Friday, December 27, 2019

Why Viewers Stop Watching

Why do people join your Twitch streams? What causes them to tune out? What can you do to put as much time as possible between those two actions? Everyone who streams has thoughts about what attracts viewers to their channel, and what keeps them around, but in my opinion, the most important piece of the viewer retention puzzle is knowing what commonly causes viewers to stop watching. In this entry, we'll attempt to understand more about why viewers watch your shows by exploring what causes them to leave. We'll go into what you can do (or stop doing) to avoid driving people away, and learn to accept when viewers will naturally want to leave your show no matter what you do. Empathizing with your audience is always an important step in becoming a better streamer, but by demystifying the reasons your numbers sometimes drop, you'll be helping yourself stay sane in the process. 


Let's say you're playing a competitive first-person shooter. You're doing well and there are a lot of people watching- more than your usual average. Then the next time you see an enemy, you completely miss a few shots and get yourself killed in return. You've lost the match, and this isn't only frustrating for its own sake, but because letting yourself lose has also caused you to lose viewers.

But is this really the case?

Is losing really the reason viewers tune out?
Many streamers certainly assume so. A simple math equation: more headshots equals more views, more deaths equals more people leaving. I think this is a short-sighted and dangerous viewpoint, however. Yes, your view count during a multiplayer match or boss battle will go down when you lose, that's true. But what you may not realize is that your view count will go down when you win just as quickly.

If this phenomenon sounds confusing to you, then consider the main reason why people watch a Twitch stream: they want to be entertained. Whether you win or lose, once your game goes back to the menu in PUBG, there's a guaranteed downtime of a few minutes before anything interesting really starts happening again. In Dark Souls, losing against a boss means a minute or two where you run back to the boss room, but even if you win there will still be a few minutes of downtime while you look over your new items and search for a bonfire. Someone at work, school, or simply watching at home will take these moments of downtime as natural chances to tune out, because they may not think they'll have time to wait for the next big event. In short, viewers don't necessarily leave in response to poor performance, they leave as a side effect of high adrenaline.

Rather than wrapping all your hopes in your ability to win every single day, you'd be better off finding a way to keep the stream entertaining no matter the result. Take these moments after a victory or defeat to engage more with your chat, show entertaining things from your Discord, or excite people with little side-games on stream. If you're doing challenge runs for example, giving people after a match the opportunity to submit ideas for your next run is a great way to have them actually look forward to the downtime on stream, because that's when they might get picked to submit the next challenge.


One of my biggest pet peeves on streams is when the broadcaster is cruel to others, whether those are people present in the room or in Twitch chat. As a viewer this kind of behavior immediately sours my experience, and it's unlikely that I'll stick around. It's kind of like how they say you can tell a lot about a person based on how they treat their waiter at a restaurant. If the streamer is being mean to one chatter today, every other chatter is subconsciously thinking the same thought: "It's only a matter of time until I'm next."

You might be getting mad about the wrong thing.
The most common time for streamers to get angry and lash out is immediately after losing a match, not only because of naturally high tension, but because they know in the back of their mind that they're going to pay by losing views as well. For anyone who has a problem with outbursts on stream, it would be ridiculous for me to simply say, "Don't get angry." This isn't something you can control so easily, and if it were, you would have done something about it already. But hopefully, by understanding that losing isn't quite so different from winning when it comes to viewership dropoff, you might be able to clear your mind of some of the subconscious view-count pressure that builds every time you think you might lose a match. I've seen people who are terrible at video games who have lots of viewers, and I've seen people who are extremely skilled at games who have few. It's true that with no other variables, skill at the game itself plays a part in whether people stick around. But we're not dealing with the game in a vacuum- on Twitch, you are the most significant variable. More important than skill at a game is your skill as a streamer. If you're good enough at that, people will keep watching, regardless of your kill/death ratio.


Unless a viewer is pulled away by urgent business, they're going to choose low-adrenaline moments to tune out. If you're interested in keeping people from leaving when these moments occur, consider changing the cadence of your streams. By making the show more consistently entertaining, rather than pinning everything on whether you perform well on a given day, you'll be able to keep viewers watching for longer. More importantly however, you will remove much of the stream-related anxiety that many streamers feel in intense moments, because you'll know that the outcome of your match won't be the end of the world. So get out there and make great content, without sweating all the ups and downs!

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