YouTube's short video offering YouTube Shorts has brought in an entire new breed of creators onto the platform, a top executive told Moneycontrol.
"It has helped YouTube really understand a lot about what is currently driving creation. We've used the last 12 months to understand them, and we will continue to keep understanding them better," said Satya Raghavan, director of YouTube content partnerships in India.
YouTube Shorts, which is the company's answer to Instagram Reels and TikTok, was launched first in India in September last year and was subsequently expanded to other markets like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada among others earlier this year. Similar to Instagram Reels, the feature is part of the main YouTube app and allows users to create and share 15-second vertical videos.
Over the past year, creators have developed original content across different verticals like music, lifestyle, and learning or created a mashup using an audio song or sounds from some of the existing videos on the platform. The service surpassed 15 billion daily views as of June 2021 and India over-indexes from a contribution point of view, Raghavan said.
YouTube Shorts currently doesn't show any ads but that could change in the forthcoming future. Raghavan said that "ads are fundamental to their business model". Rival Instagram had introduced ads on its short video feature Reels in June this year.
Meanwhile, the company introduced a $100 million Shorts fund in May this year to reward top Shorts creators creating original content over the course of 2021-2022. The fund officially launched in August with monthly payouts ranging from $100 to $10,000, based on viewership and engagement on their Shorts videos. At launch, YouTube said it will reach out to "thousands of eligible creators to claim a payment from the fund".
"What the Shorts Fund has allowed us to do is provide a revenue stream to these short-form video creators who previously didn't have one. It is still very early days, so we will learn more in the next few months," Raghavan pointed out.
"We initially launched across 10 countries, but we will now do it across the world very soon," he noted.
While advertising continues to remain the mainstay of revenues for content creators, the Google-owned video-sharing platform has helped them diversify their revenue streams with paid subscriptions, channel memberships, merchandising, and paid digital goods like Super Chats, Super Stickers and Super Thanks. As of June 2021, the number of YouTube channels making Rs 1 lakh or more annually is up over 60 percent year-over-year in India, the company said without disclosing any further details.
Raghavan said they plan to eventually extend these revenue streams to Shorts creators as well. "All that we've learned from building revenue streams for these creators, we want to make sure we are able to apply to this new breed of creators as well," he said.
"Our ability to cluster verticals of content and understand them, and then help creators grow in that space, is actually central to the way we grow," Raghavan added.
Changing nature of YouTube consumption
The pandemic has reshaped the way consumers are using YouTube, as they sought content beyond the traditional verticals in their own languages.
Overall, 85 percent viewers used the platform more than ever since the outbreak of COVID-19 and 93 percent of viewers prefer watching content in Indic languages, the company said.
"We are a platform with purpose now. So it's not just about entertainment or information. But it's about empowering through learning and creating inclusiveness," Raghavan said. "For instance, a lot of consumers were struggling to figure out how to cook something with whatever they had at home or with fewer ingredients, since products are not available on the shelf. So a lot of people turn to YouTube for crisis cooking."
Verticals like gaming, learning and lifestyle topics such as beauty, style, fashion, nutrition and wellness have grown significantly in recent years and now constitute a large chunk of its viewership, Raghavan observed.
The watch times of career videos have grown by more than 60 percent in May 2021 when compared to the same time last year while existing verticals like technology, beauty and comedy are evolving to serve hyper-local content in regional languages, the company said.
The emergence of affordable smart televisions and improved Internet connectivity is also pushing several consumers to tune into YouTube from their living rooms. There are more than 20 million people who are watching YouTube on connected TVs in their homes, registering over 40 percent growth since May last year.