Have you seen anything new on YouTube lately? Perhaps a brand new shelf for short videos under 60 seconds? We definitely have, so... let’s investigate!
But before we talk about short videos of 60 seconds or less and how that could change YouTube forever, let’s do a quick test. To see if you have YouTube’s latest short-video feature, follow these steps:
Take out your phone and go to the YouTube app.
Watch any video, perhaps the first one you see.
Scroll down past the video description, comments, advertisements, and suggested videos. What do you notice?
Here at vidIQ, we’re seeing something we’ve never seen before on YouTube, and it looks something like this:
We believe that his new shelf, ‘Stories and Short Videos’, is YouTube’s way of testing short video on its app. Back in 2019, the platform announced the test on its support page, claiming it was “running an experiment to display vertical videos, under 30 seconds, alongside YouTube Stories on mobile.” And of course, YouTube would be “looking forward to feedback” about this new feature.
Well, we’ve had some time to test this new shelf, and yes, we do have some feedback! The feature is still new, but our early assessment is that it could drive video discovery. We’ve got tons of questions swirling around in our heads about this, such as, “Can you get a million views if your short video appears on this shelf?” And, “What’s the future of short video on YouTube?”
Now that we’ve tested the feature, we have some answers and predictions to share. But before we do that, watch our latest video explaining YouTube’s short video shelf:’
Why Suggested Videos Are So Important
First of all, let us explain why this new feature interests the experts at vidIQ. Typically, successful channels get most of their views from YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. This means the viewer doesn’t do any work to find new videos. Instead, YouTube is actively promoting more content to watch. As a creator, this is exactly what you want because it’s essentially free advertising.
Now, here’s where things get interesting. As we’ve always understood, having a high click-through rate and Watch Time on your video increases the chance of YouTube suggesting it to viewers. That’s the Playbook creators have lived by for over 15 years: make compelling, click-worthy thumbnails, and once users reach the video watch page, encourage them to stay for as long as possible.
But how do short videos factor into the equation? If YouTube is displaying those in a place where they get watched over and over again, does that translate to viral content? We don’t know the answer for sure, but already we’re seeing short videos with hundreds of thousands of views sitting on YouTube’s new shelf.
Shockingly, the channels posting these videos aren’t always large YouTube powerhouses. Some have less than 5,000 subscribers, which is interesting to say the least.
How Short Video Currently Works on YouTube
OK, let’s dive into the short video shelf itself. To quickly summarize, here’s what you can expect when it comes to short video on YouTube:
The 'Short Videos and Stories' shelf appears on Watch pages in the YouTube mobile app - usually after the first suggested video, which is prime real estate for suggested content.
Each video is vertical and 60 seconds or less in length.
The videos don’t have custom thumbnails and instead use a random freeze frame.
When you watch a short video, you're funneled into a TikTok-style play format that keeps moving onto the next video.
You can't rewind or fast forward, but you can scroll to the next video.
You can engage with short videos via comments, likes, and shares.
Any video can potentially appear on the shelf and earn a channel hundreds of thousands, if not millions of views.
Now, let’s clarify a few of these points. First of all, any video on the shelf displaying a video length is a full YouTube video, not a YouTube Story. You can tell the difference between the two by looking at the control icons. YouTube Stories will always have less buttons to tap than a full YouTube video.
So that's the first piece of good news: YouTube videos and Stories will appear on the shelf together. You don't need to be eligible to post YouTube Stories, which require tens of thousands of subscribers, to have your videos appear on the shelf.
Lastly, instead of testing videos under 30 seconds, YouTube has expanded the limit to 60 seconds.
Some Short Videos Are Getting Massive Views on YouTube
Is it true you can get millions of views on a short video? Let’s do an experiment using one of the most popular YouTubers on the planet, MrBeast. His videos typically get 30 million views in their first week, so let's peruse the suggested videos below his content.
The first thing we noticed was an advertisement - fair enough. Then a MrBeast gaming video, which is to be expected. And then, we finally reached the short video shelf to find this:
Underneath one of MrBeast’s videos, the first short video suggestion is “If Planets Were as Close as the Moon”. This video belongs to Matematike Fizike, a channel with 1.96K subscribers. And guess what? Despite this channel’s size, its short video is doing extremely well. It has more than 14,000 likes, 1,500 comments, and over a quarter of a million views, thanks to some exposure from MrBeast’s fanbase.
Now just think about that for a second. A channel with 1,900 subscribers is being suggested on MrBeast videos that get tens of millions of views. That’s an insane opportunity to grow a channel. And as we kept investigating the random short videos on YouTube’s new shelf, we started to notice some patterns:
Channel size was irrelevant. A video from a channel with one subscriber was just as likely to appear on the shelf as a video from a million-subscriber fanbase.
Videos on the shelf always ended up being the most popular video on the creator's channel.
To sum things up, we don't think previously popular videos are ending up on the shelf. I think they’re popular now simply because they’re on the shelf, which YouTube seems to populate at random.
Short Videos vs. Longer Videos on YouTube
All this information around short videos leaves us, and likely some creators, with a big question: Should YouTubers forget everything they’ve learned about the platform? Instead of making longer videos with amazing thumbnails, should they make short videos with no thumbnails to target this highly discoverable shelf and get more views? To be honest, we don’t know the answer.
On the one hand, it seems like a lucrative opportunity for creators when it comes to video competition. Up until now, it didn't matter how long your video was or what aspect ratio it was filmed in. Each video had the same chance of finding itself in the suggested videos section.
On the other hand, few creators are making content like this on YouTube. Therefore, if you wanted to, you’d have a nice shot at dominating - or at least appearing on - the short video shelf. There’s less competition because a tiny fraction of YouTube videos meet the vertical, 60-second requirement.
We thought that might change or at least even out when YouTube introduced vertical video in 2018. Heck, we made a video about it and everything:
But alas, landscape is still king.
OK, back to short videos. Imagine this for a moment: Suppose we at vidIQ made a video about how to get 1,000 subscribers (which we have). If we made a regular landscape video, we'd be competing against every other video on that topic - potentially millions. But what if we made our video less than 60 seconds, in vertical format? How many videos do you think we'd compete against then? Thousands, maybe even hundreds? Doesn't that sound really tempting?
Let’s dig deeper. As an example, vidIQ is currently on the Watch page of a video titled "How to Get Your First 1,000 Subscribers." And all the suggested videos are what you’d expect - more YouTube growth videos from a familiar set of creators. But consider this: Wouldn't it be fantastic if videos with similar topics appeared on the short video shelf too?
Unfortunately, this is where our confusion begins. Underneath the "How to Get Your First 1,000 Subscribers" video, we noticed some things that make the short video shelf hard to tame, predict, or understand:
The shelf has YouTube Stories about literally anything. In one pass, we saw a video about the Samsung Galaxy Note, Jeff Bezos, and babies. Nothing related to getting 1,000 subscribers.
YouTube Stories don’t make use of titles, descriptions, video tags, or other metadata to help you get discovered.
The short video shelf, at least in my case, suggests the same videos over and over again.
So, there it is: With such a spotty selection process, we’re not seeing many ways for creators to strategically get a video on the shelf.
Should You Make Short YouTube Videos?
Because of the reasons mentioned above, our instinct says that you shouldn’t start pumping out short videos. It’s hard to target YouTube’s new shelf, so creating a bunch of vertical, 60-second videos may be a waste of time. However, it doesn’t hurt to test the feature in case YouTube prioritizes short videos.
Personally, we don't think the short video shelf fits within the current YouTube app. And I also don't think users should have to watch a video in the app to get to the shelf. Right now, it's buried too deeply within the current setup.
Instead, this shelf for short videos could be the last testing phase before YouTube unleashes a TikTok-style feature. It’s rumored to be in development, so I wouldn't be surprised if YouTube released a standalone app for short videos in the future. I’m probably 99.9% wrong, but if we're right, you heard it here first!
Having said all that, YouTube’s short video shelf is in a valuable location on the app. If you can make your videos appear there regularly, the sky’s the limit.
Learn How to Succeed on YouTube
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