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Like It or Not. What Characterizes YouTube's More Popular Instructional Videos?

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Purpose: There is a tremendous growth in the production of instructional videos. This study investigates whether popular YouTube instructional videos for declarative knowledge development differ in their physical characteristics from unpopular and average ones.

Method: Sampling followed a three-step procedure. First, 250 YouTube videos aiming for declarative knowledge development were selected. Next, a formula for popularity rating was developed. After distinguishing three classes of popularity, the five most viewed videos for five types of declarative knowledge were selected. This resulted in a sample of 75 videos. After coding and scoring, statistical analyses were performed to discover differences between popularity classes in the physical characteristics of videos.

Results: Popular videos differed significantly from unpopular and/or average videos in the following ways: (1) higher production quality (that is, resolution); (2) more frequent presence of static pictures (both iconic and analytic); (3) more frequent presence of a combination of static and dynamic pictures; (4) more often short on-screen texts; (5) more often subtitling with different languages; (6) more frequent inclusion of background music; (7) less background noise; (8) faster speaking rate (that is, words per minute).

Conclusion: The sampled videos strongly varied in their physical characteristics. There were also many significant differences across popularity classes. The findings can be used to optimize video designs for popularity. In addition, they provide a starting point for further research on how physical characteristics may affect knowledge development.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2015

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  • Technical Communication, the Society's journal, publishes articles about the practical application of technical communication theory and serves as a common arena for discussion by practitioners. Technical Communication includes both quantitative and qualitative research while showcasing the work of some of the field's most noteworthy writers. Among its most popular features are the helpful book reviews. Technical Communication is published quarterly and is free with membership.
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