The pandemic has changed our behaviour and a lot of us are contemplating how this new paradigm will impact our livelihoods. What is really going to continue to matter going forward?
Like most of our queries, we either turn to Google or Youtube for answers. In fact, people are watching more videos on Youtube than ever, particularly on TV screens. That’s exactly what a team of YouTube trends analysts did when they created the YouTube Culture and Trends Report.
In it, the team explore the viewership, content, and creative trends that have come about from around the world. What they found on a consistent basis is the indispensability of video in people’s lives. People want a sense of connection. Here’s more about what they learned.
Trend 1: People feel connected while viewing videos Live and simultaneously
Lockdown around the world eliminated the small connections that make people feel as part of a community — the random chat with a stranger at a mutual friend’s birthday, the banter with other fans while watching your sports team play — all but disappeared.
As a result, people turned to online video to fill the gap in connecting with others. Simultaneously watching videos with others, whether physically or in the virtual world, generates a stronger sense of connection.
This trend clearly revealed itself in the explosion of live stream events, as viewers continued to seek out ways to be together. In fact, 81% of Canadians have watched a live stream video over the past 12 months,1 including events like NASA’s Perseverance rover landing on Mars, which recorded more than 2 million peak concurrent viewers and 22 million all-time playbacks.2
The knowledge of simultaneously watching a video generates a sense of connection among viewers.
Live streams were not limited to major events. Even musical artists also drew bigger audiences than ever with intimate performances, drawing millions of simultaneous viewers. Something that is not feasible in a physical environment. A great example is Brazil’s Marília Mendonça, whose living room singing sessions broke YouTube’s music live stream record with 3.3 million peak concurrent viewers.3
Other examples of community viewership are lifestyle channels that help people to focus or relax. A great example is the streaming of lo-fi hip-hop beats. Lofi Girl channel emerged at the center of this phenomenon amassing over 930 million streams from people turning to her for a relaxed moment.4
The sense of togetherness is not limited to viewing live content. The key element appears to be Simultaneous Content — where viewers can follow along while their favorite creators do prerecorded activities. This also creates similar feelings of community. Activities videos, for example, garnered over 2 billion views globally in 2020.5 Clean with me, decorate with me, or study with me are a handful of ways viewers have been creating community through simultaneous viewership.
Even when they aren’t following along live or simultaneously, Youtube videos are turning private experiences into social ones that people can streaming on TV screens. Such viewership accounts for 58% of Canadians who are watching YouTube content on a TV. 6
Transforming real-time experiences from personal into the communal is at the core of the above examples. This transformation represents new ways for creators and audiences to connect and meet their evolving needs.
Trend 2: Viewers value relatable content from creators as the boundaries disappear between public and private lives
The pandemic forced our homes to become offices, virtual schools, and day care centers. This in turn erased the line between our public and private lives disappeared. As such, people felt less pressure to project unrealistic images of their lives and sought to expect the same of their favorite creators and the content they produced.
Great example of the merging or public and private lives are the late-night talk shows where the TV’s biggest stars started to seem like YouTubers, with the numbers to show for it. The Daily Show, an American news satire program, saw its YouTube viewership grow 45% in 2020 versus the year before.7 The relatable formats for videos also helped rebrand chess in India. Comedian Samay Raina began streaming games that helped casual chess content substantially grow in popularity. This resulted in over 330 million chess-related views in India in nine months.8 The phenomenon was not limited to India. Globally, the viewership of chess-related content grew by over 100% in the past year.9
In the world of online videos, the successful creators are those who pull in their audiences with relatability.
With significant number of people making videos themselves, there are new opportunities for creators to “speak the same language” as their viewers and make them feel closer and more connected to their content. For example, MrBeast, the top U.S. YouTube creator of 2020, generated over 1 billion video views in just one month.10 While the topics of his videos are extravagant in nature, his superpower is his authentic approach to the topics of the videos, which seems to generate a positivity that people deeply relate to.
As the barriers between public and private have collapsed, the successful creators are those who pull in their audiences with their relatability.
Trend 3: Immersive videos promote togetherness
The ability to tailor videos that appeal to multiple senses help generate an immersive experience for the viewer. These multisensory media are more popular than ever, as digital video pushes beyond audiovisual conventions and becomes more experiential for the viewer.
A well-known example are the ASMR videos, but there are other sensory formats, such as video podcasts and cinematic first-person videos have also emerged.
The term “first-person video” comes from gaming, where first-person perspectives help create a feeling of immersion in the action or story. One example is Dream SMP, a gamer-built world and roleplay-themed server that boasts an improvisational plot starring amateur storytellers. Videos related to Minecraft and with “Dream SMP’’ in the title have generated over 2 billion views since May 2020, making it the most popular entertainment phenomenon of the past six months.11
Another form of immersive social entertainment is participating in video memes and trends. There are dance trends like the Jerusalema challenge, which became a hit among health care workers in Sweden and quickly earned over 600 million views.12 These videos enabled the individual participants to become a part of the experience, not just consumers of it.
The above trends speak to the ability for digital video to connect people and become participatory, thus creating a community. And while they may have been spurred by our needs during quarantine, their popularity suggests they are here to stay.
The human need for connection
The need to connect with others is a core human need, and the rapid adoption of video as a tool to help meet that need shows how indispensable this medium has become for so many people all over the world.
Creating a sense of community, showcasing relatability, and fostering participation are all shortcuts to help people feel more connected. And in this connection lies the opportunity for brands to use their creativity and entertainment to bring a deeper level of value to our lives.