“Tell me what I should watch”: A customer value perspective of YouTube metadata


  • S. D. K. Wickramasinghe University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Dinuka Wijetunga University of Colombo, Sri Lanka




YouTube is increasingly being considered a lucrative means of earning money in addition to becoming popular among viewers. To gain these benefits YouTube content creators (YouTubers) need to first attract viewers’ attention to their videos and then persuade them to watch. YouTube metadata, such as the title, thumbnail, description, and keywords, can assist in achieving both objectives. This has been established in the current literature which shows, for example, that metadata optimizing can increase view counts. While these studies have demonstrated the end result of metadata optimization, they do not indicate why viewers respond to different characteristics of metadata in different ways. We contribute to the literature on marketing and consuming YouTube videos by examining, using Holbrook’s (1999) value typology for theorisation, how viewers experience the metadata and how these experiences contribute to the overall value creation process of watching YouTube videos. We employed an interpretive, qualitative research design in conducting the study, using focus group discussions with 21 young YouTube viewers as the data collection method. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Key findings were that metadata can both deliver value (efficiency) and provide signals about values delivered through the video (excellence and aesthetics). Further, the play value viewers get from interacting with the video is indirectly influenced by the metadata. We also identified that although viewers commonly expect some characteristics in the title and thumbnail, irrespective of their purpose of using YouTube, the importance of each differs when they seek information or entertainment gratification. Further, when value promises made by the metadata are not delivered through the videos, viewers respond negatively.

Keywords: Entertainment gratification, Information gratification, Metadata optimization, Value, YouTube