YouTube’s TikTok rival, YouTube Shorts, arrives in the US

YouTube Shorts, the company’s short-form video experience and TikTok rival, is launching today in the U.S. The feature allows creators to record, edit and share short-form video content that’s 60 seconds or less in length, optionally set to popular music. At launch, YouTube has deals with Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and Warner Chappell Music, Believe, Merlin, 300 Entertainment, Kobalt, Beggars, CD Baby, Empire, Peer, Reservoir, OneRPM and others.

Globally, YouTube has agreements with over 250 publishers and labels for use in the Shorts product, it says.

The YouTube Shorts product itself was first introduced in September and has been beta testing in India over the past several months, where it has since seen adoption triple.

Though you may have already encountered the YouTube Shorts “shelf” on the YouTube homepage, the ability to create YouTube Shorts videos was not live in the U.S. until today.

The experience of filming content for YouTube Shorts is very much like TikTok.

Creators have access to tools stop and start recording short video segments with a tap, much like the leading short-form app. They can also select the video’s backing music or sound and utilize a small handful of in-app editing features. At launch, these include speed controls to slow or speed the audio, a countdown timer, text timing capabilities to make text appear on the screen at certain times and, soon after launch, color adjustment filters.

Image Credits: YouTube

But while YouTube Shorts has a clever tool that lets you select the part of the song you want to use in your video, it’s lacking the more intelligent automatic sound-syncing feature that makes TikTok so accessible for beginners. YouTube’s product also at launch lacks a large catalog of special effects — like the AR features or green-screen options found on TikTok. Instead, like Instagram Reels, the initial goal with Shorts is to simply lower the barrier to entry for users who want to create and publish short-form video content on an existing social platform.

On the viewer’s side, the TikTok comparisons are even more obvious.

Currently, the experience can be launched via the YouTube Shorts shelf on the YouTube homepage, which has already been live in some markets, and, soon, from a dedicated Shorts tab in the YouTube mobile app.

Image Credits: YouTube

Once launched, you’ll be taken to a familiar full-screen vertical video experience where you can double-tap to like a video, tap into the comments or share the video with others. You can also subscribe to the creators’ YouTube channel from Shorts, if you find their content interesting.

You can also tap on hashtags in YouTube Shorts that will take you to a page with other videos using the same hashtag. (This, to be clear, is separate from the other YouTube hashtag pages announced recently, which will host both longer-form and short-form content.)

Image Credits: YouTube

Also like TikTok, you can tap on the music icon — in YouTube Shorts, a square icon, not a spinning record as on TikTok — to be taken to a page featuring that same sound. Here, you’ll find all the other Shorts using that sound and have the option to do the same.

Image Credits: YouTube

This “sound” could be a clip from a popular song, original audio or what YouTube calls “remixed” content. The latter refers to how Shorts creators can sample from other Shorts videos to make their own sounds. And, in the months to come, the company will expand this remixing capability across YouTube’s billions of longer-form videos. YouTube creators can choose to opt out of having their original audio remixed for Shorts’ clips, but by doing so they may limit themselves from finding a new audience.

YouTube suggests creators could remix videos to show themselves reacting to their favorite jokes, trying a YouTuber’s recipe or re-enacting a comedic skit, among other things.

Image Credits: YouTube

Since its launch in India, the YouTube Shorts player has passed 6.5 billion daily views globally. However, YouTube wouldn’t say how many creators had adopted the product, nor how many Shorts videos have been produced. But the Indian market is not representative of how Shorts may fare in the U.S. because the country banned TikTok last year, helping to boost other short-form video apps as a result.

YouTube, of course, isn’t the first social platform to copy TikTok. Instagram and Snapchat have done the same with Reels and Spotlight, respectively. But in YouTube’s case, it’s even more critical to offer support for short-form video to stay relevant in a market where TikTok has become one of the most downloaded mobile apps and a preferred tool for watching video content on mobile devices.

“I think Shorts and short-form video has come to feel like a natural progression for YouTube,” noted YouTube’s Todd Sherman, the product lead for YouTube Shorts. “We’re the original user generated video platform. And that was really based around video that’s created on the desktop — digital cameras, desktop computers and video editing software. Now, we’re really keen to take a step forward into this new world of video that’s really native to the phone,” he says. “And it’s really important that we build this in partnership with the creator community…and for that matter, even more broadly, the same goes for viewers and our partners in the music industry,” Sherman adds.

The YouTube Shorts product is still considered a beta, as YouTube expects to iterate on the Shorts experience over time, and respond to user feedback as it develops new features.

Longer-term, YouTube believes Shorts will differentiate itself from others on the market by way of its connection to the larger YouTube platform.

“There’s a two-way door here where we’re building a short-form video ecosystem,” explains Sherman. “You can take a step forward into YouTube or even YouTube Music in the foreseeable future. And then from YouTube, you could also initiate creation into Shorts. That bridging of ecosystems, I think is an important part of this,” he adds.

So far, however, TikTok rivals have often seen creators simply repurposing their TikTok videos for use on other platforms — not developing original content for each of the three: TikTok, Reels and Spotlight.

YouTube Shorts’ video creation tools will begin to roll out to U.S. users starting today, and will expand to all of the U.S. over the next several weeks, the company says.

 

 

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YouTube to expand Shorts to the U.S., add 4K and DVR to YouTube TV, launch in-video shopping and more in 2021

YouTube has a host of big product updates coming this year, and it just detailed a lot of them in a blog post from Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan. Google’s streaming video site plans to expand its TikTok-esque Shorts mobile video creation and consumption tool to the U.S. (it’s currently in beta in India), make YouTube TV a more full-featured in-home cable alternative, add customization and control options to YouTube Kids and more.

Many of the product updates detailed by Mohan are expansions of existing tests and beta features, but there are also entirely new developments that could significantly change how YouTube works for both creators and audiences. YouTube’s focus on monetization and new formats also indicates a desire to keep creators happy, which makes a lot of sense in the context of the platform’s popular new mobile-first competitor TikTok.

Here’s a TL;DR of everything YouTube announced today for its 2021 roadmap:

  • Expansion of its in-video e-commerce shopping experience beyond the current limited beta
  • Expansion of Applause tipping feature
  • YouTube Shorts launching in the U.S.
  • Adding the ability for parents to specify individual channels and videos for their kids to be able to watch on YouTube Kids
  • New features for user playlists on YouTube Music, and making those playlists more discoverable to others
  • A new paid add-on coming to YouTube TV that offers 4K streaming, DVR for off-line playback, and unlimited simultaneous in-home streams
  • Automatic video chaptering for some videos that don’t have creator-defined ones
  • A redesigned YouTube VR experience focused on accessibility, search and better navigation

YouTube has a big year planned, and some of these changes could significantly alter the dynamics of the platform. Making it possible for every creator to turn their channel in a mini shopping channel has a lot of potential to alter what it looks like to build a business on the platform, while YouTube TV’s transformation narrows the gap even further between that service and traditional cable and satellite provider offerings.

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Google Play Music to shut down starting in September, will disappear by December

Google’s plans to wind down its Google Play Music service in favor of the company’s newer YouTube Music have been known for some time. But Google this week has given users a deadline on making the switch. The company says YouTube Music will fully replace Google Play Music in December 2020, at which point Google Play Music users will no longer be able to stream from or otherwise use the Google Play Music app.

Though December is the final deadline for being able to export from the Google Play Music app, your ability to stream from the Google Play Music app will end before then.

In September 2020, users in New Zealand and South Africa will be the first to lose access to stream or use the Google Play Music app. The rest of the world will lose their access in October.

However, Google will continue to make your content available for export through December. Through the transfer tool released in May, Google Play Music users will be able to export their playlists, uploads, purchases, likes and more to YouTube Music. Alternately, users can use the Google Takeout service to export their data and download their purchased and uploaded music.

For those considering making a switch to a rival streaming service, like Spotify, there aren’t official tools available, but there are third-party options, like Soundiiz, TuneMyMusic, MusConv, and others.

Google says it will also be making changes to the Google Play store and Music Manager.

Starting this month, users will no longer be able to make purchases or pre-order music from Google Play Music through Music Manager, nor will they be able to upload and download music.

The company has been preparing YouTube Music in advance of this shift to address complaints Google Play Music users had with earlier versions of the service. This year, Google increased playlist length from 1,000 to 5,000 songs and added support for uploads (up to 100K tracks — 50K more than on Google Play Music). It has also rolled out offline listening, lyrics, and Explore tab for discovery, and a tool for transferring podcast subscriptions and episode progress to Google Podcasts.

YouTube Music offers a variety of playlist options now, too, including collaborative playlists built with friends and new programmed playlists built by editors. Assistive technology now also make personalized suggestions of what to add when you’re building a YouTube Music playlist.

YouTube Music service has expanded its reach across platforms, as well, with support for Android TV, Google Maps (for music while navigating), and via Google Assistant in recent days.

For any user who doesn’t opt to move to YouTube Music, Google says subscriptions will be automatically canceled.

Google’s strategy with music has been overly complicated for some time (not unlike its strategy with messaging and communication apps). When users signed up for YouTube Premium (previously YouTube Red), they’d automatically receive access to Google Play Music, and vice versa. And Google continued to sell YouTube Music as a separate subscription. In other words, Google created a world where it wasn’t only competing against big streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify and Pandora, it was also competing against itself.

Now it’s hoping to shift its streamers to YouTube Music. The idea came about because YouTube for a long time has been a way to access free music, thanks to a deep catalog of officially licensed music videos, live performances and other music content. So why not upsell YouTube’s freeloading music fans on an ad-free, upgraded music experience? That strategy may have worked to some extent, but it’s more recently being challenged. Last week, Facebook announced deals with record labels to make music videos free on its platform, as well. If user behavior shifts as a result, YouTube’s ability to funnel free music fans into a premium product could be impacted, too.

 

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