The internet has drastically reduced barriers to the distribution of videos through a variety of online video platforms such as YouTube, Netflix and Bilibili. According to Business Insider, by 2021, video content will capture around 82% of Internet traffic, up from 73% in 2016 . Every minute there are more than 500 hours of videos uploaded to YouTube.
Consumers face an enormous volume of options to entertain themselves. Given the unprecedented proliferation of video content on a variety of digital channels, determining how to effectively promote video content and to entice viewers with the content even after they click in is a challenge faced by many online content aggregators and advertisers.
Video Thumbnails a Gatekeeper of Attention
Besides video titles and publishers, online video platforms historically use thumbnails as their major marketing tool to help consumers pick a video after an initial search. Thumbnails are reduced-sized preview images of videos that serve as a snapshot of the video and provide first impression to viewers. By including the scene of the video that elicit major emotions that viewers will experience while watching the video, a thumbnail allows viewers to form expectations of what they are going to see before even starting the video.
An ideal thumbnail should make a video more attractive to click at first, but at the same time it should be relevant to the video content in order to match people’s expectations of video after they click in. For advertisement videos in particular, a thumbnail that is both attractive and relevant to its video content can in turn increase click-through rates, engagement, liking and the likelihood of purchase, which in turn increasing a company’s advertisement revenue and the efficiency of promotional expenditures. For these reasons, it is important to have a systematic understanding of what makes a good thumbnail in terms of both attracting views and increasing viewers’ overall video experience as they click in to watch through the content.