YouTube is probably the only remaining online video site that doesn’t let you change your video thumbnail. The video thumbnail uses the frame from the exact middle of the clip and there’s no way to change the thumbnail once a video has been uploaded. This was obviously an arbitrary and expedient decision made in the very beginning of the development of the site. Why they haven’t opened things up yet is beyond me. It would mean an immediate and enormous jump in the quality of the information available on the site. Text descriptions are one thing, but a representative still from the video is worth something like 1,000 words.
Aside from making the browsing experience more informative, it would help people promote their videos better. Truth @ 15 Frames Per Second has a striking example of this. There are really only two possible thumbnails for a 15fps video. Either a still of me or a still of Jennie Tarr.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which videos will have more viewers. Even removing the exceptionally large numbers for the Webcam Sex video (currently at 1,106,754 views, the #97 most viewed People & Blogs video of all time) the average Jennie-thumbnailed video has 24,769 views. The average Kyle-thumbnailed video has 3,604.
Never underestimate the selling power of a picture of a pretty girl.
UPDATE!: It seems that YouTube now allows changing the thumbnail. Their help pages still claim you can’t, but I was able to select from 3 potential stills at the top of the video info page as of the morning of July 3. There is a note on the page that says it may take up to 6 hours for the selection to appear on YouTube.