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Can YouTube Shorts Be Monetized? Spoiler Alert: Some Already Are!

YouTube Shorts began rolling out in the U.S. on March 18, 2021. It’s still early days for the new short-form video experience, which YouTube says is, “…for creators and artists who want to shoot short, catchy videos using nothing but their mobile phones.”

According to a post by Todd Sherman, the Product Lead of YouTube Shorts, in the Official YouTube Blog, the player has already surpassed 6.5 billion daily global views. The number of channels from India using creation tools (where they are being beta tested) has more than tripled since the beginning of December.

In September, I shared YouTube Shorts: An Introductory Guide; in this column, we’ll take a deeper look at this innovative short-form video format.

Will YouTube Shorts Be Discovered?

Last September, I said there were actually three target audiences for YouTube Shorts:

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  • Creators and artists.
  • Viewers and subscribers.
  • Advertisers and brands.

And, as I explained back then, if creators and artists don’t see a spike in viewers and subscribers who advertisers and brands want to reach, then this three-legged stool will fall over faster than you can say “Vine.”

That’s why the feature I focused on wasn’t the new editing tools that could do things like string multiple video clips together.

It was the fact that short, vertical videos would be “easily discoverable on the YouTube homepage (in the new Shorts shelf), as well as across other parts of the app.”

So, has the new Shorts shelf changed the way that videos are discovered on YouTube?

Well, when Sherman announced that YouTube Shorts were rolling out in the U.S., he noted that creation was only one part of the Shorts experience. YouTube also wanted to help people find Shorts and creators get discovered, hence the new dedicated for them on the homepage.

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He added,

“As more people create and watch Shorts, we expect that our systems will get even better, improving our ability to help you discover new content, trends, and creators you’ll love.”

Even the YouTube Help page on getting started with YouTube Shorts seems to sidestep this issue. For example, there’s a question on the page that asks, “How will viewers find my short videos?”

YouTube says it is always testing new ways to deliver content and that right now, Shorts can be found:

  • On the YouTube homepage and the Shorts shelf.
  • Featured on channel pages by default.
  • By selecting the ‘What to Watch Next’ module.
  • Through YouTube search.
  • In user Subscription feeds.

YouTube recommends that creators use #Shorts in their video’s title or description to help it get discovered and featured around the site.

So, what else can you do to optimize your YouTube Shorts?

What’s Working for YouTube Shorts Creators

Let’s take a look at some of the most viewed Shorts from the past few weeks to get an idea of what type of content is being watched.

According to data from Tubular Labs, the YouTube video uploaded on or after March 18, 2021, with the most views happens to be just 1:00 in duration. It’s entitled, “THIS NEARLY GAVE HIM A HEART ATTACK!”

Uploaded by Woody & Kleiny Extra on March 26, 2021, it currently has about 140 million views. Oh, and it uses the hashtags #shorts, #comedy, and #bestfriends.

Yep, this is a prank video. That’s a genre that’s been around since at least October 2013, when “Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise” from CarrieNYC got 74.9 million views.

Even so, kudos to Woody & Kleiny Extra for putting this old wine into a new bottle.

It’s also worth noting that Woody & Kleiny Extra are based in the U.K.

Has YouTube Shorts already been rolled out in that country? Not necessarily. A lot of channels in other parts of the world are interested in viewers and subscribers from the U.S.

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Did this work? Well, the channel got 180 million views and 275,000 subscribers during the two weeks before “THIS NEARLY GAVE HIM A HEART ATTACK!” was uploaded.

And it got 330 million views and 389,000 subscribers in the two weeks after the prank video was uploaded (47.7% of their YouTube audiences come from the U.S., while 7.8% come from the U.K.).

in the description for their Short, the creators tell viewers to subscribe to our main channel, as well.

As a result, their main channel got 5.5 million views and 20,000 subscribers in the two weeks after the prank video was uploaded to their other channel, as well.

In second place, we have “TwinsFromRussia latest tiktok #shorts.” Uploaded on March 22, 2021, this 0:31-long video already has 81.3 million views (note the #shorts hashtag in the title).

Identical twins Kirill Revega and Filipp Revega — award-winning actors, musicians, bloggers, and public figures — ask in a pinned comment to their video, “Good always wins bad! Do you agree?”

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This genre is somewhat new to YouTube, although it’s as old as Aesop’s fables.

Who knows, maybe we’ll start seeing other Shorts that provide the moral of a story in less than a minute.

In third place, is “The Tiktok food Challenge #shorts​ Funny video by Tiktoriki.”

Uploaded on March 24, 2021, this 0:23-long video already has 80.3 million views. Once again, the hashtag is in the title.

What genre would you put this video in? It’s like a mukbang in which two hosts consume various quantities of food while interacting with the audience.

This genre became popular in South Korea in 2010, and since then has become a huge worldwide trend. So, why not mukbang shorts?

Altogether, 96,900 accounts have uploaded 525,000 videos to YouTube with the hashtag #shorts since March 18, 2021.

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Together, they’ve earned 17.4 billion (with a “b”) views in the three weeks that ended April 8, 2021.

So, are YouTube Shorts being watched? Absolutely.

Can YouTube Shorts Be Monetized?

So, now we get to the critical question, “Can YouTube Shorts be monetized?”

Well, if you go back and watch the three short-form videos highlighted above, you’ll quickly notice that all three have ads.

Keep in mind though that there are two flavors of Shorts:

  • One is content created using the Shorts camera, which is limited to 15 seconds.
  • The other is any vertical video up to 60 seconds long that uses the hashtag #Shorts in the title or description.

Maybe we shouldn’t be shocked to find that the longer version of Shorts is being monetized with ads. This may explain why about three-quarters of the videos uploaded since March 18, 2021, which use the #Shorts hashtag, are the longer version.

Does this mean that creating the shorter version of Shorts is “a faith-based initiative”?

Let’s go back and parse through Sherman’s post again.

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Near the end, he explains that YouTube has helped a generation of creators turn their creativity into business and in all, has paid out over $30 billion to creators over the last three years.

Um, ok. But what about the shorter version of Shorts?

Sherman added,

“Shorts is a new way to watch and create on YouTube, so we’re taking a fresh look at what it means to monetize Shorts and reward creators for their content.”

They’re working on what monetization for this format might look like in the future so stay tuned for further developments.

Or, as I suspect, the solution may already be hidden in plain sight.

Back on June 16, 2020, YouTube introduced BrandConnect, which promised to make it easier for creators and brands be more authentic and effective.

In a post on the Official YouTube Blog announcing insights-based matchmaking tools to give eligible creators more access to branded content, Henry Scott-Green, the Product Manager of YouTube BrandConnect, said,

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“Because of the connection that creators have with their fans, our proactive matchmaking produces highly engaging and relevant branded content. And it’s working – over the past two years, average deal size across the full service product grew more than 260%.”

He added that new measurement solutions such as Brand Interest Lift, Influencer Lift, and organic view-through conversations would deliver greater accountability and real-time campaign results.

This enables brands to measure the impact and ROI of influencer marketing on YouTube, he noted.

The initial launch of BrandConnect was impacted by a combination of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the initial eligibility restrictions. (Only creators in the U.S. with 25,000+ subscribers were eligible.)

So, if YouTube is indeed working on what monetization options will look like in the future, my completely scientific wild guess is that these probably include easing the restrictions for participating in BrandConnect.

Stay tuned for further developments.

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