What are millions of people choosing to watch on the world’s largest video platform? And what is it that makes these videos so popular? Here we look at the top 5 YouTube trends from last year and the human truths that are driving them.
Trend 1: The success of sequels
Some of 2021’s most successful videos were follow-ups to top-viewed videos.
The success of sequels reveals how viewers are taking comfort in familiarity, particularly amid times of uncertainty.
Once viewers are invested in content they love, they begin to actively seek out more of the same.
Trend 2: Live streams are mainstream
Creators are using live streams to connect with their audiences in real time, making cultural moments a communal affair.
You don’t need big budgets or intricate scripts to captivate audiences. The popularity of live streams shows that viewers are placing value on authentic and immediate content that reflects real life.
Trend 3: You play, I watch
Once a subculture, gaming is now undeniably pop culture. The first half of 2021 saw over 800 billion gaming-related views on YouTube.1
Gaming is more than holding a controller — it’s joining a community. Digital audiences seek content they can relate to and tribes they can align with, and gaming pop culture provides a colorful backdrop for diverse storytelling and engaging experiences.
Trend 4: Podcast enthusiasts
YouTube is now an established podcast destination, buoyed by greater demand for audio content and multisensory experiences.
The rise of video podcasts shows how viewers are seeking to build deeper connections with the content and creators they care about. Providing behind-the-scenes access can help to establish virtual proximity for viewers, while offering creators and brands an opportunity to show a different or more intimate side of themselves.
Trend 5: Short and sweet
Is reality more captivating than fiction? Millions of people seem to think so. Top creators are tapping into the quick, informal aspect of Shorts to spotlight the humor and relatability of daily life.
Regardless of themes or topics, this year’s most popular Shorts had one thing in common: they were relatable. Today’s viewers are looking for content that is unfiltered and unpretentious.
We've rounded up the top examples from each market. Click to download them: