YouTube Culture and Trends Report: The changes in our collective behavior and culture over the past year are reflected on YouTube. (As an example: The accelerated trend of “slow living” content and the staggering growth of virtual product presentations). The platform captures the zeitgeist like no other.
Our YouTube analytics team has studied YouTube content in depth to understand trends that may live on beyond the pandemic. We’ve studied viewership, content and creative trends that have emerged around the world over the past year. What we found repeatedly pointed to one thing: the growing indispensability of video in people’s lives, primarily for a sense of connection. We’ve reflected our findings in a new report, “YouTube Culture and Trends.” Here are the highlights:
Lesson 1: Watching video live and at the same time helps people find a sense of community
When countries around the world fell into isolation, the little connections that made people feel like they were part of a community-the casual conversation with a stranger at a mutual friend’s wedding, the correspondence with other fans while watching your sports team play-all but disappeared.
So it’s no surprise that people have turned to online video to fill that gap. Watching videos with other people, whether physically or in the virtual world, enhances immediacy, creating a stronger sense of connection. For example, 95% of people in Poland watched video content online in the past 12 months.
We saw this trend manifest in the explosion of live events as viewers continued to look for ways to be together. In fact, 85% of people watched live events in the past 12 months,2 including events such as weddings on the collective Korean channel Wootso and NASA’s Perseverance rover landing on Mars, which garnered more than 2 million simultaneous viewers and 22 million replays over time.
Watching videos with other people, whether physically or in the virtual world, enhances immediacy, creating a stronger sense of connection.
Major music artists are also attracting larger audiences than ever before, thanks to more intimate performances. Among the most popular music live streams on YouTube have been artists like Brazilian singer Marilia Mendonça, whose lounge singing sessions broke the YouTube record for the most simultaneous viewers with 3.3 million.
Lofi’s streams of hip-hop beats have also become a gathering place for people wanting to focus or relax together. Lofi Girl has been at the center of this phenomenon; her channel has garnered more than 930 million streams from people looking for her company.
But videos don’t have to be direct to evoke a sense of togetherness. Synchronized content – where viewers can watch their favorite authors perform pre-recorded actions – creates a similar sense of community. For example, “With Me” videos garnered more than 2 billion views worldwide in 2020. Clean with me, decorate with me, or learn with me are just a few of the ways viewers build community through company.
Even if they’re not following what’s happening live or simultaneously, video can help turn personal experiences into social ones. People are streaming videos on their TV screens more than ever before, and 63% of Poles watch YouTube content on TV when others are in the same room. The concept of presenting something to someone else is a big motivator, as 58% of Poles agree that video content gives them something to talk about with their friends and family. 79% of all respondents say they achieve deeper connections when they watch YouTube with others.
The idea of using real-time experiences to transform the personal into the shared is at the heart of these examples and represents creative new opportunities to meet audiences where they are and meet their changing needs.
Lesson 2: As the boundaries between public and private crumble, video viewers look for consonant content
Over the past year, as our homes have become offices, virtual schools and daycare centers, the once-clear boundary between public and private has disappeared. In turn, people have felt less pressure to live unrealistic images of their lives and have come to expect the same from their favorite creators and the content they produce. 63% of Poles agree that content does not have to be professionally designed to be interesting.
As late-night talk shows have adapted to the pandemic, many of television’s biggest stars have begun to look like YouTubers, as the numbers confirm. The American satirical news program “The Daily Show” saw a 45% increase in YouTube viewers in 2020 over the previous year. These accessible formats have also helped rebrand chess. In India, comedian Samay Raina began broadcasting games that helped the popularity of casual chess content – once a stereotype of elitist intellectualism – soar, with over 330 million views of chess shows in India in less than nine months. Globally, the number of views of chess content has increased by more than 100% in the last year.
In the world of video, those who manage to break the fourth wall and attract an audience with their accessibility win.
With so many people making videos themselves now, there are new opportunities to “speak the same language” to viewers in a way that makes them feel closer and more connected to your art, brand or hobby. For example, MrBeast, America’s top YouTube creator in 2020, has racked up more than 1 billion video views in just one month. Although the themes of his videos are extravagant in nature, his superpower is his authentic approach, which seems to generate goodwill and positivity that people deeply embrace.
In a world where the barriers between public and private have crumbled, the winners in the world of video are those who manage to break the fourth wall and engage audiences with their relatedness.
Lesson 3: Immersive videos help bring audiences together
Using multisensory media to immerse the viewer in what’s happening is more popular than ever as digital video transcends expected audiovisual conventions and becomes more experiential. 61% of Polish residents who watched videos that set a mood or a certain atmosphere in the past 12 months tried to create a fun mood.
While ASMR videos may catch the eye immediately, other sensory formats, such as audio or first-person formats like video podcasts and first-person cinematic videos, have also emerged.
The term “first-person video” is actually borrowed from games, where the first-person perspective helps create a sense of immersion in the action or story. One example is Dream SMP, also called “Minecraft Hamilton,” a gamer-built world and role-playing server with an improvisational storyline starring amateur storytellers. Since May 2020, Minecraft-related videos with “Dream SMP” in the title have racked up more than 2 billion views, making it the most popular entertainment phenomenon of the past six months.
Using multisensory media to immerse the viewer in what’s happening is more popular than ever as digital video transcends expected audiovisual conventions.
Participating in video memes and trends has also become a popular form of immersive social entertainment. There are dance trends such as the “Jerusalema challenge,” which originated in South Africa and became a hit among medical professionals in Sweden, racking up over 600 million views in that time.17 Singers around the world have also taken the 17th century sea song and elevated it to pop culture status, turning a little-known British folk band into something more. In each case, the individual members became part of the experience, not just consumers of it.
All of these trends speak to the power of digital video to bring people together and make them participants. And while they may have been driven by our needs during quarantine, their popularity suggests that they will remain.
The human need to connect.
A sense of connection is a basic human need, and the rapid adoption of video as a tool to meet this need shows how indispensable it has become for many people.
Creating a sense of community, relatedness and participation are all shortcuts to helping people feel more connected, and because of this, brands have the opportunity to use their creativity and entertainment to bring a deeper level of value to our lives.