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  • Writer's pictureJudah Lind

The YouTube Shorts Dilemma  by Judah Lind

For almost the entirety of its existence, YouTube has been relatively unchanged. For social platforms, this is out of the ordinary, as they are often reacting and changing to trends to attract engagement. Facebook has changed from a site for just college students to the largest social media site of all time, Instagram has changed to make videos and ‘reels’ an integral part of their app, due to the popularity of TikTok, and Facebook soon adopted videos in this style. Social media is always changing and adjusting, but somehow, YouTube has had a simplicity to it since the beginning, until recently. 

 

YouTube Shorts was launched at the end of 2020, but only in the last year (2023) have I seen them gain traction. However, with shorts becoming a prominent part of the app, a lot of popular creators on the site are starting to speak out against them, for valid reasons. 

 

The main concern with YouTube Shorts is the sharp turn away from normalcy. These shorts are meant to be consumed on a phone, like other social media videos, so they are formatted vertically. YouTube’s videos have always been horizontal, allowing consumers to watch them on a larger screen like a computer or TV. The bulk of YouTube channels also post long-form content, encouraging people to spend time watching a full narrative play out. Some early creators even made shows on YouTube, with recurring characters and consistent release schedules. Some notable early YouTube shows include Good Mythical Morning (30+ seasons), Red vs Blue (18 seasons), and Fred (7 seasons), which also got a full season on television. This is what YouTube has been since the beginning, long-form. 

 

With the length of videos and videos usually being in a series, consumers end up coming to YouTube for the creators more than the content, which is different than the trends of other social media sites. Popular creators and channels on YouTube can throw entire events and conferences, due to large fan bases committed and feeling connected to the creators. One of the most notable is RTX, standing for ‘Rooster Teeth Expo’, drawing 62 thousand attendees at its peak in 2017, even hosting events internationally in its 10-year running period. Fans flocked from across the country to meet their favorite YouTube content creators in Austin, Texas, through panels, vendors, meet-and-greats, and exclusive gear and first looks at video games. This is contrasted with the recent viral video of Grace Africa, a TikTok creator who has over one million followers, arranging a meet-up with fans and no one showing up. Her most-viewed video has close to ten million views, and she has multiple others that are in the millions as well, but social media ‘stars’ clearly do not have the appeal and connection to fans that YouTube creators do. 

 

There is a connection made when you watch a creator for more than a few minutes, multiple times a week, where you feel like you know them. You pick up on their personality, their style, how they talk, and it connects you to them in a way that doesn’t happen with short-form creators. Large YouTube creators are retiring from videos, and there is genuine sadness and grief from communities as they flood social media with “YouTube won’t be the same” posts and comments. This is what makes YouTube different than other social media sites. It provides a connection to creators in a way no other social media can. 

 

YouTube Shorts is threatening that by pushing YouTube to have more short-form content, lessening the connections consumers feel to creators. What makes YouTube unlike other social media sites, its consistency and simplicity, is starting to change for the worse. 


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