DUBAI: AIR Media-Tech, a global company that works with digital-first creators and brands, has released a first-of-its-kind report surveying YouTube creators in the MENA region.
The survey was conducted during VidCon 2021 and includes 60 YouTube creators, 80 percent of whom are local creators from the region. It provides an in-depth look at their content, challenges and ways of monetization.
Despite the popularity of new platforms like TikTok, YouTube remains among the top platforms in the region. As of December 2021, there were 227,000 YouTube creators across the Gulf region — with more than half from Saudi Arabia — generating more than 13.6 billion views monthly, according to the report.
40 percent of those surveyed said they work as full-time creators, while the majority view content creation as a hobby that they combine with other work.
About 33 percent of creators said that making content is their favorite part of working on YouTube, followed by working on optimizing their videos and promoting the channel and videos.
When it comes to issues that creators face in building their channel, there are two types of challenges, Vira Slyvinska, head of global business development at AIR Media-Tech, told Arab News: Challenges related to content creation and all others.
The top four challenges for YouTube creators are developing content ideas, growing subscribers and views, gathering a team for filming and quality editing.
Other challenges include earning more money (11.1 percent), finding investments for development (8.3 percent) and analytics (8.3 percent).
Moreover, none of the creators said that building a business on YouTube comes without challenges.
Addressing content-related challenges “requires developing creators’ management skills to manage time, processes and people,” Slyvinska said.
YouTube and third-party services provide tools to track trends, top-performing creators and more, which can help creators come up with ideas for new videos, she added.
There is also an abundance of resources available online, from advice on content creation to freelance videographers and video editors, but Slyvinska said that “one needs to learn how to use these resources effectively.”
Creators can most effectively address all non-content-related challenges by working with a third-party company, she added.
“Such companies contribute to creators’ growth on YouTube and other platforms; from boosting their channel and cross-platform distribution to scaling their influence to new markets and audiences,” said Slyvinska.
As much as creators like creating and distributing content, they are also looking to monetize their channel. “The most common sources for monetization on YouTube are automated revenue streams with AdSense and direct brand integrations into videos,” Slyvinska added.
However, revenues are highly dependent on the content niche and audience geography, which means that creators constantly need to grow their audience to increase their income, which is a key challenge.
The top way of additional monetization for creators seems to be launching their own brand or merchandise (20 percent), followed by content distribution to other platforms (17.1 percent) and working with brands (17.1 percent).
There are several monetization opportunities for creators, said Slyvinska. These include active usage of alternative monetization tools provided by YouTube, such as channel memberships, Super Chat, Super Stickers, content translation and localization into other languages, exporting content from YouTube to other platforms for monetization, and selling digital and physical goods to communities of YouTube fans.
As creators look to build their fan bases and content niches, they find themselves in need of investment. Only 22 percent have ever received any investment for channel development, but a massive 90 percent would like to receive some investment.
There are creator funds that exist to support the content ecosystem on social media platforms — both by the platform itself and independent companies.
For example, AIR Media-Tech created the AIR Investment fund to help promising creators grow their audience globally and monetize it in new ways. The fund provides support in one of three ways: An investment of up to $5,000 for channel development; up to $20,000 to launch a customized app or game and monetize it; and up to $25,000 to go global with a creator’s current content by launching additional channels with translated and localized content.
It is, however, critical for platforms to invest in the creator ecosystem themselves.
Slyvinska said: “We live in an era of fierce competition for human attention, and all digital platforms compete with each other for audience’s attention. Thus, interacting with their communities to ensure that the best talent in the world remains active on the platform and fuels it with brilliant content is crucial for YouTube.”
She added: “There should always be aggressive marketing from YouTube so nobody has any doubts that it’s the number one platform for videos, even when new platforms appear.”
An important part of YouTube’s marketing efforts should be direct investments in young creators, said Slyvinska, adding that the more financially substantial these investments are, the more loyal creators will be to the platform.