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To Reach Gen Z, YouTube Newfront 2023 Featured Shorts

The annual Digital Content NewFronts represent an important event where top digital platforms showcase upcoming content and ad offerings to media buyers and advertisers. YouTube participated with a strong presence in the 2023 NewFronts held in May, where they highlighted the phenomenal growth of their short-form video format, YouTube Shorts.

With over 50 billion daily views currently, Shorts has exploded as the fastest growing content format on YouTube. The platform emphasized Shorts’ popularity among hard-to-reach younger demographics, especially Gen Z viewers. By showcasing top Shorts creators, new ad formats, and ongoing investments in the product, YouTube signaled Shorts’ strategic importance for engaging youth audiences.

For marketers targeting Gen Z, YouTube’s NewFronts presentation provided valuable insights. Let’s dive deeper into why Shorts resonate with younger viewers, the key announcements, and what they imply for brands aiming to connect with this highly influential demographic.

Table of Contents

Who is Gen Z?
YouTube Highlights Huge Shorts Growth
Shorts Resonate with Gen Z Viewers
YouTube Showcases Top Shorts Creators
New Ad Formats for Shorts
YouTube Investing in Shorts Features
Key Takeaways for Marketers

Who is Gen Z?

Gen Z, also known as Generation Z, refers to the demographics cohort born between the late 1990s and early 2010s. While there is no universally accepted definition, most experts agree Gen Z covers birth years ranging from 1997 to 2012.

Some key characteristics and life experiences define the Gen Z demographic:

  • Grew up with internet and social media being ubiquitous
  • First true “digital natives” comfortable with technology
  • Came of age during the smartphone and mobile apps era
  • Tech-savvy and rely on digital solutions for all needs
  • Strive for flexible independent work rather than traditional 9-to-5 jobs
  • Support social causes like environment, equality and inclusion
  • Favor brands that are ethical, sustainable and diverse
  • Prefer snackable content designed for mobile screens
  • Have shorter attention spans due to constant digital stimulation
  • Rely on influencer recommendations over traditional advertising
  • Comfortable with the sharing and gig economies

With Gen Z now entering young adulthood and workforce, they are an attractive but challenging demographic for brands. Companies need to rethink branding, marketing and product experiences to align with Gen Z preferences and sensibilities.

Understanding this generation’s hopes, dreams, interests and values is crucial for brands to remain compelling. While their behavior may seem contradictory or confusing to older generations, Gen Z simply inhabits a radically different digital reality.

Brands that make the effort to genuinely connect with Gen Z by supporting the causes they care about and meeting them where they are online will gain lifelong loyalty. The companies that fail to evolve will gradually lose traction with this highly influential generation of consumers.

YouTube Highlights Huge Shorts Growth

Susan Wojcicki and Neal Mohan, senior executives at YouTube, kicked off their 2023 NewFronts presentation with astonishing stats demonstrating the incredible growth of Shorts:

  • Shorts has grown from 6.5 billion daily views in 2020 to over 50 billion views per day currently.
  • In 2022 alone, Shorts received over 5 trillion views globally.
  • The total number of Shorts channels publishing over 100 shorts per month grew by 160x between 2020 and 2022.
  • Currently, over 2 billion logged-in users visit YouTube every month. Over half of them watch Shorts every month.

Clearly, the TikTok-like short video format has struck a chord among YouTube viewers. Shorts is now driving the next generation of video entertainment for billions of people.

YouTube also positioned Shorts as a product with staying power by highlighting its sustained viewer engagement. The platform revealed that over 140 million people watch YouTube Shorts for over 10 minutes each day.

For context, this daily per-person Shorts consumption exceeds the average time spent by users on other top apps like Instagram or Snapchat.

The meteoric adoption of Shorts demonstrates that short-form, mobile-first, vertical video represents the future of digital entertainment. YouTube has successfully capitalized on this trend to drive massive viewership growth.

Shorts Resonate with Gen Z Viewers

YouTube attributed much of the Shorts explosion to its popularity among younger demographics, especially Gen Z.

There are a few structural reasons why bite-sized short videos appeal to Gen Z:

Short Attention Spans – Gen Z viewers have grown up in an era of mobile devices, infinite scrolling feeds and video snippets going viral on social media. Their media preferences gravitate toward short bursts of 10-60 seconds.

Visually Engaging – Shorts are high on visual stimulation with dynamic edits, transitions and overlay effects. This fits Gen Z’s affinity for visually rich content.

Fun and Humor Focused – Top Shorts utilize comedy, memes, irony and culture to drive engagement. Their vibe aligns with Gen Z’s sense of humor.

Community Building – Gen Z favors influencer-driven content and interacting with creators. Shorts allows this with minimal creator-follower friction.

Thus Shorts, as a mobile-centric short video product, caters well to Gen Z’s consumption patterns. YouTube is leaning into this demographic advantage as a key pillar of their Shorts strategy.

YouTube Showcases Top Shorts Creators

To highlight Shorts’ popularity with younger audiences, YouTube showcased several top Shorts creators who authentically appeal to Gen Z:

MrBeast – With over 100 million subscribers, MrBeast is arguably YouTube’s most influential creator right now. He pioneered a category of stunt/challenge videos powered by his infectious humor and high production value.

Dude Perfect – This sports entertainment group attracted fame through engaging trick shots and humor. Their family-friendly Dude Perfect brand aligns well with YouTube’s image.

Ross Smith – Ross drives viewership through absurdist and meme-style comedic videos. His content reflects Gen Z’s offbeat sense of humor.

Kallmekris – Kris Collins commentates on pop culture, dating and lifestyle with a candid humor. She collaborates often with other Gen Z culture icons.

Emma Chamberlain – One of YouTube’s fastest rising stars, Emma’s vlogs about fashion, beauty and lifestyle have built a highly engaged Gen Z viewership.

Featuring these creators allowed YouTube to authentically reflect rising Gen Z-powered entertainment trends. While the content styles vary – comedy, stunts, vlogs etc. – relatability unites these diverse channels.

YouTube also announced $100 million in Shorts bonus payments to thousands of creators. Shorts ad revenue sharing means the platform now provides real monetization opportunities to short video creators.

Overall, showcasing viral creators helped YouTube position itself as the home for the next generation of video stars that young audiences identify with.

New Ad Formats for Shorts

Monetizing Shorts through ads represents a key priority for YouTube. At the NewFronts, they announced early progress in testing Shorts ad formats:

  • App Install Units – Video ads that drive app installs through Shorts viewership and engagement.
  • Brand Extensions – organic branded content that extends YouTube video campaigns into Shorts.
  • Video Discover Ad Units – video ads for broad awareness and consideration.

These early ad products are designed to be non-intrusive and value-add for users. YouTube stated that insightful marketers have an opportunity to shape the future of Shorts ads together.

For brands, Shorts inventory can now be bought seamlessly through Google Ads. Support for app install objectives allows marketers to tap into engaged Shorts viewers and convert them into customers.

Overall, Shorts’ monetization progress showcases YouTube’s commitment to building an ad-supported ecosystem for short video creators.


YouTube Investing in Shorts Features

YouTube highlighted how they are doubling down on innovating and evolving the core Shorts product:

Creation Tools – Shorts has been enhanced with multi-segment recording, text styling, filters and sampling features that mimic the core TikTok experience. This lowers the barrier for content creation.

Discovery and Recommendations – Using signals like gestures and time watched, Shorts’ algorithms help viewers discover new creators and videos to watch next. This drives sustained engagement.

Captions – Auto-generated captions in over 15 languages make Shorts more accessible to international and hearing-impaired audiences.

Remixing – The ability to remix and build on top of popular Shorts stimulates creator collaboration and viral content formats.

Live Streaming Integration – Shorts can now be created from live stream clips, expanding the content canvas.

Video Page Updates – Shorts can now be combined as multi-segment videos on standard YouTube pages. This brings Shorts fully into the main consumption experience.

These investments will continue as YouTube fleshes out the full Shorts suite for creators and viewers. Product evolution will be guided by understanding how youth culture interacts with short video.

Key Takeaways for Marketers

For brands targeting Gen Z audiences, YouTube’s NewFronts Shorts focus provided several key implications:

Focus Video Strategy on Short Formats

Marketers need to prioritize short 5-60 second mobile-first videos customized to standalone Shorts consumption. Longer YouTube videos should also be adapted into segment collections optimized for Shorts.

Partner with Rising Shorts Creators

Work with emerging influencers and content houses who authentically resonate with Gen Z. Provide creative liberty for their Shorts while associating your brand.

Leverage Interactive and Viral Content Styles

Experiment with challenges, memes, effects and humor that make Shorts interactive and shareable. Stay on top of latest viral Shorts trends.

Measure Engagement Beyond Views

Monitor not just views but metrics like shares, comments, time watched to gauge audience resonance. Prioritize creators who generate engagement.

Explore Ad Inventory Opportunities

Evaluate options to get brand presence in Shorts via video ads, sponsorships and organic content expansions. Be an early mover as the ad product develops.

Overall, YouTube’s NewFronts showcase of Shorts highlights the strategic importance of short video for the platform. For brands targeting increasingly mobile-first Gen Z users, focusing on this emerging format represents the biggest opportunity and challenge this year.


How does YouTube Shorts differ from TikTok?

While both focus on short videos, YouTube Shorts is smoother in experience thanks to Google’s infrastructure. Shorts also offers integration with longer YouTube videos. But TikTok pioneered the format with its advanced creation tools.

Can brands buy dedicated Shorts Ad inventory?

Yes, YouTube has now opened up Shorts Ad inventory to be purchased seamlessly through Google Ads. Advertisers can specifically target Shorts viewers using app install and video discovery ad formats.

What makes Gen Z gravitate towards short videos?

Gen Z favors bite-sized content optimized for mobile that delivers information and entertainment quickly through visually stimulating styles. Short videos align well with these tastes and consumption habits.

How can brands measure YouTube Shorts performance?

Metrics like views, completion rates, shares, comments, follower growth, brand mentions etc. on Shorts content indicate audience engagement. Compare performance with other formats.

How long are YouTube Shorts videos?

The maximum length for a Shorts video is 60 seconds currently. Most Shorts tend to be 15-30 seconds long. However, Shorts support multi-segment videos of up to 60 minutes in total.

Do YouTube Shorts have ads?

YouTube is currently testing Shorts ad formats such as app install units and video discovery ads. Brands can also sponsor individual creators’ Shorts. Monetization is still evolving on the platform.

Are YouTube Shorts only for mobile viewing?

Primarily yes, since they are designed for vertical viewing. But Shorts can be viewed on desktop too, with the video occupying center screen with side margins. Experience is smoother on mobile.

Can any creator make Shorts?

Yes, Shorts creation is open for any YouTube creator to try out using the mobile app. Top creators highlighted at NewFronts demonstrate the variety of content possible beyond just dances and challenges.

How do YouTube Shorts impact longer videos?

While Shorts gains popularity, longer videos are also evolving through multi-segment formats stitched together from Shorts. The two formats will likely complement each other.

Does YouTube pay Shorts creators?

Yes, YouTube has a $100M Shorts bonus fund for creators. Shorts meeting eligibility criteria earn a performance bonus on top of standard ad revenue sharing. This incentivizes creators.

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