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Opinion

YouTube is the ‘Helpful Habit’ the Public Turn to During This Crisis

As demand for YouTube content hit record levels, brands have a chance to tap into the growth in online content consumption and run campaigns that support creators.

The Coronavirus outbreak has been a shock to the system for the whole of the ad industry and YouTube creators. Many brand sponsorships are postponed or cancelled and creators who normally support themselves through freelance videography and photography have seen work dry up. While the measures introduced by the Government will help, June is a long time away and most freelancers need to be able to pay the bills and maintain their careers.   

While creators are facing unprecedented challenges in supporting themselves, paradoxically we are seeing demand for Tube content hit record levels. In these times of crisis people stuck behind doors are turning to useful ‘how to’ videos like never before. In America, there was a 22% increase in the number of minutes of videos streamed online within one week (Nielsen and CNBC). Meanwhile, uploads of videos from creators with “at home” in the title have also increased by more than 590% according to The Verge 

Tailored relevant content 

YouTube’s strength is that it lets brands react quickly to consumer needs and directly access potential customers with tailored relevant content. While people are coming together to help each other through this uncertain and terrifying time, many YouTube creators are using their platforms to produce helpful content to make their viewers’ lives easier.   

The practical features of the YouTube platform also make it well suited to the current climate. YouTube can be consumed on TV, as well as a laptop and phone. In fact, in this new normal, it has supplanted TV as the medium of family entertainment. While family viewing in normal times is sitting round watching Strictly on a Saturday night, it is now gathering around the laptop or TV on a weekday morning to keep fit with Joe Wicks.

Mental and physical fitness 

While the success of fitness instructors like Joe Wicks and Mr. Motivator has been widely reported by the mainstream media, less noticed has been the influencers tackling mental health. Russell Brand’s self isolation and mental health video have got 363,000 views while Lavendaire’s 15 self care ideas for Coronavirus Quarantine provides practical tips during the crisis. YouTube creators tend to work from home, so have plenty of tips for surviving social distancing and self-isolation more generally, see Bestdressed’s video on how to work at home 

One of the many unprecedented outcomes of coronavirus has been the phenomenon of homeschooling. Stressed parents have had to turn into teachers overnight and are in need of help and guidance. Views on education videos have shot up by 14%, according to Tubular Labs. While many online platforms provide educational content, influencers like Physics Girl (Dianna Cowern) are providing entertaining experiments to keep bored kids – and adults – entertained. 

Older videos having a second life 

Alongside newly created content, videos that were produced months or even years ago are getting a second life. YouTube’s search engine discoverability gives videos real longevity. As we have time on our hands to explore new hobbies, the requests for skills-based content is increasing. Whether it’s baking, sewing or even whisking whipped coffee. As a nation under lockdown, we are also relishing our daily permitted exercise. Videos on topics such as improving your running technique are doing particularly well.   

Of course, other sectors aren’t performing as strongly, Travel content has seen an 8% drop in views and fashion is down 13%. Travel faces particular challenges but I can’t see the trend for fashion being long term. As the lockdown continues, people will be interested in what to wear at home more, even if it is for a virtual dinner party. However, at the moment fashion feels far from people’s thoughts.  

Spreading the Government’s message 

Brands have a chance to tap into the growth in online content consumption and run campaigns that support creators producing these useful videos. The focus of brands is shifting and moving to helping rather than selling. YouTube itself is doing its best to spread the Government’s health message, through the initiative #withme. Like other social media platforms, they have taken the unprecedented step of carrying this message on the homepage.  

Smart brand activations that we’ve run include VPN provider Surfshark sponsoring videos about which films to watch on Netflix during lockdown or NHS Professionals trying to recruit medical staff on YouTube. Homeware brands should be creating room makeover videos and design/DIY ideas now. By providing solutions to peoples’ real challenges, brands can help build deep relationships and receive positive brand awareness. 

Changes to how we consume content 

It may be hard to think beyond the short term at the moment, but looking beyond this crisis I do think we are going to see some long-term changes in how we consume content in the future. Parents who may have ignored it before will turn to YouTube as it has proven to be consistently educational and useful. While an app like Houseparty has become all the rage in this short term, it is hard to see it having longevity beyond this crisis. In this worrying new world, YouTube is a helpful habit that looks set to stay. 

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