Cristos Goodrow, YouTube’s director of engineering for search and discovery, said in July 2015: “We believe that for every human being on earth, there’s 100 hours of YouTube that they would love to watch.”
It’s easy to imagine, given the phenomenal volume of uploaded videos on the site. According to calculations by Tubular Labs, a specialized online video research firm, YouTube hosts some 1.1 billion videos. According to another analysis, over 2000 YouTube channels have more than 1 million subscribers.
That’s a phenomenal quantity of the most diverse and disparate videos imaginable, where professional content mixes with videos of cute cats, unintentionally funny kids or even little hands making tiny little meals. All tastes, all interests, and all curiosities will find what they’re looking for here.
An infinite patchwork
In 2006, when YouTube was only 1 year old, the MIT Technology Review wondered aloud if the emergence of a strictly online public TV network was not imminent. Proof of their hypothesis: Break.com, a Big-Boys.com-produced video-exchange platform targeting 18-to-35-year-old men.
Because they paid the creators of the top user-choice videos, the website seemed better positioned to become a public online TV network than YouTube, seen as “a small patchwork of content created by users.” A decade later, YouTube has become a dynamic media force, while Break.com – which still exists – remains confined to its dudes and bros niche.
From Me at the Zoo, the video that launched YouTube on April 23, 2005 – a short clip shot at the San Diego Zoo by one of the founders, Jawed Karim, to PewDiePie, the millionaire YouTuber with 40 million subscribers and over 10 billion views, YouTube has become the biggest storytelling space ever created, a massive eclectic mosaic that knows no bounds.
YouTubers, those whose main activity is posting videos on YouTube and enjoying financial rewards tied to viewership, are the ones monopolizing media attention, but you can find literally anything and everything in this vast space open to anyone with online access and a video camera.
Tubular analysed the interactions of over 100 million viewers with the millions of videos on YouTube. The company produced a compilation of average views for the 9 most popular video categories. A brief overview of this compilation gives you a good idea of the tremendous content diversity the platform provides.
According to Tubular, YouTube content is as much the happy mishmash of the People and blogs category spanning everything from viral videos like Charlie Bit My Finger to vloggers, independent millionaire superstars, as it is the educational content produced by amateurs capable of captivating audiences by simplifying scientific notions.
According to this same analysis, about 15% of YouTube content fits into the Video games and others category. Minecraft is the most popular, even surpassing the YouTube channel itself: 99% of the 63 billion views attributed to Minecraft were user-generated videos, not on the official channel.
YouTube content also consists of about 2 million cat videos. Thomas Edison himself actually produced the very first cat video, Boxing Cats, which you can watch on YouTube of course!
School for YouTubers
In the YouTube universe, content for babies and children is all the rage. In a weekly channel-popularity ranking published by Tubefilter, another online video analysis platform, LittleBabyBum and Baby Big Mouth are regularly in the Top 10. During October 2015, 20 of the 50 most popular channels were for children, generating over 5 billion views. Another analysis reveals that six out of the ten most watched channels in March 2016 were in the “Kids and Family” category, and they had added over 2 million new subscribers during that period.
YouTube launched YouTube Kids, an app for Android and iOS that provides families with the opportunity to watch child-appropriate YouTube content in an easy-to-use, safe environment (February 2015 in the US and November 2015 in Canada, Ireland and the UK).
Fun fact: at the beginning of 2015 YouTube purchased Launchpad Toys, an app developer for kids. Launchpad Toys is the creator of TeleStory, an app that allows kids to write, direct and star in their own TV show. (“Write, direct, and star in your own TV show with TeleStory!”)
Now imagine turning this platform into a school for future YouTubers…
But seriously, it is possible that YouTube’s foray into kiddy content hides another strategy. Kidscreen has an interesting theory on the strategic importance of children’s content in online video: securing child loyalty to the platforms would seriously reduce the churn rate.
According to the author, research indicates that adult viewers will unsubscribe or change services without blinking an eye once they’ve had their fill. By offering quality content that’s easily accessible to users with children, online video services gain long-term family loyalty.
This would explain why Netflix, Amazon, and recently HBO (with a confirmed agreement to broadcast iconic Sesame Street) are investing in the sector.