For years, the British teenager continued to post sparingly on YouTube. Then, in early 2021, the service introduced YouTube Shorts, a new feature featuring videos under a minute long. Rhodes adopted him and in two weeks his YouTube subscribers grew from 17,000 to over a million. The 17-year-old magician now has 3.8 million subscribers, and his videos have been viewed 3.2 billion times.
Along the way, Rhodes became the epitome of the instant success YouTube executives had in mind when they created Shorts. It’s the kind of sudden fame the site hasn’t consistently bestowed on aspiring creators for about half a decade. Now, thanks to Shorts, no one quickly goes back to being someone on YouTube.
“This is the biggest opportunity for YouTube creators or YouTube aspirants in the past five years,” said Eyal Baumel, who represents several of the top creators online. “I have worked with YouTube for eight years and have never seen them so eager to promote a new product. “
Shorts is YouTube’s answer to TikTok from ByteDance Ltd. The service wowed YouTube’s young audience, questioning its role as a primary platform for aspiring hobbyists and inspiring the copy functionality of major social media networks including Facebook’s Snapchat and Instagram. While YouTube is still the king of web video, its gargantuan size can be intimidating for newbies, many of whom see TikTok as a faster path to fame.
“It’s almost like we’re recreating YouTube. “
YouTube, which is part of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, launched Shorts in fall 2020 in India, where TikTok is banned, and went global in March. Users can access the feature through a prominent tab on the YouTube mobile app and browse an endless stream of videos by swiping up. To date, YouTube has kept Shorts in its core service, but aims to release custom features that will make editing and posting videos easier.
Later this summer, backed by a new $ 100 million fund, YouTube plans to start paying creators of short films on the basis of new video engagement metrics – a departure from YouTube’s traditional advertising model. Officials say that at some point the company could start running ads in Shorts, but it won’t compensate creators based on the ads that appear with their clips like YouTube does for regular videos.
“It’s almost like we’re building YouTube again,” said Todd Sherman, product manager for Shorts.
In some ways, YouTube is going back to its roots. Founded in 2005, the site first took off with brief viral clips. But over time, as it struggled to become profitable and was inundated with lousy click bait, YouTube shifted its algorithmic course. In 2012, YouTube started prioritizing how long a particular video would engage its viewers – the longer, the better.
In the years that followed, the company pushed its creators to create longer material with higher production values to better compete with television, where most advertising dollars were still spent. Eventually, most of the YouTube hits settled down somewhere in the 10-20 minute range, and YouTube has grown into a formidable business with $ 20 billion in annual ad revenue.
While YouTube focused on professionalizing its site, its competitors breathed new life into the short video genre. TikTok, in particular, has created a new class of celebrity video producers who regularly go viral and have helped transform the service into the fastest growing social media app. Recently, TikTok has relaunched its advertising business, adding another competitive front with YouTube.
The first feedback on Shorts has been impressive. The company reported 6.5 billion daily views on the service in March, up from 3.5 billion at the end of 2020. At a shareholders meeting this month, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai cited Shorts in a list of recent positives for the company.
Canadian designer Thivi Baskar is one of the many successful converts to Shorts. Before that, she mainly used TikTok to post her makeup tutorials – a category that didn’t create many new stars on YouTube despite its ubiquity. “It was so saturated,” said Baskar, who has generated more than 500 million views on Shorts and now ranks at the top of the beauty category by traffic on YouTube, according to his management company Collab.
The rapid rise of previously unknown creators on Shorts has led some talent reps to suggest that YouTube is tipping the scales in favor of them. According to YouTube’s Sherman, the service’s algorithm is not biased towards newcomers. Instead, he said, the nature of the cropped video allows YouTube to put more creators in front of viewers. Like TikTok, Shorts is designed on mobile devices for endless reading.
“Once you’re in that flow, you can keep sliding forever,” Sherman said.
The ranks of the newly popular lineup on Shorts include things YouTube tried long ago to bury as it got more professional, like pranksters, content factories, and sketchy and sexually click-bait producers. titillating. The shorts are also chock-full of videos that originally appeared on TikTok, in part because of the creators’ reuse of their own material from the rival app.
For now, YouTube lets its competitor’s clips proliferate on its shelves. But when YouTube starts paying creators of short films later this year, the company will be able to prioritize original content. “We haven’t come to any conclusions about this yet,” Sherman said.
The creators say it’s not always clear why some videos perform better on TikTok or YouTube. “It’s just silly, unpredictable stuff that works well on these platforms,” said Rhodes, the teenage magician.
When Rhodes was a young child, he would stay awake every night soaking on YouTube and practicing with his cards. At the age of nine he became a professional magician, performing at football matches. These days, he always watches longer offers on YouTube. But he tries to avoid spending too much time watching Shorts videos, despite his role in his success.
“I watch a few here and there, like when I’m bored,” Rhodes said. “If you watch it for too long, you’re kind of pulled into the loop, spending hours, you know, scrolling through the app. ”