TikTok got us hooked on short-form video, and YouTube is ready to compete

If you’ve found yourself wasting time on the never-ending loop of TikTok videos, you’re not going insane. It really is designed to grab all of your attention – and other content platforms aren’t waiting around to snatch whatever remains. The latest big company desiring to take advantage of the short-form video craze is YouTube.

YouTube and the short-form storm

The video format is arguably one of the most potent content engines for conveying ideas, beliefs, and information. Since its initial explosion of popularity, we’ve experienced several eras to land here: in the age of short-form video. 

Instagram jumped on the trend last year with Instagram Reels. As for YouTube, it took some time to get into head-on competition with TikTok. This May, the tech giant has announced their YouTube Shorts Fund, promising to finance any creator who submits a well-performing short-form video to the website. Interestingly, the creators don’t need to sign up to get a chunk of the $100M. They just need to hit the numbers, meet YouTube’s engagement criteria and produce original content not published anywhere else. 

Sounds great but also somewhat… vague. YouTube’s reward criteria are currently far from transparent. The platform promises to “reach out to thousands of creators whose Shorts received the most engagement and views to reward them for their contributions” every month. That’s it for now – no official thresholds. The platform openly admits that the fund is only a first step towards a sustainable monetization model and that it will take time to get it right. “We are actively working on this and will take the feedback gathered from our community to help develop a long-term program specifically designed for YouTube Shorts,” YouTube promises. It looks like the company isn’t quite sure what criteria are realistic at this point. The conclusion is – the time will tell. 

The science of an addictive short-form video

So what is it that makes short-form videos so enthralling? First of all, they are hardwiring our brains to become accustomed to a shorter attention span. Simply put, it’s a cheap thrill: with constant engaging short inputs, you get that coveted, pleasant dose of dopamine. Humans can have a hard time understanding that not all that glitters is gold and that instant gratification doesn’t equal happiness. That doesn’t mean that short-form content should be harshly judged: on the contrary, it’s just another tool for talented creators. But if consumers are aware of the addictive mechanisms, perhaps it can help keep their screen time in reasonable numbers. 

Whether you’d rather avoid those short-lived dopamine highs or not, the potential of short-form video can’t – and shouldn’t – be ignored. We’ve been here before, as the short-form obsession is just another social media trend. As always, the correct dosage is key. 

The business potential

We suspect that these types of videos will enjoy rising popularity in the near future. Besides, let’s not forget that it’s a very advantageous format for businesses. Short-form content is relatively easy to make, enabling companies to get information across quickly, efficiently, and concisely. They will certainly try to capitalize on your shortened attention span: but hopefully, they’ll do their best to create an enjoyable experience. 

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