There’s a common saying about competition that all of us are familiar with. It’s “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Apparently, that isn’t the way that other tech and social networking companies feel about TikTok. They’ve been trying to find a way to either replicate or derail the Chinese-owned super-app for more than two years, but thus far, they haven’t made a dent in its popularity. Now, Google-owned YouTube is ready to take a swing, and it’s come up with a new approach – “if you can’t beat them, buy them.”
We’re not talking about either Google or YouTube buying TikTok, which would be too expensive a deal even for Google’s deep pockets. Instead, YouTube appears to be dead set on persuading high-profile creators to leave TikTok and start working with YouTube by taking the time-tested approach of offering them lots of money. The company has created a new one hundred million dollar fund to be paid out to creators who make content for “YouTube Shorts” during the rest of 2021 and into 2022.” YouTube Shorts” is, as you might have inferred from the name and the tone of our article, the latest TikTok competitor on the block.
YouTube Shorts isn’t brand new but has thus far failed to gain significant traction because it doesn’t offer creators a direct way to make money from the content they produce. This new initiative changes that. So long as creators post regularly throughout the year and gain constantly strong engagement through their posts, they’ll have access to the fund with no theoretical upper limit (other than $100m) on what they might earn from doing so. YouTube hopes that this will be the shot in the arm that their new platform has been waiting for, and the headline-grabbing figure might turn a few heads among the TikTok community.
Quite how and when these creators will receive their financial rewards remains to be seen. Further detail might be provided soon, but for the moment, YouTube has said only that it will personally reach out to its most popular creators every month to let them know what they’ve qualified for. That’s all a little vague, but the company says that the approach could (and, in their eyes, should) result in thousands of creators receiving financial rewards for their time and efforts every month. Rather than selecting a specific set of creators and working only with them – something other platforms have been guilty of in the past – the fund is available to everyone. If you were to post a video on YouTube shorts today and it went viral, you could be paid for it. That immediacy and accessibility is a big part of what YouTube hopes will be the appeal of the idea.
The other thing that might work for YouTube Shorts is its smartly designed user interface, which looks more than a little like the layout of a modern online slots website. We suspect that there’s nothing coincidental about that. Very few types of website have the immediate impact of an online slots website. That’s a necessity because there are so many competing sites, and casual visitors have such short attention spans. A website has to make an impression straight away if it’s to stand a chance at making money, and those small design quirks are the reason why Rose Slots New Zealand and successful sites like it do so well. The bright colours, packed layout, and one-touch accessibility of YouTube Shorts is very much in keeping with a slots site, and Google is no doubt hoping that it will keep viewers just as hooked as the best of them.
If you live outside of the United States of America, you might still be wondering what we’re talking about. YouTube Shorts is yet to be rolled out worldwide and indeed has only been available in the USA since March. They’re expected to reach the rest of the world imminently, though, and work much the same way as Instagram’s Reels in that they appear as thumbnails inside the parent app and can then be made full-screen and swiped through sequentially. As we mentioned in the previous paragraph, the interface is well-designed and definitely works, but thus far, it’s only worked for TikTok. The small changes YouTube has made might give the company a better chance at breaking into TikTok’s market share than Facebook has enjoyed so far, but that remains to be seen.
Facebook has famously tried to tackle TikTok twice before, once with a standalone app called “Lasso” and again with the aforementioned Instagram Reels, which was launched in 2020. There’s already talk that Reels will be scaled back or removed and replaced with something different. By the time of the second attempt at cloning TikTok, Facebook had incurred TikTok owner ByteDance’s displeasure. The company released a statement condemning Facebook for copying their work and suggested that they focus their time on coming up with original ideas. They’re unlikely to feel any different about YouTube Shorts. A court case is unlikely, though – there’s no denying that the platforms are similar, but there isn’t thought to be a legal basis for saying that any one company has absolute ownership of short-form social media video content on the internet.
YouTube might well turn heads with this announcement and might even attract a few creators away from TikTok, but only those with short memories. For all the hype that the announcement has generated, the announcement itself is another TikTok clone. The Chinese app launched a creators fund of its own last July – and in their case, the value of it is two hundred million dollars rather than one hundred million. Coming in at half of what your rival is offering is a strange tactic from YouTube, but offering more might not have mattered in the long run anyway. Snapchat went through a stage of paying out more than one million dollars per day to creators after launching “Spotlight” at the end of 2020 and is yet to see any material gains from doing so. It’s brave of YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat and everyone else to attempt to face TikTok head-on in battle, but perhaps they’d be better served by returning to the advice we referred to at the start of the article. Most users would be happier with a way of integrating TikTok content into their other social media accounts than they are with the idea of having multiple TikTok-like apps forced on them. In other words – if you can’t beat them, join them.