DUBAI: Unveiled at Cannes Lions this year, YouTube’s Culture and Trends Report explores the viewership, content and creative trends that have emerged around the world over the past year.
The recurring theme throughout the report is the growth of video. This is no surprise given that consumption of all forms of content grew significantly during the pandemic. However, YouTube’s report found that video has increasingly become indispensable, primarily as a form of connection, with 68 percent in Saudi Arabia and 70 percent in Egypt agreeing that they have used YouTube to help feel connected with others during the past year.
“Video has become a common language that helps meet our evolving need for connection,” Abdu Hussein, Culture and Trends lead, Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Google, told Arab News.
In the region, there are three key learnings:
1. Shared culture creates connection
Connection was a prominent theme that emerged, with creators finding different ways of tapping into shared cultural experiences.
A popular trend was the dialect challenge, where creators from different parts of the region tried to guess terms specific to other dialects. Uploads of videos with the Arabic form of “dialect challenge” grew by over 140 percent from 2019 to 2020.
The most meaningful example, however, was of “acts of giving,” which was a common theme for creators not just during Ramadan, but also throughout the year.
Many creators took to livestreaming fundraisers, which made viewers feel like they were part of the process. In fact, 52 percent of Saudis and 50 percent of Egyptians agreed that watching creators’ or artists’ livestreams made them feel connected to other people.
The cultural attachment and connection remained strong regardless of geography. Of the top 100 most-subscribed Arabic-speaking creators in MENA, over 25 percent are based outside the region. Their content, however, is culturally relevant, which is reflected through their language, sensibilities and interests.
2. Ramadan is the epitome of shared culture
Content around Ramadan serves as a microcosm for the various ways connection can be actualized, the report stated.
A recurring theme across gaming videos was the digital recreation of Ramadan within a virtual game world. Within those virtual reenactment videos were videos titled “Ramadan Craft,” alluding to related videos within the world of Minecraft.
In this format, the creator starts a daily Minecraft adventure series in Ramadan, often exploring the in-game world alongside fans with the intention of creating episodes — rather than one-off videos — to emulate the style of the TV shows that are popular during Ramadan.
The fresh spin on Ramadan goes beyond the usual family and food videos and into a new genre that is both interactive and immersive.
3. Immersive videos encourage togetherness
The report suggested that moving forward, video culture is entering a space in which videos will create and maintain a sense of connection through immersive experiences rather than simply one-way viewing.
An example of this is the multiplayer game “Among Us,” videos of which racked up over 1 billion views in 2020. The game brings together real-life players — whether they are in the same room or on different continents — in a virtual space. While streams of the game were already popular on YouTube, creators took it to the next level by recreating the game in real life.
Video’s evolution as a form of connection is why “we are seeing more people turning to livestreamed, immersive and relatable content on YouTube to find that sense of togetherness, whether in MENA or beyond,” said Hussein.
“There is an opportunity for brands and creatives to connect more deeply with their audiences by tapping into this culture of connection and interaction,” he added.