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Under the Hood: 5 Insights on YouTube Shorts from Colin and Samir’s Studio

Editor's NoteFor today’s Sunday edition, we’re changing things up a bit—we’re bringing you under the hood of The Colin and Samir Show. We’ve been fortunate to have a strong 2022 so far, with the channel crossing 103 million views and gaining 267,000 subscribers.

How’d we get here? While there’s no silver bullet, a lot of this growth can be attributed to YouTube Shorts. We’ve been paying close attention to the impact of posting both short and long-form content on the same channel, and we wanted to bring you some insights and learnings from the year so far.

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Insight #1: Shorts can drive meaningful channel growth

In Q1, Shorts were the largest subscriber growth driver. Shorts brought in over 111,000, accounting for 61% of the quarter’s subscriber growth and 86% of our channel views.

While our long-form episodes are still the channel’s core offering, Shorts unlocked our ability to reach more new viewers more quickly. Producing a long-form episode is limiting—we can't churn out three per week and meet our quality standard. Shorts have allowed us to tell bite-sized creator stories at a higher frequency, and with the algorithm feeding the content to more potential viewers, we’ve been able to convert a significant portion to channel subscribers. 

 

Insight #2: Loops are incredibly effective

First, let’s define a loop. Since Shorts immediately start replaying if the viewer doesn’t swipe to the next video, this leaves the opportunity to make your videos loop—have no distinguishable end or beginning. Here’s an example.

On our channel, Shorts that featured loops at the end averaged 143% more views, as well as a higher subscribe rate than non-looped videos. While the loop in and of itself doesn’t drive more views, we can conclude that the loops increase average view duration (AVD) significantly (like over 100% AVD…), which in turn gets the video amplified in the Shorts algorithm. 

Here’s a look at the analytics of our short that profiled Unnecessary Inventions. The 26-second short had a loop, and resulted in 68% of viewers watching the video again.

 

Insight #3: There’s an ideal short length, and it’s changed for us

Six of our top eight performing Shorts in Q1 were within the 34-43 second range, which was a shift from the prior quarter where it was between 23 and 30 seconds. We think this shift is less about the algorithm fundamentally changing and more so reflective of our team getting better at short-form storytelling. We focused on compelling hooks at the top of the Short and creating loops to drive retention. We also chose to lean more into short-form creator profiles in recent months which typically perform well.

Considering the change quarter over quarter, we’ll look to continue to analyze our Shorts performance periodically as it’s such a new platform. And a note of caution to always keep in mind: every creator is different and the ideal length may shift based on the nature of the content and the audience you’re reaching. This is just what’s worked for us.

 

Insight #4: CTAs work when done right

Including a call-to-action to subscribe to the channel has helped increase view/subscriber rate (the ratio of viewers who subscribe to the channel), without negatively impacting virality. 

The most effective CTAs are connected exceptionally to the short narrative as seen in our short, Why creators have enemies. The CTA is weaved into the messaging, as we name the NHL as our “enemy”—the channel we want to pass in subscriber count.

This was the top-performing video for us by measure of subscriber growth, driving over 25,000 subscribers off of less than 2 million views. That’s an average of 1 subscriber for every 80 views, which is nearly twice as efficient as our long-form videos. It also gained more than double the subscribers than our most popular long-form video of the quarter, MKBHD’s studio tour.

The question definitely remains whether subscribers from Shorts are helpful for driving views to the channel, as we’ve analyzed it and found mixed results. Still, while we can’t isolate all the variables that go into increasing channel views, we have seen our long-form interview averages increase alongside our increase in subscribers, which is mainly driven by Shorts.

*The moving average does not include “The Full MrBeast Story” as it was an outlier in performance by views.

Insight #5The key to Shorts is Value Prop Alignment

While Shorts are an exciting, still relatively new addition to  YouTube, the sheer quantity and velocity of the algorithm can feel overwhelming as a creator. The key to making Shorts work for your channel is matching the value of your Shorts’ content with the value of your long-form content—what we call value prop alignment.

For us, our content both on YouTube and off covers the stories of creators through an educational lens. We’ve developed our Shorts content to align with that value prop, talking about creators and the moves they’re making, and providing that quick bite of insight and education from the creator perspective. While a different format, we are still setting the proper expectation with the viewer that if they enjoyed this Short, they’ll enjoy being a channel subscriber since the content they just consumed delivers the same or similar value to them as our long-form content. 

For example, this short featuring us interviewing MrBeast has brought in over 20,000 subscribers. These new subscribers who got hooked by a top creator interview will now be fed more of our long-form content (which is largely creator interviews) that matches their expectations. This value prop alignment at the onset makes it more likely these viewers will not just subscribe, but actually consume the channel videos and become actively engaged with our content. 

 

Looking Ahead

Moving forward we are continuing to focus on Shorts as our growth strategy for the channel, as well as a space to experiment with new ideas and bring the audience behind the scenes with us

To date, the Shorts Fund has awarded our content $5,587.59. That’s just over 2% of our overall revenue coming directly from YouTube, when Shorts make up 65% of our total channel views. 

With YouTube announcing that monetization is finally here for Shorts, we’d have to imagine that the platform will ramp up how they reward the creators finding success with shorts. 

Regardless, the format has provided creators with a new way to reach new audiences, experiment quickly and convert subscribers.

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