As the founder of a mobile video start-up, I am faced every day with a key question: how does my natural audience – young people – choose, consume and share short form video?
We decided to commission our own survey, asking over 400 British people about their use of original digital video, which included YouTube, Vimeo and Twitch, but excluded long-form video such as that provided by Netflix and iPlayer. These results, coupled with our wider secondary research, challenge the assumptions commonly made by many, typically older, media executives about how young people choose, watch and share this video.
Here are the seven things they need to know about this importance audience:
1. It’s daily
If IAB is right that 26% of British viewers are watching less TV because they’re watching online video – and over half watch short-form video at the same time as traditional television – then there is a very real daily war being fought between YouTube and broadcast TV for the viewer’s attention.
Young people are at the forefront of this battle, because they are significantly heavier and more frequent consumers of video than older viewers. Under 25s in our panel are more than twice as likely to watch original digital video every day (71%) than over 25 year olds (28%).
Deloitte also found that 40% of 16-24s watch more than 30 minutes of short form video over multiple sessions every day: 47% watch original digital videos in more than one daily session and 22% view 6 or more sessions a day. This is three times the frequency of the general population.
2. It’s mobile
It’s been hard to avoid the blanket coverage of the rapid mobile video revolution; for instance, Americans have more than doubled mobile viewing of original digital video in just 2 years.
So we were not surprised to find that mobile (47%) has nearly caught up desktop (49%) for those we surveyed. Leading this charge are the under 25s, 58% of whom watch original digital video most frequently on tablets and smartphones, contrasting to 43% of over 25s.
Smartphone viewing (31%) was stronger than tablet viewing (25%) for young people, which is backed up by Ooyala’s recent global data on mobile video, suggesting that smartphone is driving mobile video growth. In our panel, mobile usage correlates strongly with young people’s frequency of viewing, with 60% of mobile users under 25 watching it every day.
3. It’s social
With Facebook and YouTube vying for the top slot in video, we expected to find social networks (59%) and video platforms (48%) neck to neck in terms of being the most popular sources of video across our panel; just as GFK found in America that 55% of respondents of all ages interact with original digital video on social media.
Results were stronger for our under-25s, for whom social networks are the most popular source of videos (73%), followed closely by the video networks themselves (69.5%).
Word of mouth is still important (46%) for these young people, but the least popular ways to find out about video for young people were text message (1.7%) and email (0%).
Interestingly, recommendations from friends are easily the most important source of videos for young people – 83% of under 25s cited social networks, word of mouth, instant messaging services or SMS as sources for finding videos.
4. It’s about trust
We wanted to break new ground and ask people how they choose which video to watch. Top of the list was the video creators themselves. The degree to which these new content creators arbitrate what young people watch compared to older people is striking.
The top response from under 25s was ‘someone I like or admire made the video’ (69.5%), more than twice the rate of response to the same question from over 25s (31.5%). They do not have to follow the creators, although this is popular (59% of under 25s watch because they follow someone), and they are discerning (only 35% of under 25s watch everything that some YouTube creators upload).
Deloitte has published an interesting comparison between PewDiePie (58m monthly hours viewed) and Coronation Street (67m), so if you’ve ever wondered if YouTube stars were really just legends in their own bathwater, you’ve been dramatically wrong. PewDiePie’s reported annual profits of $7.45m in 2014 suggest there’s real money in building trust with young people.
5. It’s about passion
If social recommendations are the overwhelming source of videos for young people, then strength of recommendation is clearly a deciding factor in what to watch: 61% of under 25s decide which videos to watch based on the whether someone loves, hates or has another strong reaction to a video (versus 40% of all respondents). Also, 52% of young people reported that they would watch if friends and family were also watching.
The importance of sentiment in recommendations presents potential opportunities for platforms, because at present video networks like YouTube and social networks like Facebook and Twitter do not give viewers a way to express sentiment during sharing beyond comments, for instance via emoticon systems popular with instant messaging services such as Snapchat and Line.
6. It’s about fun, sentiment and updates
Entertainment was the strongest reason that under 25s said they watch (95%), which explains why young people’s favourite types of video are funny (97%), surprising/exciting (85%) and crazy/weird (68%).
Under 25s’ second most popular reason to watch was wanting something to suit how they are feeling (68%), which is interesting because no video networks provide a way to categorise videos by mood.
In third place for young people (68%) was watching original digital video as an easier, more fun way to keep up to date. This mirrors Ofcom’s findings that YouTube was seen by nearly half (46%) of 16-24 year olds as an important source of information.
7. It’s about conversations
For a start-up that’s placed a bet on video commenting, we needed to know more how people discuss video. Where GfK/IAB found that a quarter of 18-34 year old Americans enjoy discussing, reading or writing comments about original digital video, we asked more specific questions about sharing, discussing and commenting.
We found 78% of under 25s sometimes – or frequently – discuss video with friends, 63% sometimes or frequently shared video with friends, and 39% sometimes or frequently comment on video using video platforms.
The responses on commenting represent brand new consumer data, and reveals the extent of conversations about video that have previously been ignored.
I’ve been describing a dramatic shift in how young people choose, consume and share original digital video. Their behaviour, tastes and activity vary substantially from older generations.
Their devices of choice are overwhelmingly mobile; their appetite for content is little short of voracious, and the context for their viewing highly social and conversational.
The opinion and sentiment of friends recommended via social networks, instant messaging and word of mouth are the deciding factors in terms of what young people choose to watch.
This represents an intriguing challenge for anyone trying to exploit such an intrinsically viral market.
Rick Gibson is Managing Director of Ludifi Limited. Rick advised media companies like BBC, RTL, Endemol, ITV, Universal Music Group, Turner, Orange, Random House, Fremantle and many others, before launching Ludifi, a London-based interactive video start-up