What motivates people to watch YouTube

Aly Gibson Feb 2018 Video

A version of this article previously appeared in MediaVillage.

I spend a lot of time watching YouTube. In fact, I've made it my job. Every week, I publish a newsletter called YouTube Re:View that highlights the latest video trends. Given the number of videos uploaded to YouTube every second, you could spend every waking moment trying (and failing!) to keep up with the latest videos. That's why YouTube Re:View aims to help marketers stay in the know about what everyone's watching by surfacing the most popular videos quickly gaining momentum.

With millions upon millions of views, these popular videos reflect what the world is choosing to watch. But we wanted to understand what motivates people's viewing preferences on a deeper level. So we recently reached out to a few leaders in the advertising industry to gain a better understanding of why they watch what they watch on YouTube. Here's what we learned.

Sometimes it’s fun to relive the past

I like to think of YouTube as a visual archive of our human history. This also rings true for Susan Schiekofer, GroupM's Chief Digital Investment Officer. Schiekofer turns to YouTube to relive her past, just like 75% of Gen Xers choose to watch YouTube videos that relate to past events or people. "Steven Tyler's tribute to Paul McCartney is magical – it’s my all-time favourite from The Kennedy Center Honours archive."

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Sometimes a how-to video is better than an instruction manual 

Horizon Media's Vice President of Digital Investment, Alex Stone, is a recent first-time homeowner who relishes the opportunity to dig into his mounting list of home improvement tasks. Stone is just one of the 70% of millennials who watch YouTube to learn how to do something new.

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For example, Stone turns to YouTube to guide him through small but important projects like installing a letterbox or trimming a tree. These videos, typically recorded by regular people in similar situations, aren’t meant to be entertaining, but instructional and useful. 

If you’re a sport lover, there’s so much more to watch than just the game 

When I think of sports videos, I imagine game highlights. However, sports fan Colleen Leddy, Head of Communications Strategy at Droga5, introduced me to a much wider range of sports content. Leddy grew up rooting for UConn basketball. At her wedding she even danced with her dad to "One Shining Moment," the NCAA basketball anthem.

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She gravitates to sports videos that inspire her: a basketball player who overcomes adversity, a hall-of-famer's moving speech about her mentors, or a classic speech that transcends sport to provide valuable life lessons. These stories humanise the players and make sport about much more than, well, sport. It's no surprise that 79% of YouTube sports viewers say YouTube has sports and fitness video content that they can't find anywhere else.

 Speaking with these advertising leaders, I learned that they aren't simply going to YouTube to watch the latest hits. They're looking for videos that have a deeper personal meaning and enrich their lives.

To continue learning about what influential marketers watch on YouTube, and keep track of the most popular videos and trends, subscribe to YouTube Re:View.

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