- YouTube is providing creators of virtual reality (VR) and 360-degree videos with a new specialized metric called heatmaps that show where viewers are looking at the video content and how long they are looking at specific areas, per a company blog post. The tool is only available on VR and 360-degree video with more than 1,000 views.
- YouTube research found that people spent 75% of their time watching the front 90 degrees of a video, indicating that should be an area of emphasis for creators. The most popular VR videos had people viewing more of the 360-degree space available, with almost 20% of views actually happening behind the user.
- The blog post also announced the launch of VR Creator Lab, a VR-intensive program at YouTube Space LA. Applications for the lab are currently open.
For marketers experimenting with 360-degree video and VR content, the heatmaps should help sharpen more effective creative strategies. VR and 360-degree video are shown to produce strong emotional reactions and engagement times compared to more traditional ad formats, but the open-ended nature of the experiences — users can look all around them at any time, and get easily distracted from the content's core focus — can make measuring success difficult.
YouTube outlined some findings in its research, and suggested that creators keep in mind that VR viewers will watch under a range of experiences including mobile and portable devices like Google Cardboard, along with more complex desktop set-ups. The video platform's research found that people viewing with Cardboard tend to need a few seconds to get situated and creators should keep that in mind, for example.
More robust VR and 360-degree video analytics and the VR Creator Lab come as YouTube might be worrying about losing some of its talent to competitors like Facebook and Amazon's Twitch streaming service. The bulk of YouTube's challenges began in late March with a brand safety controversy that negatively impacted creator revenues across a number of categories and saw many top advertisers boycott the site.