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YouTube seems to show how many views a playlist has when you view it. This playlist, for example, has 58,878 views.

Does anyone know what this number is made up from?

It doesn't seem to be the total number of views all videos within it have, as one of the videos has over 2.5m views itself. Could it be made up of:

a) when a video is viewed within a playlist, and
b) views on the actual playlist itself (like the link above)?

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In order for the "view" counter to be incremented for the playlist itself, a video must have been opened/initiated through the playlist somehow as you've noted. If a video is curated into a playlist, its view count is specific to the video and not inherently rolled into the playlist view counter.

Some additional references worth reading/watching:

  1. This blog post gives a general description of how YouTube applies different algorithms for counting views on a video: https://www.bluefountainmedia.com/blog/how-does-youtube-count-views/

  2. This video gives a good rundown of the various ways different platforms consider a video or playlist as "viewed": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgtrBstTy4g

  3. Here's a link to YouTube's official definitions for Playlist analytics/metrics: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6014768?hl=en&ref_topic=3025741

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