Namah Chawla

Is YouTube Shorts high on the minds of brands and content creators?

The short-form video-sharing platform competes with the likes of Instagram Reels, MX TakaTak and Moj in India. What makes it a viable platform for content creators and brands alike?

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, revealed, during the first-quarter earnings call, that Shorts - YouTube’s short-format video-sharing feature - now averages over 30 billion daily views, up from 6.5 billion a year ago. On the other hand, Reels accounts for over 20 per cent of people's time on Instagram, Meta reported in its Q1 earnings call.

YouTube has been pretty aggressive over the last few months to penetrate the short-form content category with Shorts. In 2021, it introduced a $100 million creator fund for Shorts, to try and lure content creators to the platform and also better compete with its rivals. Shorts is garnering attention around the globe, with content creators from at least 50 countries already on board. It has become quite popular in India too.

Gurpreet Singh, co-founder, One Digital Entertainment (a digital content and creator network), tells afaqs!, “Considering the subscriber base, viewership and content creators of various genres available on the platform, YouTube has been able to successfully build its short video platform.”

As per Kalyan Kumar, co-founder & CEO, Social Catalyzers (a digital content marketing agency), on a DAU (daily active users) basis, more than 240 to 250 million creators (equivalent to the entire population of Indonesia) are already using Shorts in India. This seems to indicate that it has already equaled or ‘ballparked’ Instagram.

The ban of TikTok in India in June 2020, created a gap. Instagram Reels was introduced in the country a month later, in July. In September 2020, a beta version of YouTube Shorts was first introduced in India, followed by other countries.

Pranav Agarwal, co-founder, Sociowash (a digital marketing agency), says, “Creators are exploring content across genres, with general interest taking the lead (up to 881,000 Shorts), followed by people & blogs, gaming, entertainment, music & dance, and food & drink, among the top categories. Following the spike in content consumption pattern amidst the COVID pandemic, there is a big scope for Shorts, as far as creators and brands go.”

Influencers and content creators are bullish

Indian content creators and influencers have a slew of apps to choose from, like Instagram (Reels), Moj, Roposo, MX TakaTak, etc. These platforms back creators with creator funds. Moj has announced ‘Moj for Creators’ programme, through which it plans to help boost creators’ earnings. The company aims to help creators collectively earn up to Rs 3,500 crore by 2025, by adding new monetisable features on the platform.

YouTube is also working on updating its monetisation options to make Shorts a more appealing choice for content creators.

Shahir Muneer, founder and director of Divo (a digital media agency), mentions that Shorts has become an important part of a YouTuber’s content strategy. Shorts and Reels get an edge over other platforms due to the additional data and insights they provide.

“Shorts is gaining, in terms of views and subscribers, with an active push from the platform to make users find its content, whether it is on their home feed or search results. India is an important market for Shorts and the platform is only going to grow here,” adds Muneer.

Reels versus Shorts - is there an overlap?

While many established YouTubers upload both fresh and adapted content from other platforms, there are many new YouTubers who are focusing on creating fresh content for Shorts. This has given birth to a new parallel creator category, called the ‘YouTube Shorts Creators’, reveals Singh.

YouTube Shorts acts as an enabler for long-format video. Kumar of Social Catalyzers says that creators who are present on YouTube, are simply starting with the basics by replicating their previously released Reels/TikTok videos.

“The earlier breed of Instagrammers was a bit different from that of YouTubers. For example, there weren’t many celebs and influencers on YouTube, since the DNA of the two platforms was different. But now, there are synergies, at least on this feature. It’s not that the shorter content is being made just for Shorts. Smaller, crisp ‘Shorts’ of bigger content are being created. These can be used to market the bigger content on one’s channel,” explains Kumar.

Will brands choose Shorts over Reels?

On whether marketers are using Shorts for branded content, Singh of One Digital Entertainment says, “Most brands are evaluating these platforms based on the type of content or the creator, their audiences and their brand objective.”

Google’s key officials, during the earnings conference call, also informed that YouTube is working on testing ads on Shorts.

Given its binge-able nature and high visibility, YouTube Shorts may come across as a good option for brands, as far as ad placement is concerned. Unlike Instagram and Facebook stories, the ads will not disappear after 24 hours.

Divo’s Muneer points out that multiple brands have already added Shorts, as a part of their standalone deliverables or additional deliverables. However, he feels that brands will be looking at Shorts actively only after considering the market leader of this segment, i.e., Reels.

“Many D2C brands that are high on performance attribution, were already betting big on YouTube. Brands will have to think and work through the nuances of Shorts that allow for different features of the YouTube stack like getting ‘title, description, tags’ and a bunch of other Google enabled tech right,” Kumar concludes.

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