YouTube dominates the internet video scene like practically nothing else online. No other platform can compete with its library of uploaded content, its infrastructure, and according to many, its user interface. We’ll go into why it is so popular and the extent of its popularity in a bit, but suffice it to say it is a household name like few other websites or apps. And that means a lot in today’s world, whether you are a marketer, content creator, or average user looking for funny video clips.
There is much to understand about YouTube and many statistics to study behind the scenes. What’s most important, and what are the trends that matter? While we can’t go over everything, here are the basics about YouTube you need to know for 2023:
Basic Stats About YouTube
For starters, what are the basics we know about YouTube? What does the platform currently look like?
- If you look at the current number of YouTube users, you’ll find that there are more than most people can properly imagine. There are 2.56 billion of them worldwide, making it the second most popular social media network (if you count YouTube as social media, as many do). Only Facebook beats it out, and the margin is not as large as in previous years.
- Yet there is another exciting statistic with YouTube that puts it on top. Regarding global active usage penetration, YouTube, at 62 percent, edges out Facebook (61 percent) as of 2021. It can go back and forth, but YouTube is incredibly accessible and widely known to internet users.
- Speaking of previous years, let’s look at the yearly number of users going back a little more than a decade:
- And there is still room to grow for the platform, with more people to reach and actively use the platform. In the coming years, we can probably expect some plateauing due to market saturation, though with little real competition and established market dominance; there will not be a downturn. We’ll go into opportunities for the platform to expand later.
- While you might be wondering about other digital video platforms, there’s not as much to say. About 90 percent of people using a digital video platform in the United States use YouTube.
- People use YouTube regularly, and they use it quite a bit. Additionally, people watch about 18 to 19 minutes of YouTube per day. The statistics change a little depending on your study and the countries’ differences. The main takeaway remains the same, though. Billions of people consider YouTube a part of their regular life. And given that 18 minutes is an average, some people effectively watch it constantly, or at least for hours each day.
- How many channels are there? That can be a difficult question to answer, given that each user is technically a channel. However, if you go by Tubic, which uses Socialblade as a source, there are 51 million YouTube channels with more than five subscribers.
- The source also interestingly breaks down the number of channels by the number of subscribers. We won’t go into full detail, but we encourage you to check out the information in-depth. We will say that the number of channels of all sizes is increasing, though there is a higher jump in channels with between 100-1000 subscribers. The top tier (more than 100,000 subscribers) remains challenging to break into.
- There are only 29,000 channels that have more than 1 million subscribers as of January 2022. Out of the 51 million channels counted, that is 0.00053 percent. Everyone hoping to make it big on YouTube would be advised to have a backup plan, though not all those 51 million channels hope to make it big.
- One secret behind YouTube’s success is its algorithm and video search engine, as much as creators and some users might complain about the former. It is very good at finding what people want. If we consider it a search engine, which it contains, then it would be second only to Google. And since Alphabet owns both Google and YouTube, we can’t say the competition is too serious.
- And beyond that, all other search engines pale in comparison to popularity. All of them combined won’t match YouTube, much less Google.
- YouTube passed the one billion hours watched per day milestone some time ago. In fact, they announced it in a post in 2017. That’s a complex number to imagine, so we’ll say the hours in about 1425 human lifetimes are spent each day watching YouTube. We’ll leave for you to judge whether that’s a valuable use of such time. We don’t have the exact numbers for today, but we imagine two billion hours per day is coming eventually.
- Speaking of a lot of time, there’s a lot of content on YouTube, to the point where you could not possibly hope to see it all. As of the last available data, 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Users have to be selective, and the algorithm supposedly helps with that. Whatever someone is watching, though, some people can always think there is something better to watch. And they’d probably be right if they could find it.
- The start of the massive spike in uploads was between May of 2013 and November of 2014, when there was a jump from 100 hours of content uploaded every minute to 300. It’s only risen since then.
- An important fact to know about YouTube is like many websites, they limit usage to people aged 13 and above. Parents might use it for kids, but that is a different story. Kids and pre-teens might also create accounts and say they’re older than 13 (it’s not like they ask for an ID to sign up). This could affect the stats, on the whole, meaning that many people technically cannot or should not be using YouTube.
Demographics and the Userbase
Who watches YouTube, and how much do they watch? Are there trends among specific demographics that should be noted? And how important are they if there are such trends?
- As mentioned, YouTube is a worldwide phenomenon and one of the world’s most popular and visited websites. You can find videos on practically any topic and see them in many languages. To preface anything else about demographics, know that people of every background use the platform so long as they have internet access. Yet there are some trends worth mentioning, and some groups use YouTube slightly more than others for the present moment.
- Some countries have a more active YouTube userbase than others. If you look at the chart below using data from Statista, you’ll get a clearer picture.
- Many of these countries you might expect, if only because of technological advancement or a large population. However, given India’s population, there is still plenty to do and people to reach. To use YouTube, everyone needs a basic laptop or smartphone (alongside decent internet access).
- We also might note that the data might not account for families watching something together or a couple of people watching the same video on a television. There’s no true way to track that on such a large scale, so keep in mind that watching YouTube can also be a group activity.
- One of the things we might expect is for country rankings to change a bit in the next few years. Not that people will be leaving the platform, but because there will be great growth in developing countries that get better internet infrastructure. And alongside this growth, we will see additional content creators from these countries, perhaps changing the landscape of the platform.
- What can drive much of the traffic from around the world? Localization and translation features. There is also automatic captioning of many videos to quite a few languages, with more added. While such automatic translations are not as good as dedicated closed captioning by an expert (at all), it is better than nothing. People can get the gist of what is happening in videos that don’t have much text or voice.
- Support for many languages also means users in many countries upload videos, creating a library of content for those countries. While you might think that YouTube is mainly in English because of what you see yourself (assuming your primary language is English), only 28 percent of videos are in just English.
- What about the gender divide when it comes to YouTube? As of 2022, 53.9 percent of users are male, and 46.1 percent are female.
- This can vary quite a bit based on the country. Since YouTube has a worldwide user base, it should be noted that men have far more internet access in some countries than women. This can lead to a worldwide trend towards men while there’s an even divide in some countries. More women will come on the platform with time, as in 2020, women made up 44 percent of the user base.
- As far as age, we do not have complete data on this, but YouTube’s audience does skew younger, though this is true of most social media. In the United States, 95 percent of adults ages 18-29 use YouTube. It’s only a slight decrease in the total user base until you reach the age of 65. And even 49 percent of adults over the age of 65 use it.
- And as the age of the current generation, more older people will be using YouTube. We don’t imagine many people quitting the platform just because they are getting older.
- Another note on the userbase: it’s becoming more mobile. Not that the users are flying around and moving while they use YouTube (though they could be), but 63 percent of time spent watching YouTube comes from mobile devices. Some people watch on their computer, others on connected TVs. Three percent of watch time comes from consoles, which makes sense given that there are usually more convenient options available.
- Why has China not been mentioned in any of the above facts? It is because the platform has been banned in China since 2009. This means that the engagement rate and penetration rate are higher than in previous stats in terms of people using the platform that it can reach.
- China isn’t the only country banning YouTube. It is also prohibited in North Korea, Iran, Sudan, and a few other countries. On a global scale for the platform, though, China is notable.
Top Channels and Content
What channels are the most popular online? What videos get watched the most? Is there any trend in what makes a video go viral? Marketers and content creators have been studying the answers to these questions for years, and there are some answers. We cannot predict viral videos yet, but in hindsight, we know who and what works best.
So what are the top channels or content creators as of 2022?
A few of these might be names you have heard before, while others are entirely foreign. Why? Probably because they are literally foreign to you and not in your language. Alternatively, the channels might be for kids, and you don’t have children around the age that would watch the channel. And a couple of these, such as “Music” and “Gaming,” are more general categories that people subscribe to.
On top of channels, some forms of content or topics are more popular than others on YouTube. It might be because of an established base; YouTube is the best format compared to other video sites or another reason entirely. There are plenty of guides and other articles that go into this more, but gaming content (sometimes daily content on gaming) does well, as do tutorials and certain types of reviews.
You’ll also see plenty of music channels and the like. The trailers for big movies are all available on YouTube. Huge corporations and entertainment entities use it to spread the word about their latest thing. And given the pull of some properties, those videos do pretty well for themselves.
A Changing Model for Creators
Between a changing algorithm and monetization issues for creators, content creators relying on YouTube for their income have to think outside of the box. Some might be using Patreon, while others are using alternatives and creating additional sources of income for themselves, such as merch. Such things have been around since YouTube became a possible career for people. Still, now it’s more necessary for these creators, given that there is an increasing uproar among them about dealing with the ad program and demonetization. It is done via a bot which is not necessarily the most accurate thing in the world. So instead of YouTube ads, a creator might use a more reliable deal for an in-video advertisement.
There is much more to say on the subject, which deserves more than this article can give. Yet we recommend that you look into it more and note that the trends regarding income for creators are changing, and things might come to a head eventually.
Most noticeably, now it results in a trend where YouTubers are not necessarily trying to create videos with the most views as often as possible to create ad revenue but instead making videos catered towards an existing group of fans and their interests. It’s not about the broad audience but about giving the people who actually support and pay for the channel what they want.
Premium Options and Initiatives
While ads are the bread and butter of YouTube’s income, there is also a premium subscription called YouTube Premium. It used to be called YouTube Red, but that didn’t reach the levels of success YouTube hoped for. It provides an ad-free experience and a few extra perks such as YouTube Original content (not terribly popular), YouTube Music Premium access, the ability to download videos to watch offline, and background play on your phone.
YouTube Premium has been growing in popularity, perhaps as a response to the increased ads on the platform and the ineffectiveness of certain ad blockers. And while YouTube Originals and YouTube Music Premium aren’t popular, other perks are helpful to YouTube power users. You can look at the growth of premium subscriptions below.
Note that YouTube Red was included here before the switch to Premium in 2018, but they are the same. What’s otherwise interesting is that while there are certainly a lot of Premium subscriptions here (more than the population of most countries), it’s still a small percentage compared to the number of total users. However, we expect YouTube to continue to pursue Premium as a revenue source for years to come, perhaps tweaking or adding benefits in the process.
YouTube, Ads, and Marketing
YouTube doesn’t exist as a charity. While YouTube videos are generally free to watch, YouTube still needs to support itself, and content creators on YouTube need to support themselves, given how many of them create as their full-time careers. YouTube is generally supported by ads and will be for some time. That means we need to understand advertising on the platform as well as
Here’s what you need to know to start with:
- In Q4 of 2021, YouTube generated $8.6 billion in ad revenue. This is more than most other platforms combined (if not all of them), showcasing that companies are willing to spend their marketing dollars on the platform. It’s a vital part of any online marketing strategy. Yet let’s look into it quarter by quarter using the information below, and you’ll be able to notice a few trends:
- The first trend is that there appears to be a clear cycle. The fourth quarter of the year provides the highest revenue, perhaps due to the holiday season and marketers emptying their budgets before the year runs out and they have a surplus (something most marketers do not want). Quarters one and two are relatively slow by comparison. However, in the last few years, we need to remember that the pandemic and changes in spending habits that were brought on could have changed things even slightly.
- The other is a bit more obvious in that advertising revenue generally increases yearly, despite a few dips here and there following the yearly cycle. And it was up by quite a bit last year. We expect YouTube to continue bringing in more revenue for years, though what it will mean for the advertising program is uncertain.
- And marketers spend their ad money with YouTube for a good reason. About 70 percent of people have purchased a product after seeing it in a YouTube ad.
- With that in mind, know that about 50 percent of all marketers use YouTube in some capacity. About 71 percent of marketers seek to increase their use of the platform for video marketing.
- And we cannot talk about YouTube marketing without talking about influencer marketing. It’s the second most popular platform for it after Instagram. Brands spent about 603.9 million on YouTube influencer marketing alone in 2021.
- Not too many marketers are using YouTube Stories (22 percent) or YouTube Live (14 percent) just yet, but that might change with additional features or greater brand followings on the platform.
The Future of YouTube
YouTube, like everything else, will change over time and might be barely recognizable in a decade. While we’re confident that YouTube will continue for years to come (look at the numbers and userbase), what we aren’t sure about are the features to come, what precisely the userbase might use it for, and how it will grow. Nonetheless, we do have a few predictions we are confident about, listed below:
- Depending on how you measure it, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, only behind Google. And YouTube is under the same company as Google, so the competition isn’t so intense. This means that we can expect the search algorithm to continue improving and for Google to provide more YouTube search results as they prove relevant.
- Speaking of Google, the future of YouTube and the features it might offer is linked directly to Google and Alphabet for the foreseeable future. The technology developed by the giant corporation will likely get used (whether directly or indirectly) by YouTube. If Alphabet develops or gets ahold of better server technology, YouTube might use it.
- Though it’s not just Alphabet, YouTube adapts, and if there is better technology that could improve the platform, YouTube will likely implement it. It might just take a while, given how large YouTube is. Nothing so big can change its entire plan overnight.
- YouTube isn’t out to compete with much as a social media platform, given that 99 percent of its users also have another social media account of some type. Given this, it might collaborate more with other options and platforms (especially since the failure of Google Plus left Google without much of an offering).
- As YouTube content creation becomes more common and everyone wants to be the next big star, we will see more creators. While many are using other platforms such as TikTok, we expect many of them will have at least a presence on YouTube. Many creators start and quit daily (even if they don’t realize they’re quitting), but the overall trend will increase.
- Yet content creators on YouTube will be turning to alternative revenue streams with more options. They might do more branded videos, in-video advertisements, and sponsored content or reach out for viewer support via methods like Patreon. YouTube membership programs now allow for direct support of creators on the platform, but the revenue split might be better via other options, and it’s not widely used yet.
- As content creators gain less confidence in ad revenue, it could result in a revamp of the ad program (though likely not one that loses YouTube money) or other options for viewers to support creators, of which YouTube will probably take a cut.
YouTube continues strong, and people are using it every day. Statistically, you’re likely to watch it for at least a few minutes today if you haven’t already. Yet it is so expansive that if someone were to try and understand it entirely without help and view most of what there is to see, it would take multiple lifetimes. We hope that this article has provided you with some helpful information and understanding, and we invite you to return to this page as you feel the need.