19th February 2021

POV: YouTube Updates


YouTube has announced a number of product updates, from expanding YouTube Shorts to the US to adding an in-video shopping experience, all due to be released in 2021. Here are the highlights.

Details and Implications:

Expansion of Shorts to the US:

YouTube’s answer to rival the popular short-form video platform TikTok, Shorts, which is currently in beta in India, is being expanded to the US. The Shorts feature, story-like vertical videos that are 15 seconds or less, includes editing tools and the ability to add music from YouTube’s library. The company has seen success with Shorts in India and Neal Mohan, Chief Product Officer at YouTube said: “the YouTube Shorts player is now receiving more than 3.5 billion daily views globally.” It’s no surprise the company wants to get Shorts to more creators quickly if it wants to take on TikTok, which App Annie predicts to reach 1.2 billion monthly active users in 2021. Other platforms have also tried to replicate the popular short-form video format, such as Instagram’s Reels which launched last year.

In-video shopping experience:

YouTube is also currently testing an integrated shopping experience that will roll out later this year. Creators will be able to tag products that are in YouTube’s catalogue in their videos and then viewers can directly purchase them. Products are currently limited to beauty and electronics categories. Other platforms such as Facebook are integrating more ecommerce features into their platforms, and YouTube is now following suit as the social media and shopping experiences merge. This update could see the opportunity for every YouTube creator to turn their channel into a shopping experience.

Other updates:

YouTube also announced a series of other updates to its platform:

  • New, paid additions to YouTube TV that will include 4K streaming, DVR for offline playback and unlimited streams.
  • Users/parents will be able to specify individual channels and videos for their children to watch on YouTube Kids, giving them more control and customisation options.
  • There will be new features on playlists on YouTube Music that will make them more discoverable.
  • The YouTube VR experience will be redesigned with a focus on accessibility, search and better navigation.
  • YouTube’s Applause tipping feature will be expanded, this feature allows viewers to buy applause on creators’ videos to show support, a feature that enables more monetisation for creators.


YouTube is focusing on making its platform ‘stickier’ for users and also creating more opportunities for businesses / creators to monetise their investments in content. At the same time, adding short-form content and streaming features makes YouTube TV more of a full-featured alternative to cable and satellite offerings – which YouTube will hope means it takes a greater share of the investment shifting from broadcast TV to video on demand. The battle for attention between the video streaming and social platforms is as fierce as ever, so brands will be watching closely to see how the new features are received by users.

Further Reading:

TechCrunch | The Verge | Search Engine Journal | YouTube Blog

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