- YouTube this week started testing an app feature that lets mobile users record and share short videos, a key feature of rival TikTok, TechCrunch reported. The Google-owned video-sharing platform announced the test in a blog that provides updates about experimental features.
- Participants in the YouTube test will see a "create a video" option that lets them tap to record a series of clips with a combined maximum time of 15 seconds, the same length as TikTok videos. People who want to share longer videos on YouTube can upload them from their phone's media gallery instead of recording with the app.
- YouTube is testing the feature in its Android and iOS apps with a small group of people to gather feedback, per its blog post.
It's too early to tell how YouTube's test of a feature to share short videos will affect mobile marketers, though the video-sharing platform is a significant media outlet for advertisers. YouTube's ad sales grew 33% to $4 billion in Q1 from a year earlier, despite the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on media spending that's most likely to show up during the current quarter. If YouTube follows through with a rollout of the short video feature, it has the potential to create another engaging media channel for advertisers to reach the platform's audience segments.
The test appears to have been in the works for several months, with The Information reporting in April that the company was developing a "Shorts" feature to compete with ByteDance-owned TikTok by the end of the year. YouTube's blog this week didn't mention whether the test will let users add music soundtracks to their videos, a key feature of TikTok, as suggested in the earlier report. However, the pilot program indicates that YouTube is stepping up the development of a mobile feature that resembles its fast-growing rival.
With the short-video test, YouTube becomes the latest company to experiment with a feature that resembles TikTok. Facebook-owned Instagram this week expanded a TikTok clone called "Reels" to France and Germany, Adweek reported. The expansion comes after Instagram started testing the feature in Brazil last year. Facebook also launched an app called Lasso that focuses on viral short-form video content.
These efforts by digital media giants to develop a TikTok clone are a sign of the startup's threat to their revenue, especially with the economic slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic leading to an estimated 3% decline in digital ad spending this year, as forecast by WPP-owned media agency GroupM. TikTok has surged in popularity in the past couple of years, recently surpassing 2 billion lifetime downloads as pandemic lockdowns drove increased social media usage among homebound consumers. TikTok has ramped up its marketing efforts to monetize that growth. This week, it introduced a global platform for advertisers at its first appearance at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's (IAB) Digital Content NewFronts, the yearly sales presentation that's virtual this year.
YouTube also appeared at the NewFronts with its yearly Brandcast that announced original shows starring singer Demi Lovato and magician David Blaine. The platform's lineup includes programming from creators such as Marques Brownlee, James Charles, Markiplier and MrBeast. YouTube executives again said they had committed to spend $100 million to support Black creators, Ad Age reported.