A YouTube creator gained nearly 3 million subscribers from short videos as the platform looks to compete with TikTok

  • YouTube is slowly rolling out a TikTok-like feature for short vertical videos: Shorts.
  • Jake Fellman has gained nearly 3 million YouTube subscribers from posting short videos.
  • But short YouTube videos have been hard to make money from because of limited ad revenue opportunities. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Short videos have made Jake Fellman a YouTube star.

Fellman, who also has a substantial following on TikTok, has gained nearly 3 million subscribers on YouTube since he began posting short vertical videos to the platform in September. He makes 3D modeling and animation videos, most of them about the popular online game Among Us.

Fellman told Insider that his videos gained popularity suddenly, as YouTube began quietly boosting short-form videos in late 2020 as a way to promote a new feature called “Shorts,” a TikTok rival the platform is slowly rolling out.

“I uploaded all of my most popular TikTok videos to YouTube and if you look at the analytics for my first YouTube Shorts, there’s a solid month before they even had any viewership at all,” Fellman said. “But then, one day, something in the YouTube algorithm kicked in and then the videos went from zero to a couple million views.” 

His channel saw a huge spike in viewership after the vertical videos he posted with “#Shorts” in the title were picked up by the algorithm.

Fellman’s experience embodies what it’s like to be a short-form YouTube creator as the platform leans into the format. He has the feature to thank for his viral success (his most viewed YouTube video has over 122 million views), but it’s still unclear whether he can earn a sustainable income off these videos.

“I maybe get enough money from YouTube each month to pay for my rent and food, but not much more than that,” he said. “The subscribers are payment enough for me at this point since I’ve only been a serious content creator for a couple of months.”

While the full Shorts feature hasn’t launched in the US yet, some elements have been implemented as a beta test to the YouTube app, like a shelf of short videos that appears in a section on the homepage and under videos. One likely reason why Fellman’s YouTube income is not in line with some other YouTubers with millions of subscribers is that videos viewed on the Shorts “shelf” don’t get ads or generate subscription revenue. 

YouTube has been testing the feature officially in India, where it has added a short-form video creation tool and camera to the YouTube app. Fellman said the majority of his YouTube audience is based in India, and about 10% of his viewership comes from the US.

Finding success on YouTube and his plans to build a larger business

Fellman uses his 2019 MacBook Pro and the computer software, Autodesk Maya, to animate videos. 

“It takes me the whole day,” he said. “I wake up, pour coffee, and then spend the whole day making one.”

He downloaded TikTok in 2019 to market his freelance graphic design business. After studying what videos performed well on the app, his account began to grow, and after a year into downloading the app he passed one million followers. That’s when he decided to expand into other platforms, like YouTube. 

He has since pivoted to social-media creation full time, and earns money on TikTok from the Creator Fund and a few brand sponsorships, he said.

Typically, a creator with nearly 3 million subscribers on YouTube can earn a lucrative income from brand sponsorships and from the ads placed in their videos through YouTube’s Partner Program. Fellman’s experience is different, however, because the bulk of his 1.7 billion YouTube views come from the Shorts shelf, which doesn’t earn any ad revenue.

Still, his YouTube earnings aren’t zero. About 10% of his channel’s views come from outside the shelf, which has allowed him to earn some money directly from the platform, he said.

For now, Fellman said he is focused on growing his audience. He said he eventually plans to monetize his channel by selling direct-to-consumer merchandise branded with his own intellectual property, like animated characters he creates that aren’t linked to a larger brand.

“For the next two months, at least, it’s going to be more Among Us content,” he said of his YouTube channel. “Then maybe six months down the road it changes to Minecraft or some other video game content or trend. Right now, nobody knows my name or brand, so I’m using the trend of Among Us, and then I’ll lasso onto the trend of Minecraft until I have the audience that is willing to watch me for my content.”

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