“And the cool thing about these guys is that they have really, really, really long trunks.” The first video ever uploaded to YouTube in April 2005 was a simple 18-second clip of entrepreneur Jawed Karim at the San Diego Zoo, filmed in front of an elephant enclosure.
Since then, short, viral clips have often defined YouTube’s success as the premiere video content platform on the Internet. But since the platform’s inception, other websites and apps have had their chunk of the video traffic pie, prioritizing short-form content over the larger and longer videos often found on YouTube – rival apps and platforms like Snapchat, Vine, and the latest competitor TikTok, have forced YouTube to redefine and reiterate.
In its attempt to outbid TikTok on short-form video content, YouTube has developed and soft-launched YouTube Shorts.
What is YouTube Shorts?
YouTube Shorts is a new function or app (titled a “video experience”) integrated into the YouTube platform. YouTube Shorts is dedicated to short-form content, designed to be created and edited entirely on mobile devices.
The company is claiming to be working on lowering the barrier of entry on creative video content, while attempting to capitalize on the difficult year its Chinese competitor has had.
Prior to its release in the US this March, YouTube Shorts exclusively launched in India, and so far, it lets creators upload short clips with musical overlays, as well as giving users tools to string clips together and create hands-free videos through a countdown timer.
Earlier last month, YouTube further expanded the Shorts toolkit by giving creators the option to sample and remix audio from other Shorts, overlay text, and more.
YouTube Shorts and YouTube Stories
The main difference between YouTube Shorts and YouTube Stories is that content uploaded to the short shelf will be permanent unless you decide to remove it. YouTube Stories, modelled after the success of Snapchat, deletes each Story after one week.
YouTube Stories may be a way to keep your audience engaged and interact with them – but YouTube Shorts may be recommended to viewers years later, much like any other video on the platform, and may gain traction long after its upload date.
The Latest, But Not the First
YouTube’s latest addition to the platform may be the first time it has stood up to TikTok specifically, but it isn’t the first time a company has tried to capitalize on TikTok’s troubles in India and the US.
Instagram launched its Reels function to very little fanfare and much criticism, and Snapchat’s Spotlight feature has gone so far as to provide would-be users with a financial incentive for uploading to the platform: $1 million a day, given to the users with the most entertaining uploads. Meanwhile, Clash has acquired Byte, and Reddit bought Dubsmash – clearly, the short-form video content market is growing.
Will YouTube’s hat in the ring pull ahead of other bite-sized social media contenders? It’s still too early to tell.
YouTube’s main advantage in the race for the top spot may be its existing user base and content creator ecosystem. The platform has over two billion monthly active users, and preliminary statistics out of India show that YouTube Shorts content accumulated 3.5 billion daily views.
If you haven’t considered investing some time and resources into video content, then Shorts may not just be an excellent potential entry point for your brand, but also marks the first time the platform has specifically empowered users without a dedicated video content creation setup, providing multiple recording and editing tools directly within the app itself.
Can You Create YouTube Shorts?
Before its global release, YouTube Shorts were exclusive to a few select creators – that’s changed recently, and anyone can start making Shorts today. Using YouTube’s Shorts camera, your content will be limited to 15 seconds.
But any vertically filmed video with up to 60 seconds can get picked up by YouTube as a Short. For these longer Shorts, the minimum criteria may be subject to change, but right now, the only requirements are that:
- The video must be under a minute in total length.
- The video must be vertically oriented.
- The video must be uploaded as normal.
YouTube then automatically picks out videos that fit its YouTube Shorts format and feature them on the short shelf. Using the hashtag #shorts may make it easier for the platform to pick your video up.
Where Can You Watch YouTube Shorts?
YouTube Shorts can currently be found on the YouTube mobile app, on a section of the homepage called the short shelf. Each video is filmed in a vertical format, and YouTube is currently working on how and why each Short is displayed for any given user.
Rather than Stories, which are shown to subscribers and generally keep a viewer on the creator’s page as they flick through a few days’ worth of short content, Shorts are recommended based on viewing history much like normal video content, with users being given the option to subscribe to each new creator they come across during their bite-sized binge.
For videos longer than 35 seconds, YouTube is still giving Shorts content creators the option of adding an end screen element.
YouTube Shorts for Advertisers
Businesses looking to leverage YouTube Shorts might like to know that these videos aren’t currently heavily monetized.
You can make money off of them but given their length and the experimental nature of the new product, the majority of the profit for a channel producing YouTube Shorts would come either from the fact that new viewers might check out the other, more profitable content on the channel, or they may become potential leads as a result of the content.
That doesn’t mean Shorts you produce today may not end up being vastly more profitable in the future, once YouTube figures out how it’s going to monetize its new video format. Until then, perhaps the greatest value in the new format is its potential for brand exposure, as YouTube is and will continue to heavily push Shorts in the coming weeks.
YouTube Shorts are currently being found by viewers either through the short shelf, a channel’s page, in the user’s subscription feed, and through YouTube search.