Lydia Sweatt is a writer who loves balancing her article/blog time indoors with a healthy dose of nature. She bikes, hikes, and identifies edible plants along the way.
YouTube Watch Time: 9 Ways to Reach 4,000 Hours and Monetize Your Channel
If you're reading this, you probably know that getting 4,000 watch hours is a critical checkpoint on the road to YouTube monetization. It's not easy, and many creators spend a year or more getting there, but it's ultimately worth it. Achieving this goal means you can monetize your videos with advertisements through the YouTube Partner Program, which is a lot like making money in your sleep. It's a hands-off way to boost your income!
Understanding Watch Time on YouTube
But first, what is watch time, and how is it calculated on YouTube?
Watch time is the cumulative duration that individuals spend watching a video. Each YouTube video has a watch time count, which contributes to your channel's overall count.
For your watch time to count toward monetization, you must gain 4,000 viewing hours in 12 consecutive months. The videos don't have to be published in the last 12 months, as long as viewers watched them over the previous year.
Also, only certain types of videos can collect watch time. Make sure you're getting 4,000 public watch hours, as this is the main qualifier — so don't set your videos to private!
Do You Need 4,000 Hours to Join the YPP?
Notably, you don't need 4,000 hours to get into the YPP. You can do that with just 3,000 hours and then monetize your videos through fan funding instead of ads. These include Super Chats, Super Thanks, channel memberships, and more. Below are the minimum requirements to join the YPP, but remember that you'll still need 4,000 hours to earn ad revenue.
Image credit: Official YouTube Blog
Finding Your Channel's Watch Time
So, how many watch hours have you collected so far? Knowing this number is extremely helpful, especially when building a strategy to keep viewers' attention.
1. Go to the YouTube Studio and click Earn in the left navigation bar.
2. On the Become a Partner page, scroll down to How to Join. And there, you'll see how much watch time your channel has.
How to Get More Watch Time on YouTube: 9 Powerful Tips
Now that you know where you stand, use these powerful tips to increase your watch time on YouTube.
1. Master the Art of YouTube Storytelling
Telling a good story is crucial for keeping viewers engaged, and thus, boosting your watch hours on YouTube. In every video, you want to grab viewers' attention, take them on a journey, and create emotional scenes that hook them along the way.
To do this effectively, master three areas of YouTube storytelling:
- The title and thumbnail (convince people to click)
- The video introduction (persuade people to keep watching)
- Emotional connectivity (keep viewers invested in the story)
Titles and Thumbnails
Your title and thumbnail are like two sides of the same coin. They should give viewers a snapshot of what the video is about and communicate how it will feel to watch it. For example, notice how the creator's dread in this thumbnail reinforces the video's title: "Big Mistakes Small YouTubers Still Make."
The best introductions get straight to the point by mentioning what viewers care about in the first three seconds. If you're struggling to come up with hooks, study the best–performing YouTube Shorts and the introductions they have. Introductory phrases like "They don't want you to know this secret" or "I never do this, and here's why" are effective curiosity drivers.
Emotion makes your content 10 times more relatable. Try using emotional triggers like fear, nostalgia, novelty, and scarcity to make your videos seem urgent and relevant to the viewer's life.
2. Increase Engagement with Pattern Interrupters
A good story may pique viewers' interest, but knowing how to edit that story is the real watch-time booster.
Pattern interrupters are your secret weapon for this. They turn a good video into a great one by adding variety to what's already there. On YouTube, a pattern interrupter is any visual or auditory element that changes someone's thought pattern. I should leave this video is one thought you want to interrupt in a viewer's mind!
Some examples of pattern interrupts include:
- Shifting camera angles
- Graphics or images
- Changes in music
- Occasional text
- Scene changes
- Sound effects
- Jump cuts
3. Use Captions Throughout Your Videos
Getting someone to watch your video for longer is much easier when captions are present. Think about it: "Reading along" takes pressure off of viewers who don't want to listen to a video or have some degree of hearing loss. Plus, viewers in crowded, noisy areas benefit from reading captions versus listening to audio.
Additionally, subtitles should be your go-to if you have a multicultural audience on YouTube. They translate your audio into multiple languages so people in faraway regions understand you better!
4. Skip the Basic Outro
Filming a long outro feels natural, but did you know there are better ways to close out a video? Most viewers click away when they hear goodbye phrases, such as:
- "And that's about it!"
- "Those are all of my tips for..."
- "If you liked this video, then…"
Instead of announcing the end of a video, leave before anyone knows what's happening. Your watch time will improve when you don't signal that a video is ending.
5. Make Evergreen YouTube Videos
Evergreen content is popular year-round, so you need those types of videos to get watch time fast. Evergreen topics like how to change careers, how to cook brown rice, and tips for making friends in your 30s have a high search volume from January to December.
As you can see, many evergreen videos are search-based and offer steady watch time through sheer popularity.
If you're struggling to find evergreen video ideas, ask yourself a question:
What do my viewers care about more than anything else?
For example, vidIQ subscribers love to hear growth tips for small channels. One of our videos on the subject has over 78,000 watch hours since it was published six months ago. And the hours are still increasing!
6. Host YouTube Live Streams
Watch time from streaming will always count toward your 4,000-hour goal, so bond with viewers in real-time. It's the perfect way to rack up those monetization hours!
When we started our live stream journey, 50-100 people showed up. Now we get hundreds of concurrent viewers, and with that boost in viewership comes plenty of additional watch time.
For example, check out the watch time from this two-hour live stream:
Give streaming a chance when you have about 12 months of YouTube experience. By then you should have 100 or more subscribers who may show up to watch your streams.
7. Build Watch Time Through Playlists
Why do people binge videos for hours on Netflix? Simply put, it's because their shows are organized with the help of playlists. Viewers don't have to keep selecting episodes when they want to watch a romantic comedy or learn about nature through a documentary. They click on a show, and Netflix plays the episodes automatically.
This is an excellent strategy to bring to your YouTube channel. Figure out which topics viewers care about the most, then create YouTube playlists that hold 10 or more videos. It's one of the easiest ways to increase your watch hours!
8. Use End Screens to Build Watch Time
YouTube end screens are interactive outros that appear in the last 5-20 seconds of a video. You can add all sorts of clickable elements to them, such as website links, a subscribe button, or even a YouTube channel you want to promote. But it's wise to "send" viewers to the rest of your content if you want more watch hours.
So, instead of creating an "outro," make your last point, then quickly transition to an end screen. Now you can recommend one more video to viewers!
9. Upload Videos Consistently
YouTube's recommendation system has one job, but it's a pretty big one. It has to suggest the right content to viewers based on their watch history and other factors.
YouTube can do this faster and easier if you're always making videos. After all, how can the algorithm rely on any channel for quality recommendations if there isn't much content?
You don't have to upload every day, but stick to a schedule that keeps viewers engaged and doesn't burn you out.
The Easiest Way to Track Watch Time
Are you tired of digging through the YouTube Studio to see your watch time? If so, download vidIQ to get our real-time stats bar for FREE. In addition to watch time, it also tracks views per hour and subscribers gained.
FAQ: More Details About YouTube Watch Time
Can I watch my own YouTube videos for more watch time?
You can press play on your own videos, but doing so to increase your watch time isn’t a good idea. According to YouTube’s Fake Engagement Policy, the platform “doesn’t allow anything that artificially increases the number of views, likes, comments, or other metrics.” Plus, many creators have found that YouTube deletes views coming from their own browser after 48 hours.
Do YouTube Shorts count as watch time?
Unfortunately, watch time from Shorts does not count toward the 4,000 hours you need to join the YouTube Partner Program. Those hours must come from regular videos. An alternative route is getting 1,000 subscribers plus 10 million public Shorts views in 90 days.
Should I buy YouTube watch time hours?
You should never buy YouTube watch time if you want to keep your channel in good standing. Instead, focus on making high-quality videos that bring viewers in naturally. After all, purchasing fake engagement could lead to strikes against your channel, a suspended account, or channel termination.
Should I make longer videos to get more watch time?
Don't make long videos just to reach 4,000 hours. You should make your videos just long enough to cover a specific topic. When viewers get bored and abandon a video, that hurts your watch time.
What's an underrated way to increase my watch time?
Become obsessed with audience retention. The longer people watch your videos, the more watch time you'll receive. How many people are still watching after the 30-second mark? Are viewers watching until the end, or do they watch 50% of a video on average? These are questions you should ask to create better content.
Reach Your Watch Time Goals on YouTube
To wrap up, there are seven powerful ways to get more YouTube watch time:
- Master the art of YouTube storytelling.
- Increase engagement with pattern interrupters.
- Use captions throughout your videos.
- Skip the basic video outro.
- Make evergreen videos.
- Host live streams.
- Build watch time through playlists.
- Use end screens to build watch time.
- Upload consistently.