YouTube will finally let creators test multiple thumbnails at once

YouTube’s logo with geometric design in the background
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

YouTube is finally rolling out the ability for creators to test and compare how multiple video thumbnails perform, the company announced on Tuesday. The feature was first announced last June, but at the time, it was only available to a few hundred creators.

With the new tool, which YouTube calls “Thumbnail Test & Compare,” creators can test up to three thumbnails for a video. “YouTube will show your chosen thumbnails evenly across your video’s viewers, and then will select a winning thumbnail based on which one generates the most watch time share,” according to a post bylined from “Meaghan” on the YouTube team. (This idea is also known as A / B testing.)

Creators will be able to see data about how thumbnails performed, though “it may take a few days or up to two weeks to get finalized test results from your thumbnails,” Meaghan says. The final report can show a “Winner” label for the thumbnail that “clearly outperforms” the others, but creators might also see a “Preferred” label that “means the thumbnail *likely* outperformed other thumbnails based on watch time share,” according to Meaghan.

Creators aren’t locked into whichever thumbnail the tool determines is best; they can still manually select thumbnails if they want.

YouTube expects that all eligible creators will have access to the tool “in the coming weeks,” according to Meaghan. The tool will only be available in YouTube Studio on a computer, and you’ll need to have access to advanced features.

Despite the fact that only a limited number of creators have had access to thumbnail testing up to this point, it’s arguably already had a big impact on the platform. MrBeast, who runs the platform’s most-subscribed channel, said in September that watch time went up on videos when he tested thumbnails where his mouth was closed. Looking at his channel today, most of the thumbnails still feature him with a closed mouth.

YouTube shared a few additional updates in a Tuesday video. Last month, YouTube started testing a feature that uses AI to help you skip to the good part of a video. That feature is now officially available on Android for YouTube Premium subscribers. The company is also experimenting with QR codes for creators as well as the ability to mention a channel in comments using the @ symbol.

Source: The Verge YouTube will finally let creators test multiple thumbnails at once