If you’ve read Matt Southern’s news story, YouTube Shorts – Google’s Answer to TikTok?, then you already know that:
“Shorts is a new short-form video experience for creators and artists who want to shoot short, catchy videos using nothing but their mobile phones.“
More than 2 billion logged-in users visit YouTube each month.
You could be asking yourself, “Is this a significant new development that I should focus on sooner rather than later?”
Now the early beta of YouTube Shorts is being tested in India.
So, you could be thinking, “Is this just a bright shiny object that I can safely ignore until it’s rolled out in the United States?”
Let me share the methodology that I use to evaluate something new – whether it’s TikTok, Instagram Reels, or YouTube Shorts.
It’s a methodology that was popularized by Rudyard Kipling’s poem, which was published way back in 1902 in “Just So Stories,” which goes:
“I KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.”
I know that Kipling isn’t an expert on short-form video content.
But his use of questions that ask “Who,” “What,” “Why,” “Where,” “When,” and “How” are still considered by journalists to be the right ones to ask when gathering information for a news story.
And marketers can use them, too, to put together an early examination of some of the short catchy videos created with YouTube Shorts.
Who Are the Target Audiences?
This is the first question we need to ask is about YouTube Shorts.
Now, you might mistakenly think that YouTube answered this question when it announced its new camera and handful of editing tools.
The target audiences for Shorts are “creators and artists.”
But, but virtually all of the creators and the vast majority of the artists I know are focused on getting more viewers for their videos and subscribers for their channel.
The goal is to earn more as part of the YouTube Partner program, or as an influencer who creates sponsored content for brands.
This means there are actually three target audiences for YouTube Shorts:
- Creators and artists.
- Viewers and subscribers.
- Advertisers and brands.
In other words, if creators and artists don’t see a spike in viewers and subscribers who advertisers and brands want to reach, then the three-legged stool falls over faster than you can say “Vine.”
That’s why the feature that encourages creators and artists in India to get started with the early beta of YouTube Shorts is the fact that their short, vertical videos will be “easily discoverable on the YouTube homepage (in the new Shorts shelf), as well as across other parts of the app.”
And I suspect that the other feature that creators and artists in India will want to test is the section on the YouTube homepage that will highlight videos created from the Shorts camera.
Those, and any vertical video that’s up to 60 seconds long which uses the hashtag #Shorts in the title or description.
Why do these features seem more important than the new editing tools that can do things like string multiple video clips together, use speed controls and timers, and add music to your video clips?
Because these bells and whistles are only useful in video production – and video production is not what keeps creators and artists up at night.
Creators and artists are more concerned about getting the type of video content that they’re already great at creating discovered by more viewers.
Yes, there are exceptions to this rule.
I’ve met a few artists who believe in “art for art’s sake.”
But, they tend to upload their creative content to Vimeo, not YouTube.
What Type of Content Are They Seeking?
So, what type of content do these target audiences seek?
You might think that YouTube answered this question when it announced Shorts.
Viewers – especially Gen Z (ages 13-22) and Millennials (ages 23-38) viewers – are seeking “short, catchy videos,” “highly replayable short videos,” or “user-generated short videos.”
This is indeed true.
In July 2019, Google commissioned the Insight Strategy Group to ask 12,000 people, ages 13–64, in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States what they watched in the last 24 hours.
And they found that younger generations were more likely to seek out short-form content.
Things like webisodes, tutorials, and short video clips produced by professional and amateur creators.
But, creators could upload 15-second videos to YouTube long before Shorts was launched.
In fact, the first user-generated short video, My Snowboarding Skillz, was uploaded on April 23, 2005, and currently has 1.2 million views and 32,300 engagements.
But, short videos have been bit players in the platform’s success story – at least until now.
So, will YouTube Shorts enable or inspire creators and artists to produce the type of “catchy,” “highly replayable,” “user-generated” content that viewers will want to watch, and that advertisers will need to target with six-second bumper ads?
Well, YouTube doesn’t tell creators and artists what type of content to create.
But, in May 2020, the platform announced YouTube Select – a “reimagination and unification” of Google Preferred and prime packs.
This is to help advertisers “reach their target audiences where they are watching, and find the right content for their brand.”
YouTube Select currently offers a diverse mix of 10 content packages called lineups.
Each is tailored to globally and locally relevant needs.
It includes videos from these categories:
- Entertainment & Pop Culture (e.g., MrBeast).
- Gaming (e.g., Markiplier).
- Food & Recipes (e.g., Gordon Ramsay).
- Science & Education (e.g., Physics Girl).
- Technology (e.g., Marques Brownlee).
- Music (e.g., Dua Lipa).
- Sports (e.g., MLB).
- Comedy (e.g., Lilly Singh).
- Beauty, Fashion & Lifestyle (e.g., James Charles).
- Spanish Language (e.g., Los Angeles Azules).
Now, some of these content packages – especially the Spanish Language lineup – will be modified when YouTube Select is rolled out in India.
But, it’s worth taking a long look at some of the YouTube Shorts that creators and artists in India have started to create to see if this is the type of content that viewers will seek.
And, of course, advertisers will want to reach somewhere down the road.
First, Bollywood की थाली में छेद || Jaya Bachchan || Kangana Ranaut || Ravi Kishan was uploaded September 16, 2020, by RJ Shonali.
It had 494,000 views and 7,000 engagements as of September 27, 2020.
This video in the entertainment category is 50 seconds long, so it isn’t one of the short Shorts,
Check out this 14-second long video in the gaming category, Foot Ball Juggling Skills Luqueta | Shorts | India Official FreeFire.
Uploaded by Free Fire India Official on September 23, 2020, this video had 444,000 views and 40,600 engagements on September 27, 2020.
How-to & Style
It’s a 59-second example of one of the long Shorts in the Howto & Style category.
Uploaded by Amma Food Bites on September 22, 2020, it had 334,000 views and 8,100 engagements on September 27, 2020.
Science & Technology
This 53-second long video in the Science & Technology category was uploaded by Million Dreams on September 13, 2020, and had 328,000 views and 18,100 engagements on September 27, 2020.
Now look at and listen to Dil Deewana Na Jaane Ft. Shraddha Arya & Manit Joura.
This 31-second long video in the music category was uploaded by Param on September 15, 2020, and had 240,000 views and 8,700 engagements on September 27, 2020.
People & Blogs
This 14-second long video in the People & Blogs category was uploaded by Vanitha Vijaykumar on September 17, 2020.
It had 163,000 views and 2,300 engagements on September 27, 2020.
Moving on, check out Har Subhe Khud Ko Ye Bolo | Listen to this everyday | Morning Motivation.
Uploaded by Him-eesh Madaan on September 19, 2020, this 24-second long video in the education category had 71,800 views and 8,500 engagements on September 27, 2020.
Pets & Animals
This 49-second long video in the Pets & Animals category was uploaded by Sarpmitra Akash Jadhav on September 13, 2020, and had 35,800 views and 3,200 engagements on September 27, 2020.
Now, it really is too early to tell.
But, it appears that creators and artists are uploading roughly three times more of the longer, 60-second versions of YouTube Shorts than the shorter, 15-second versions.
Although, in the first two weeks, both versions have gotten an average of 16,640 views and 766 engagements.
This is less than the 32,703 views and 1,230 engagements that the average video of any length got in India during that period of time.
So, maybe the shortness of the form is less important than the catchiness of the content that viewers love to watch.
Why Do Viewers Love This Type of Content?
So, why do viewers in India love the type of content that they watch?
Well, that survey by the Insight Strategy Group that I mentioned earlier not only asked what they watched in the last 24 hours.
It also asked why they watched what they watched.
And the 12 most important reasons were:
- Helps me relax and unwind.
- Teaches me something new.
- Allows me to dig deeper into my interests.
- Makes me laugh.
- Relates to my passions.
- Is inspiring.
- Makes me forget about the world around me.
- Keeps me in-the-know.
- Addresses social issues important to me.
- Has high production quality.
- Helps me be efficient.
- Is on a network or platform I like.
So, viewers are putting more value on content that relates to their personal interests and passions than they do on the platform that it appears on.
In fact, the ability to help people dig into their interests was twice as important as being on a preferred network or platform.
And the survey found the same trend toward personal relevance in all nine countries – including India.
Where & When Will Viewers Find Short, Catchy Videos?
With so much content to choose from, viewers don’t need to restrict themselves to specific networks or platforms.
So, the “form” may be less important to these younger viewers – and the advertisers that want to reach them – than the “content” that they want to watch.
In other words, content is still king – whether its form is long, medium, or short.
But, since 2012 when YouTube started to surface videos that drive “watch time”, short-form content has been less likely to be discovered in YouTube search and suggested videos.
But, if the new Shorts shelf makes it easier to discover short, vertical videos then maybe content of different durations will start competing on a more level playing field for the first time in eight years.
It’s also worth noting that YouTube decided to introduce the YouTube Shorts beta in India.
A place where the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had banned TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps on June 29, 2020.
It’s also worth noting that nearly 85% of India’s YouTube consumption is through mobile devices, according to Ajay Vidyasagar, APAC regional director at YouTube.
So, this makes India the perfect place to conduct a beta test of “a new video experience that lets you create short videos right from the YouTube mobile app!”
How long will the beta test last? And when should we expect to see YouTube Shorts rolled out in the United States?
I don’t know.
It will probably be a few months before creators and artists outside of India need to focus on this significant new development.
Especially since you need a new camera for YouTube Shorts, and a handful of editing tools that will be rolling out over the course of the next few weeks.
But based on an early look at short, catchy videos like those above, I’d expect YouTube Shorts to roll out globally sooner rather than later.
And, since you don’t need to use the Shorts camera to create content that is up to 60 seconds, more might start to appear on a new Shorts shelf on the YouTube homepage.
I wouldn’t be shocked to see those roll out before the 15-second videos on the new shelf.
How Should You Measure Success?
I was limited to using views and engagements (comments, shares, and likes) to measure the early success of YouTube Shorts.
But creators are going to want to monitor the performance of their channel and videos with some new metrics and reports in YouTube Analytics.
So, expect to see those in India before they roll out globally.
And advertisers and brands will want some new measurement solutions, as well.
For example, Brand Lift measures the impact of six-second bumper ads using metrics such as:
- Ad recall.
- Brand awareness.
They prefer these to traditional metrics such as:
And Influencer Lift measures the impact on consumer purchase intent, brand recall, and much more.
To add, FameBit’s Full-Service program is working well for both creators and brands in the U.S.
Creators can earn 30 times more from full-service deals than from self-service deals.
Brands are also seeing strong results with full-service campaigns.
Unfortunately, YouTube closed the self-service version of FameBit.com on July 31, 2020.
So, only creators based in the U.S. with over 25,000 subscribers are eligible to sign-up for FameBit Full Service in YouTube Studio.
In other words, all three legs of the three-legged stool need to be strengthened before anyone can declare that YouTube Shorts is a success.
If one of the legs is too weak, then this three-legged stool will eventually fall over.
… just like Google+.