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State of the Screens

TikTok, YouTube Shorts, and the Battle for Our (Shortening) Attention

By September 29, 2022No Comments

Seven big questions re: TikTok vs. YouTube Shorts:
1) What are YouTube Shorts?
2) How does YouTube Shorts compare to TikTok?
3) Why does any of this matter?
4) Which social platform is the most popular?
5) How do creators make money?
6) What makes TikTok’s algorithm so special?
7) What major trends are impacting social?

Big question #1: What are YouTube Shorts?

Quick answer: YouTube Shorts are a feed of short-form videos using the 9×16 (vertical) format.  Think YouTube’s response to TikTok.

Big question #2: How does YouTube Shorts compare to TikTok?

Quick answer: A table comparing key features was created by Filmora.

Big question #3: Why does any of this matter?

Quick answer: Short-form video is a favorite of teens, who will be tomorrow’s consumers (adults).  95% of teens have access to a smartphone and ≈ 75%+ consume short-form video.

Mr. Screens’ Crystal Ball: TV viewing has shifted from linear to streaming in the past decade.  The daily time spent watching television has only increased by 35 minutes.  Time spent with mobile video is growing and is incremental video time.  A decade from now time spent with streaming TV AND mobile video will be larger than they are today.

Big question #4: Which social platform is the most popular?

Global users by service:
1) YouTube Shorts (2022) – 1.5B
2) TikTok (2021) – 1.0B

Share of teens who use social platforms according to Pew:
1) YouTube – 95%
2) TikTok – 67%
3) Instagram – 62%
4) Snapchat – 59%
5) Facebook – 32%

Share of teens who are “almost constantly online” according to Pew:
1) 2014 – 24%
2) 2022 – 46%


Big question #5: How do creators make money?

Quick answer: YouTube’s recent revenue sharing announcement could give them an edge.  45% of ad revenue from YouTube Shorts will be split with creators.

Why this matters: YouTube shared $30B+ with 2M+ creators between 2019-21. TikTok generated ≈ $6B in ad revenue during the same timeframe.  YouTube’s creator program is 6X TikTok’s entire advertising business, although TikTok is growing faster.

Quick math on YouTube creator model according to Andrew Rosen @ PARQOR:
1) 2M+ creators
2) Mr. Beast creates 25 videos per year
3) 0.1% of creators create at the same pace
4) 0.1% * 2M = 2K creators
5) 2K * 25 = 50K videos per year

Flashback #1: Can Anything Slow Down YouTube?

Big question #6: What makes TikTok’s algorithm so special?

Quick answer: Eugene Wei and The Hustle posted this graphic breaking down how TikTok’s simple user interface delivers a ton of data about user preferences powering their recommendation engine (algorithms, etc.).


Quick math on “micro signals” powering TikTok’s recommendation engine according to Scott Galloway:
1) 11m average user session
2) 25s average video length
3) 26 videos watched per session

Bottom line: In 11 minutes, TikTok can get feedback on 26 different videos from each user.  Compare that to a platform like Netflix running 60-minute scripted shows.  TikTok gets feedback on 150+ pieces of content for every 1 that Netflix does.

Quote from Scott Galloway – Professor @ NYU Stern School of Business:
“That’s 26 “episodes” per session, with each episode generating multiple microsignals: whether you scrolled past a video, paused it, re-watched it, liked it, commented on it, shared it, and followed the creator, plus how long you watched before moving on. That’s hundreds of signals. Sweet crude like the world has never seen, ready to be algorithmically refined into rocket fuel.”

Flashback #2: TikTok’s Still Trending

Big question #7: What major trends are impacting social?

Three trends impacting social media according to Ben Thompson:
1) Medium – Text → Images → Video → 3D → VR
2) Artificial Intelligence – Time → Rank → Recommend → Generate
3) User Interface – Click → Scroll → Tap → Swipe → Autoplay

The Digital Media ‘Attention’ Food Chain in Progress” according to Sam Lessin:
1) The Pre-Internet ‘People Magazine’ Era
2) Content from ‘your friends’ kills People Magazine
3) Kardashians/Professional ‘friends’ kill real friends
4) Algorithmic everyone kills Kardashians
5) Next is pure-AI content which beats ‘algorithmic everyone’


More: YouTube Shorts vs. TikTok: Which One Is Better?


Michael Beach

Michael Beach is the Chief Executive Officer of Cross Screen Media, a media analytics and software company that enables marketers to plan, activate, and measure CTV and linear TV at the local level. Michael is also the founder and editor of State of the Screens, a weekly newsletter focused on video advertising that is a must-read for thought leaders in the advertising industry. He has appeared in such publications as PBS Frontline, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Axios, CNBC and Bloomberg, and on NPR’s Planet Money podcast.