For decades, people have turned to TV for pretty distinctive needs: being entertained, getting lost in other worlds, and keeping up on news and cultural events. Now that online video has exploded and people can choose from so many different kinds of content — anywhere, anytime — how, if at all, have these needs changed?
That’s the question we set out to answer with new research, done in partnership with Omnicom Media Group.1 We found that people are using short-form and user-generated content to fulfil needs and states of mind not previously associated with video: reflecting, connecting, and learning.
Here’s how we’re seeing those needs play out on YouTube, home to the largest library of short-form and user-generated content.
People turn to TV as a form of escapism, to immerse themselves in another world and live vicariously through their favourite fictional characters for a short while. But on YouTube, and with short-form and user-generated content in particular, we’re seeing people actively choose video content that helps them reflect more deeply on their lives.
In fact, 1 in 2 people say they seek out content that gives them new perspectives about their own lives.2 In other words, they’re looking to find a greater purpose in the time they spend watching videos.
One way we’ve seen this video search behaviour play out on YouTube is with the My Quiet Time Routine trend — an emerging user-generated format that’s popular with the Christian community. These videos feature people showing others how they study the Bible, allowing viewers to reflect on their lives alongside others with shared beliefs and experiences. Last year, watch time of videos related to “quiet time” grew by 80% compared to the previous year.3
While it can be tempting to see time spent in front of a screen as an isolating affair, many people are actually looking to build connections with others through online video. In fact, 51% of people say they feel the need to connect with and better understand others through video content, making a seemingly passive activity extremely socially fulfilling.4
This need to connect with others from a like-minded community is seen with uploads of “Day in the Life” videos on YouTube. This year, creators have uploaded more than 50,000 videos with “Day in the Life” in the title.5 In these videos, people — from university students to celebrities — share what a typical day looks like for them. Whether a viewer is diving deeper into a subject that means something to them or just looking to learn more about others with similar interests, they can explore those worlds through video and feel connected to others.
Online video has become a one-stop shop where people can dive into a wide range of passions. That explains why 4 in 5 people say digital video helps them learn new things.6
A quirky way we’ve seen this passion for learning come to life is through something called PlantTube — a growing community of YouTube creators whose videos offer tips on plant care, showcase new plant hauls, and offer informative plant tours for their legions of plantaholic fans.
Daily views of videos related to houseplants grew over 60% last year on YouTube,7 thanks to creators like Summer Rayne Oakes, who are champions of this thriving community of home horticulturists.
What it means for marketers
Whether reflecting, connecting, or learning, people are finding new ways to fulfil their personal needs through short-form and user-generated content. For marketers, this presents an enormous opportunity to create content that satisfies these needs and states of mind.
It’s also worth taking the time to think about people’s state of mind when they go to watch different types of videos. What will resonate with someone looking to learn something new or feel more connected to the world around them? These are interesting threads to pull on that can help inform briefs, strategy, and creative.