Shorts will be a springboard to launch new creators and emerging creative outlets while pivoting back to what made mid-2000’s YouTube so revolutionary. But to say that Shorts isn’t to some degree a reaction to TikTok would be largely inaccurate. TikTok’s emergence all but neutralized its competitors by tapping into what’s important to Gen Z and leaning on those ideals. They’ve also sharply maneuvered the finer points of brand advertising and, in a roundabout way, became a major player in music by breaking new artists and hit songs through some of their most popular creators.
Adjacent to TikTok is Instagram Reels –Facebook’s very obvious approach at leveling the playing field. Albeit a bit clunky in its earliest moments, in the blink of an eye Reels feels much more organic and exciting. And while that excitement does translate to more usage, views, and engagement, TikTok is still well out in front of the short-form video race. Yet, with shopping features coming to Reels in the near future, e-commerce could be the leg-up Reels needs to keep pace. Shorts will almost undoubtedly need to host a similar feature if they hope to pull attention from its contemporaries.
When forecasting how Shorts will compete against TikTok and Reels, the primary issue always comes back to engagement and communication, both of which are at their height on traditional social media platforms. Zoom out and sure, YouTube as a whole has more active eyes than TikTok or Reels. Unfortunately for YouTube, they aren’t where people go to send a Direct Message, share something funny with their group chat, or upload Stories from their day-to-day. It’s that level of digital normalcy and social media intimacy that YouTube is competing with.
The challenge begins and ends with convincing Gen Z and Millennials time on their platform offers the same or more value as being on TikTok, on Instagram, or watching a TikTok on Instagram. That’s the unshakeable reality for YouTube. But over time, with the right marketing and consumer buy-in, it may not prove insurmountable.
Everyday, people watch more than 1 billion hours of video on YouTube. For nearly 15 years, the company has been a cultural touchstone for entertainment and by far the most popular video consumption platform on the planet. Launching Shorts isn’t a risky move for YouTube; it’s actually an extension of what they do best.
Staying power is also on their side. They’ve outlasted other promising streaming services like Vine, OnLive, Aereo and now the most recent to falter, Quibi. Although YouTube isn’t nearly as cool or punk-rock as TikTok, there's power and consistency in being the establishment. Google, for all intents and purposes, is as established as it gets.
With hundreds of thousands of creators and artists already on YouTube creating daily, a backlog of millions of videos with 500 hours of new content being uploaded by the minute, there’s plenty of reason to believe Shorts has the headstart its competitors never did. Alongside the promise of industry experience and a built-in fanbase, Shorts should ultimately help achieve YouTube’s primary goal: keep viewers on the platform longer and inspire them to upload what they create.