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How to Generate a YouTube Thumbnail

Is it possible to generate a thumbnail for a YouTube video? Yes! It’s useful to display thumbnails with links in sidebars, or to replace the YouTube embed code with a video within your RSS feed or email. This is already a feature of some email platforms, like WordPress Newsletter Plugin. Attempting to write your own YouTube thumbnail generator could be quite a task.

The good news is that you don’t have to generate a thumbnail, YouTube has several waiting for you.

Here’s a video URL – notice the video id?

Here are the images in a couple sizes and frames, note the video id is embedded in the URL:

  • http://img.youtube.com/vi/BXIqyWu8uSg/0.jpg
  • http://img.youtube.com/vi/BXIqyWu8uSg/1.jpg
  • http://img.youtube.com/vi/BXIqyWu8uSg/2.jpg

An easy way to embed the thumbnails in your sidebar would be to enter the image URL manually as a custom field, then customize your theme to display the custom field if it exists.

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About Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of The Marketing Technology Blog and recognized MarTech expert. Doug is a Keynote and Marketing Public Speaker. He's the CEO of DK New Media, an agency specializing in assisting marketing technology companies with their inbound marketing - leveraging social media, blogging, search engine optimization, pay per click and public relations. He's assisted SaaS companies like Angie's List, GoDaddy, Salesforce, Webtrends, and SmartFOCUS with their digital marketing and product strategies. Douglas is also the author of Corporate Blogging for Dummies.

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  1. Doug, I’m not sure I’m clear on what you are saying here. I could really use thie feature. Are you saying you can just take your YouTube video URL and append /0.jpg to it to get a thumbnail? Is this a dynamic image?

    Your example goes up to /2.jpg. Is that frame 2? What does the 0, 1 or 2 represent? How high can you go?

    Sorry for all of the questions but this really piqued my interest. Thanks!

  2. Hi Patric,

    No, you can’t just append a /0.jpg – notice the subdomain and the path are a bit different. No, the image is not dynamic, it’s static. I’m not sure what the number represents but 0 is a large image, 1 and 2 appear to be smaller images that are from different frames.


  3. Just wanted to say thanks very much for this! I adapted my code to your suggestion and it worked.

  4. Just wanted to say thanks very much for this! I adapted my code to your suggestion and it worked.

  5. Brilliant, just what I was looking for. Pity the thumbnails are only 120×90

  6. Thanks, it is great.

  7. Such a practical info! thank you so much!:D

  8. Thanks for this. BTW, can we define the width and height of the images?

  9. Wow, it’s great! never thought about it.

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