Publishers prime their YouTube Shorts strategies ahead of next year’s revenue-sharing program

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YouTube Shorts has yet to turn on the revenue spigot for creators and publishers to directly profit from the short-form vertical videos they post to the platform, but some publishers like Team Whistle, Betches Media and Vox Media are preparing for the ad revenue-sharing program’s debut next February by building up their audiences now.

Team Whistle, Betches Media and Vox Media have attributed both viewership and subscriber growth on YouTube to experimentation with Shorts in the past year. And as the revenue-share model will be based on viewership, building up stamina on the platform will be critical once the revenue tap is turned on next year. 

“If we can take advantage and build scale and build importance in that algorithm, then we might be at a competitive advantage when they do turn on monetization,” said David Spiegel, CRO of Betches Media.

When the YouTube Shorts revenue-sharing program launches, YouTube will share 45% of its Shorts ad revenue with eligible creators and publishers, which is less than the 55% of ad revenue that YoTube shares for traditional, long-form videos. That revenue will be allocated on a monthly basis, and the amount of money that individual creators and publishers receive will be in proportion to their videos’ share of total Shorts views, according to YouTube’s blog post announcing the revenue-sharing program.

Experimentation time

Creators across YouTube are experimenting more with Shorts. In the last 90 days, the number of YouTube videos posted to the platform with “#Shorts” was up 51% compared to the 90-day period before that, based on a study of 1.6 million YouTube Videos from more than 11,000 YouTube accounts, according to Conviva Social Insights.

NowThis’s Shorts strategy is to post the same or similar content to what it posts on TikTok on YouTube Shorts, with a slight variance in cadence, according to a spokesperson from the brand’s parent company Vox Media. The strategy seems to have worked well for the publisher. The main driver of NowThis’’ viewership and subscriber growth on YouTube this year was Shorts, the spokesperson said, adding that NowThis increased its YouTube subscriptions by 50% compared to 2021. 

Vox Media’s other brands, Eater and The Dodo, have taken a more bespoke approach to Shorts content, using the long-form videos it posts on YouTube to inform the most interesting or engaged-with moments and then creating 60-second clips from that. This strategy has yielded more than 1 million views on many of the brands’ Shorts videos, the company’s spokesperson said.

A shortcut to build up non-Shorts businesses

Team Whistle has leaned into creating original content — both editorial and branded videos — by using the YouTube Shorts video editor and tools to make the content feel organic to the platform. And while the publisher is seeing a solid uptick in viewers who watch its Shorts content first, a big focus for the company is to reel those viewers in to longer-form videos on its various channels.

In 2022, 74% of Team Whistle’s views on YouTube were on Shorts, while 78% of its channel’s watch time (minutes viewed) was on its long-form videos. What’s more, 85% of total subscriptions to Team Whistle’s YouTube channel came through Shorts this year. 

“You can pull people in with Shorts but you can keep them staying longer with the long form,” said Dustin Fleischman, evp of revenue and brand strategy at Team Whistle. This gives YouTube the upper hand compared to TikTok or Instagram, where long-form content isn’t supported. 

Betches Media only has about 12,000 followers across its YouTube channels. But in an effort to build up its presence on the platform and participate in a revenue-share program, the company began posting video recordings of its popular podcast shows including “U Up?” in October. In addition to full episodes on its main YouTube channel, edited-down clips from those podcasts were posted on Shorts. Spiegel said that Shorts played a major role in bringing 6,000 new subscribers to the publisher’s “U Up?” YouTube channel. 

Nick Cicero, vp of strategy at Conviva, said podcast highlights are performing really well on Shorts because they have a high tendency to get viewers over to the full-length episodes on publishers’ main channels.

“Depending on what type of publisher you are, you’re going to start to use Shorts differently. [Some] are going to use Shorts as a marketing vehicle,” such as HBO Max or a podcast publisher, Cicero said. But many digital publishers may be in a position to benefit from this direct monetization of Shorts content depending on how much they invest in original content, he added. 

“We’re also seeing new accounts just being opened up for Shorts, specifically,” he said, adding that digital publishers who have a vertical focus and can use Shorts to dig down into recipes, sports highlights or other niche topics could be able to not only accrue viewers on Shorts, but keep them staying longer on Shorts content versus having them move over to long-form videos.

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