Attrition on Twitch
This post is not going to be an uplifting one, but you need to read it to understand how Twitch works. Especially if you're going to spend years on it. Today we're going to talk about Attrition on Twitch. We've discussed retention in another guide, and today our focus is about how some of those people you retain for a time may eventually leave. This will be the final piece of the viewer life cycle of Meet>Follow>Watch>and Leave.
Definition of Attrition on Twitch
Attrition - a reduction in numbers usually as a result of resignation, retirement, or death
As it applies to Twitch, we'll also call this "churn", or the rate at which people who once attended streams will no longer attend them.
Here's the Facts about Attrition on Twitch
44% of Partners no longer stream. 42% of partners stream to 50 people or fewer. Churn exists. Attrition on Twitch exists. And it exists because life happens. I've listed some life events that would affect someone's ability to attend a stream below, and separated them into categories based on what you have influence on as a streamer, and what you don't have any control over:
STREAMER HAS CONTROL OVER THESE:
A viewer may not tune in again if:
1. Streamer is playing a new game the viewer doesn't want spoiled for them
2. Streamer's new schedule isn't during viewer's free time
3. Parents caught a giant burning middle finger being thrown and won't let their kids watch
4. They just like your main game and not anything else
5. New game is too violent, too scary, too childish, or they just don't like it
6. Streamer stopped responding to everyone, took a long break, or "went dark"
7. Game declined significantly in popularity and streamer isn't pivoting
In other words, Streamers basically control their schedule, their games, and their tone. If this sounds familiar, we covered this in our discussion of consistency. As we discussed there, some viewers need schedule, game, and tone to remain the same or they won't continue watching. Others only need a combination of the two. I will promise you that upsetting any of the three forms of consistency will lead to a portion of churn out. There's no magical solution where 100% of the people will stay when these things change.
I will leave you with one more take here on this topic. A change in game usually ALSO leads to a change in tone, unless game A and game B are very similar. I stream a great deal of Dead by Daylight (DBD) currently, and if I were to change to Spider-Man suddenly, the tone and content would be dramatically different. Some people who just wanted DBD probably wouldn't watch for Spider-Man. Some would. And hopefully we'd meet some new people too.
STREAMER HAS ABSOLUTELY ZERO CONTROL OVER THESE
1. Viewer gets a new job
2. Viewer starts or ends a relationship
3. Viewer found new streams to watch better suited to their current interests
4. Stream got too big and viewer can't have a 1 on 1 conversation any more
6. Viewer went on vacation or went on travel
7. Viewer got promoted and their additional responsibilities take more time
8. Viewer started a family
9. Viewer started college, another school, or a training program
10. Viewer got offended at a personally held belief of the streamer
13. Family member or friend's illness or death
14. Financial troubles
15. Natural disaster
16. 10,000 entertainment alternatives including but not limited to Other Streams, Porn, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sex IRL, Going to Dinner, Birthdays, Parties, DND Campaign, Biking, Running, Gym... etc.
Oh and Streamers' availability can also be affected by anything a viewer's can, too.
If this list is scary to you, that's good. You're beginning to understand. Remember this feeling as you acknowledge these things, and let that feeling fuel your appreciation for those that still do come to your stream. Appreciate that none of these things are getting in the way of them being there.
Think of how precious and rare it is when life allows you some free time to watch a stream.
Back to Attrition on Twitch
Above, you read some reasons that people could potentially stop watching. Those reasons more than likely hit home. Some of them are probably reasons you've stopped watching streams yourself. I personally know exactly zero people who are currently watching the same exact streams they were watching a year ago on Twitch. In most cases, they've added some new ones, stopped going to some old ones, and dutifully attend their close friends' streams as much as they can. It's normal. It's common. It's as inevitable as Thanos.
Let's Get Real
We've discussed how unrealistic it would be to expect 100% of people who enter your stream to follow you. It's equally unrealistic to expect that 100% of those people that do follow will remain concurrent viewers until the end of time. It's just not going to happen. There are too many variables in life for that to be true, especially as your stream grows. Another reason to be thankful for the people who DO stick around for a long time.
Here Comes the Pain
The simplest way to think about attrition is that if everything was held constant and you weren't gaining new followers, your stream's concurrent viewership wouldn't just halt. It would shrink, as life and competing forms of entertainment churned people out. As your concurrent viewer count shrinks, your ability to meet new people through directory browsing diminishes (because you're not as high up), along with your overall reach.
Said differently, you've gotta be meeting new people faster than you're losing people if you want your stream to grow. I realize how basic this sounds, but many new streamers think that once they gain a concurrent viewer they've got them forever. The nature of the beast is that you probably won't have them around forever. And if you're not meeting people day after day, it's possible you're backsliding.
How do we Reduce Attrition on Twitch?
By constantly meeting people, offering people value, keeping your schedule, games, and tone as consistent as you're able, and by checking in on your friends. All the things we've been discussing up until now contribute towards your discovery and retention. However, none of them can really compete in terms of gravity with the real life events we discussed above. Real life just flat out supersedes Twitch. As streamers, we just do our best to give as much value to our viewers and community as we can, while keeping aware of whether we're effectively expanding our reach.
It's good to keep in mind that as Streamers, we're entertainment. When real life sh*t hits the fan, that's the first thing to get sacrificed.
What to do with this Information
BURN THIS MOTHERF(*#$^ DOWN! No, seriously though. Don't let this get you down. Just accept attrition as a constant of stream life. It's a lot less painful than the alternative of feeling like you've been abandoned, feeling spiteful, frustrated, resentful, and feeling like this whole streaming thing just isn't panning out. And feeling those things is a lot less likely when you're focused on meeting people the right way, and you're sure you're on the right path!
Also, don't blame yourself for attrition. I understand that when you're streaming to a small audience of 0-5, one or two people not showing up can feel devastating. Having someone declare that they won't watch because they don't want spoilers can feel like a punch in the gut. But people watch for many reasons, and they also don't watch for many reasons. These things mostly aren't in your power to control. And if you're approaching growth the right way, someone missing isn't as noticeable when you're meeting new people.
That gives you the confidence to say to the guy who tells you he's not coming because spoilers, "Ok! We'll still be here when you've beaten it." And it gives you more freedom to feel optimistic about where your stream is heading. When you don't have to be afraid of whether you're backsliding, that optimism comes through in your content.
Conclusion - Attrition on Twitch
Attrition might be constant, but it's also another reason to appreciate the people that continue to hang out despite it. The people that are there even though life is giving them hell, and the people that come back once life lets them breathe a bit. If someone once enjoyed your content and is no longer able to, then it was still a positive for however long they were able. Like a flower in bloom.
As we must accept death, we must accept attrition. Let it inform where your efforts are directed, and be aware of its inevitability. Meet, and retain to counter it. But be honest about whether you're getting to where you want to go. Remember: You've got to be meeting new people faster than you're losing people. And if you get really stuck, give me a ring. We'll get you out of this funk.
As always, thanks for reading this, boneheads! If you'd like to give me some feedback you can snag me on Discord. My DM's are always open and I love talking about streaming stuff. Like... a lot.
Till next time!
Where this guide falls a bit short is stating what the actual average rate of attrition is. I currently have no way to access the data on user attrition, except for across the entire platform. To calculate this properly I would need an accurate count of active real Twitch users at different points in time. Because I don't have this data, I refrained from comparing the rate of attrition to the 1-2% rate of retention. If anyone has access to a way to get this data, please let me know.
There are some additional implications here, with actually being able to estimate follower rates at different concurrent viewership amounts using Sullygnome. If you knew what the average rate of churn was, you'd know the minimum number of followers you'd need so that your stream grew instead of shrank. Don't forget, 98 to 99 out of 100 people will follow and not return. To a degree we can calculate this now, but without the average attrition calculation, it will be incomplete (but mostly accurate).
If you were able to calculate this, you'd have a very good data-backed way of telling whether a game would help or hurt the growth of your stream.