TikTok has just recently overtaken YouTube in total hours of user watch time per month in the United States. 

Between August 2020 and June 2021, TikTok users have watched an average of 24 hours of content per month, compared to Youtube’s 22 hours and 40 minutes, according to the user data analysis cooperation, App Annie. It is important to note that App Annie only tracks usage on Android phones and excludes statistics from China, where TikTok, locally known as Douyin, is a significant player in the app market.

The difference in watch time is even more apparent overseas, with the United Kingdom watching an average of 26 hours of TikTok content per day, compared to under 16 hours of YouTube. The gap between total watch times for the two giants is still quite large, with YouTube holding over two billion users compared to Tiktok’s seven-hundred million. However, as Jamie MacEwan of Enders Analysis explains, the part of the population that uses TikTok is largely more in-tune with the happenings of the internet, whereas “Youtube [is] getting more demographics that are comparatively light internet users.” In other words,  Youtube’s affiliation with the tech giant Google allows it to touch a wide scope of people, even if individual engagement is low.

Why may TikTok be engaging audiences at a higher level than YouTube? App Annie suggests that one factor is the app’s emphasis on live streaming. Live streaming has become a considerable part of the social media scene, with streaming services such as Twitch becoming increasingly more and more popular as the years pass by. This is great news for social media apps, as more streaming means more money spent on streamers by users. In most streaming platforms, digital currency is offered at a fixed price, which the viewer can gift to their streamer of choice. Apps such as TikTok receive a portion of that payment, leading to more apps that feature streaming prominently. Streaming accounted for three-quarters of the money spent in the top 25 social apps in the first half of 2021, according to the BBC. 

“Live-streaming is the driving growth in engagement for social apps, which sets them up for [high] consumer spending,” App Annie continues. The revenue allows more money to be spent on marketing, increasing overall audience size; streaming currency purchases thus inadvertently influence more people to join. TikTok is now the seventh most-used social media app, with approximately 689 million active users, social media management platform Hootsuite reports. Furthermore, ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, is valued by Chinese technology news portal, 36Kr, at around 425 billion dollars.

Concord Academy students seem to be no strangers to the app, and I was curious whether the above statistics applied to the community. A poll sent out of 53 students returned interesting results, with around 68 percent of students saying that they used TikTok more than YouTube, and those that did use TikTok more reported that they used it on average for one hour and fifteen minutes per day. The average TikTok user, according to Oberlo.com, spends about 52 minutes per day on the app, a number not so far off from the CA average. 

“I think TikTok is growing because it has a greater appeal to the upcoming generation. Younger kids have a shorter attention span and therefore find it easier to be enticed by something that requires less brain capacity,” commented Anni Taylor ’24. 

Natalie Samulka ’24 furthered Anni’s point, saying, “People naturally have short attention spans and a lot of short TikTok videos are easier to watch than one long YouTube video [especially in public].”

So, is short-length video the future of the internet? The BBC claims that it is false that the general population’s attention spans are shortening with the introduction of quick format video. But, there is still something to be said about the widespread introduction of these forms of media. The ease with which someone can watch these kinds of videos from beginning to end makes them appealing to the general public. Whether you are in-between classes, getting on public transportation, or even out walking, watching something only a few minutes long is much more efficient than having to split up a YouTube video into four or five separate parts. I believe that the efficiency from accessing and consuming its content is the key to TikTok’ success. If the popularity of short-form content continues to trend upward, these types of videos will be around for the long haul.