more set of good data that you can use to improve your messaging and marketing. My advice, start your video off with a bang and then give people a reason to hang on!

I wonder what the retention rate is on this article; I guess we will never know.