YouTube isn’t just trying to mimic TikTok, the viral short-form video app that has taken the world by storm. It’s also copying TikTok’s growth playbook by paying professionals to produce original short videos.
After YouTube in May said it would give $100 million to individual video creators to post original “Shorts,” its TikTok clone, the Google-owned company recently approached companies that produce scripted YouTube shows with similar offers. As part of its pitch, YouTube is dangling additional money for video production as well as other incentives, including giving those videos prominent placement on the YouTube mobile app, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.
Between January and September, the average number of views of Shorts videos made by “influencers” globally rose 64% within the first 30 days of posting, according to Tubular, which has access to some of YouTube’s own viewership data. Meanwhile, videos that are five to 10 minutes long saw viewership growth of 11%, while viewership of those longer than 15 to 20 minutes rose 5%. Tubular defines influencers as celebrities or public figures with significant social media presences, and last month alone it tracked the performance of 5 million influencer videos that had at least 5,000 views.
YouTube may have deeper pockets to pay for new Shorts but TikTok has a key advantage. The ByteDance-owned app benefits from a network effect, in which video creators can piggyback on each other’s memes and can quickly create related videos, rather than needing to start from scratch. It’s a little like learning and copying the popular “savage” dance instead of coming up with your own moves; that takes less time than creating an original dance. TikTok recently said it crossed 1 billion monthly active users, nearing half the number that YouTube has.
“They don't owe you anything,” said Samir Chaudry about YouTube and the changes it makes to the app. Chaudry is a co-creator of YouTube channel Colin and Samir, which helps viewers learn the ins and outs of being a video creator and has 347,000 subscribers. He said he and his team publish three to four Shorts per week. That’s led to a significant increase in overall viewership, subscribers and advertising revenue for the channel, especially in the past month or so, he said.
For now, YouTube is paying bonuses each month to creators who make original YouTube shorts. It doles out $100 to $10,000 per month to creators based on things like how many people watch their videos and where those viewers are based. In recent weeks YouTube began making larger, one-time lump sum payments, too. Under the terms of those deals, creators who agree to make 100 original videos within four to six months can receive a $50,000 payment from YouTube, people with direct knowledge of some of the deals say. (The YouTube spokesperson didn’t comment on the payments.)
Dylan Lemay, whose ice cream–focused YouTube channel has 2.3 million subscribers, said he has been receiving $10,000 per month from the Shorts fund lately. He began making Shorts in March after a friend who also produced them said they had gotten a lot of views as the YouTube app made Shorts more prominent. Lemay is producing fewer long-form videos while he makes two to seven Shorts per day. Revenue to his channel has increased significantly in recent months, he said.