How to win the war for attention on YouTube

March 17th, 2023



min read

Welcome to another retention graph review - let’s get into it!


Title: I Survived FIFA 23 Without Dribbling

Creator: Zwearow

Average % viewed: 47.5%

video preview

What worked:

(1/3) STAKES

This video begins with a winning formula: Rules + Motivation + Stakes

  • Rules = what are the video’s constraints -> Messi isn’t allowed dribble.
  • Motivation = why has the creator imposed those constraints -> to see if Messi will still win, even with an intentional handicap.
  • Stakes = what makes us care -> we’re told that Ronaldo awaits him in the final, which taps into the decade-long debate over which of these players is better.

All this is delivered within 10 seconds.

(2/3) TITLE

Within the first 30s, the creator accidentially dribbles with Messi, and immediately takes a forefeit.

This is crucial, because it delivers on the promise of the title:

“Oh wow, he really IS doing this without dribbling,” we say to ourselves.

If a video has limitations which seem difficult to impose, demonstrating those limitations in action within the first 30s-60s is critical for retention.

(3/3) CTA

(Spoiler alert) Messi scores the winning goal and the video ends.

Not even half a second is wasted.

What to improve:

(1/2) PAYOFF

The third part of the above formula (“stakes”) is well set up, but the payoff isn’t quite as strong.

We’ve been told at Ronaldo’s stats have been deliberately boosted to make him superhuman.

This makes me intrigued to see how ridiculously good he’ll be when we finally see him.

But when we get to the final, he barely features.

I understand that that the creator shouldn’t fake any gameplay, but we could have taken a moment just before the final match to big him up and ratchet up the tension again.

Or record some additional footage of Ronaldo in cinema mode to make his appearance more dramatic.


To boost tension further, I’d have liked to see more near misses throughout the games.

Most of the time when the creator falls behind, he scores again within seconds.

As a result, I never felt especially worried that he wasn’t going to win.


If your video sets up limitations which seem difficult to impose, demonstrating those limitations in action within 30s-60s is critical for retention.


Title: Do Your Solos Sound Like NOODLING?

Creator: Jeff Williams Guitar

Average % viewed: 58.4%

video preview

What worked:


Jeff gives the audience a couple of opportunities to feel smart.

In S2, Jeff asks us to listen to him playing to see if we can figure out the technique he’s using (and retention remains flat).

(This demo goes on a tad too long, however, the result of which is the dropoff at the start of S3).


Jeff smartly delivers his tactic through a metaphor about a picture frame.

It’s first mentioned at 2:00, but he doesn’t fully explain the significance of the metaphor until 3:30.

Remember, it’s more engaging to grab your audience’s interest with a metaphor or story and then gradually reveal why it’s relevant, rather than telling the audience the ‘answer’ right away.

Not only does this make your video more interesting, but it ties back into the idea of making your audience feel smart as they try to figure out the relevance of the metaphor for themselves.

What to improve:

(1/2) B-ROLL

Although I love the comedic B-Roll, it looks a bit flat coming from the same angle as the A-Roll.

Simply changing location/angle could do a lot for the visual variation.

(2/2) CTA

The music suddenly ramps up at the end which makes it feel like the credits are rolling on a movie.

The key is NOT to make people realise the video is about to end. You want to make it seem like you’re about to explain the next crucial point, open their curiosity gap, then reveal they’ll need to click if they want the payoff.

With that being said, I would therefore reverse the order that the CTA is delivered.

Rather than telling people to watch another video before explaining what it is…

Pique their interest about the topic of that video, then tell them to click.


Gradually revealing the significance of a metaphor/story not only makes the video more interesting, but also makes the audience feel smart (as they figure out the relevance for themselves).


Title: Clarkson’s Farm: Diddly Squat Food Review

Creator: Heat My Words

Average % viewed: 41.8%

What worked:


This video came out in February 2023, at the same time as Clarkson’s Farm season 2 was released.

This video shows the powers of jumping on trends.

But this creator goes one step further…


This creator could have just reviewed Clarkson’s Farm season 2 on the day of release and quickly uploaded his video to try and capture the hype.

Instead, he actually drives 3 hours to visit the farm itself.

Hot Topic x Behind the Scenes

Heat My Words has 2000 subscribers, but this video has 325,000 views at the time of review.

If you can capture the excitement for a trend, but go further than other creators in your niche are willing to, you’re going to win the war for attention.

What to improve:

(1/2) HOOK

The music drowns out the creator’s voice during hook, partly because the music is a touch loud, and partly because he turned away from camera while talking.

The first 5-10 seconds are critical for new viewers deciding whether to stick around, so make sure they’re as professional as possible.


There was a lot of repetition about the value of the produce.

4 minutes was spent showing the creator eating and reviewing the chilli, which is obviously an important part of the video, but could have been done in under a minute.

I would be 10x more brutal about what gets cut from the edit, especially if you’re repeating similar information more than once.


To win the war for attention: identify a trend, create content around it, but take your content further than other creators are willing to.

That’s all for this week!

Speak soon,

George 👋

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