YouTube Shorts vs. TikTok: Which is better?

With viewership of short-form videos on the rise, creators are shifting to shorter content, but which of the two leading platforms is better?

With short-form video content racking up views across various platforms, creators can’t ignore the format, even if they’re established doing longer forms of content. Short-form video, such as the kind seen on TikTok and YouTube Shorts, is still relatively new, but it has proven popular because the videos are easy to consume, and the algorithm makes it hard to put them down. More importantly for creators, though, is that while shorter videos require less production, they can still perform well and generate ad revenue. Several short videos uploaded per day could generate as many views as one long-form video released each week, making the short-form video format more lucrative.

Whether you’re an established video creator or looking to dip your toe in the water for the first time, you’ll have to decide which platform is better for you. Considering how bad things are going for Instagram Reels at the moment, that leaves two options. TikTok has only been around for a little over half a decade, but it’s amassed a staggering number of users with its revolutionary algorithm. However, YouTube Shorts is a newcomer that has the full backing of YouTube, tapping into billions of users and taking advantage of YouTube’s established platform. Either platform is a good choice, but with creators feeling burnt out more than ever, dividing your time between two platforms isn’t viable or healthy long term.

Creator Experience

You may decide which platform is right based on how easy it is to use. A smooth user experience and easy-to-understand features are especially important if you don’t have experience producing videos. A solid user experience is also valuable for veteran creators who may be transitioning from other apps or editing software. 

TikTok

Both platforms are best suited for use on phones because they display videos in a 9:16 aspect ratio, which is also known as vertical or portrait format. While it’s possible to upload 16:9 videos — also known as horizontal or landscape format — it’s not the preferred way to do things, and some viewers may find it offputting. Rather than crop footage to adhere to the vertical aspect ratio, it’s best to shoot vertical videos natively on a phone. Both platforms’ apps will let you shoot and edit video within the app, making it the easiest way to work. But where things differ is the editing tools. 

TikTok’s app is packed with editing features that give you the option to truly personalize your videos and show off your creative talent. TikTok has myriad effects, such as AI filters, that you can implement as you shoot, and the editing page gives you access to even more. You can adjust clip length, add smart captions, or apply transitions and other visual effects to spice up your videos. There are options for audio as well, allowing you to pick from a huge selection of music or sounds created by other users.

Additionally, TikTok’s Duet format is unique, allowing you to record a new clip alongside another clip, which is done to react to or comment on an existing video. It’s like the video version of Twitter’s quote retweet function, and it’s the perfect vehicle for those with an opinion. Stitch is another unique feature; it lets you use a selected portion of another user’s video for your video. 

You can shoot and edit a video with the TikTok app, but you can also import videos from your phone. You can upload a completed video that you edited on another app, or you can upload multiple clips to TikTok and use the app to edit. This gives you access to all of TikTok’s tools without forcing you to use your phone’s camera to shoot video. For example, you could import clips from a mirrorless or action camera to your phone and edit them on TikTok. 

TikTok is meant for the phone, whether you’re a viewer or a creator, but that doesn’t mean you have to use your phone. TikTok is also available on a desktop via the browser or desktop app, and you can use either desktop version to upload videos. While you won’t have access to any of TikTok’s editing or shooting features, this is the ideal way to upload content if you’re editing videos on your desktop — it cuts out the hassle of exporting from desktop to phone. 

YouTube Shorts

YouTube also lets you upload shorts via its desktop browser version, but it requires a workaround. When uploading to Shorts, videos can’t be longer than 60 seconds, and you have to put “#shorts” in the title so YouTube can recognize it and promote it as a Short. Though hardly intuitive, it at least gives you access to uploading from your computer. However, the mobile app is much easier to use. 

The YouTube app is also home to YouTube Shorts. Similar to TikTok, you can shoot and edit videos from the app and upload clips from your phone’s storage. But where TikTok goes all in on effects, YouTube offers a much more pared-back experience. You can still trim clips, add sound and text, and apply some simple filters, but don’t expect any of TikTok’s AI effects. YouTube Shorts is also missing the Duet and Stitch features that have become so popular on TikTok. 

YouTube Shorts isn’t a bad platform; it simply lacks many of the features TikTok creators have become accustomed to. If you’re relying on your phone for shooting and editing video, only one app has all the tools you need, and that’s TikTok. However, the upside is that YouTube seems committed to Shorts for now, and is adding new features

Audience Reach 

Creating content doesn’t need to be a career. It can be a hobby that you pour your creativity into. That can be reason enough to get in front of a camera and upload videos. But if you plan on turning content creation into a side hustle or a full-time job, you need to reach your audience. 

TikTok

TikTok’s “for you page,” abbreviated to FYP, is the result of an algorithm that knows you well enough to deliver the content you want — and sometimes even the content you didn’t know you wanted. With a never-ending feed that’s nearly impossible to put down, you can rest assured your video will end up on somebody’s page. Last year, TikTok announced it had a billion users, so it’s safe to say TikTok has a wide reach. 

The platform’s high user count could mean a high likelihood of exposure, but TikTok’s algorithm is fickle. If people don’t engage with your video by liking, commenting, or viewing it all the way, TikTok makes your video a lower priority. And when it’s a lower priority, it shows up less and less in other users’ “for you page,” driving engagement down even more. It’s a catch-22. Sometimes you put out a video at the right time, and it gets put in front of the right people; other times, it doesn’t.

But things like hashtags can help you target the right audience. And Duet and Stitch could drive engagement by using your video as a source. A newer feature called “repost” lets viewers share the video with their followers, which is similar to a retweet — the reposted video will not show up on the user’s upload page. 

With more and more users on TikTok, standing out can be hard to do. But it’s not impossible to find your audience. While TikTok dances and a revolving door of trends do well on the platform, smaller creators with a unique skill or in-depth knowledge of a subject can do just as well. 

Original content
The best way to find your audience is by making original content. (Image via Freepik)

YouTube

Earlier this year, YouTube announced Shorts had hit 1.5 billion logged-in users per month, putting it on an even plane with TikTok, which many believe hit the same number this year. Considering that the platform is only two years old, it wouldn’t be wrong to say the rise of YouTube Shorts has been meteoric. A recent analysis of YouTube Shorts shows that Shorts now make up 57% of YouTube’s overall views — a long way from the paltry 11% logged only two years ago. YouTube’s bet on Shorts has paid off, and they’re now looking to expand the platform further by bringing it to the living room via YouTube’s TV apps.

The quick growth of YouTube Shorts is due in part to its relationship to an established platform. While TikTok worked its way up from zero, YouTube Shorts started out on YouTube, a platform that’s been around since the mid-2000s and has a built-in viewership in the billions. But more than that, YouTube’s parent company, Alphabet, has put Shorts in front of more eyeballs. YouTube Shorts appear in Google searches, and Google Discovery, which is built into Android devices and delivers curated content to users.

However, if you’re deciding between the two, YouTube is the better choice because it offers creators room to expand into other formats. You can create long-form videos on YouTube and stream via YouTube Live. And while TikTok allows videos up to 10 minutes in length and has a live function, YouTube does both things better, and it has an established platform with tools, such as metrics, that are incredibly useful.

Instead of trying to transition from TikTok to YouTube — a move that many followers won’t make with you — you can keep your YouTube Shorts followers as you branch out into newer formats. Conversely, creators who already have a following creating long-form YouTube videos or streaming can use Shorts as an alternative way to engage followers. A feature added this year allows YouTube creators to cut longer videos into Shorts. 

Monetization

Anybody with a phone can make a video and upload it to TikTok or YouTube Shorts; that doesn’t mean it’ll make money. To generate revenue, you first have to qualify for monetization, which differs by platform.

TikTok

On TikTok, monetization is a bit confusing, but all you have to know is that the primary source of revenue for creators comes from the TikTok Creator Fund. The fund was started in 2020 and promised to pay out $200 million to creators — TikTok plans to expand the fund to $1 billion within the next few years. Creators can receive payouts from the fund only after they have qualified.

Access to the fund requires that creators be at least 18 years old and located in the U.S. TikTok also requires creators to be in good standing with the community guidelines and the terms of service — TikTok says minor violations will not disqualify you. That’s not so bad, but the next part is: creators need at least 10,000 followers and at least 100,000 views in the last 30 days to qualify for the fund. 

Although the creator fund is the biggest source of income for most creators, there are other ways to monetize on TikTok. The creator marketplace, for example, pairs creators with brands to produce branded content. And features such as video gifts, LIVE gifts, and tips allow viewers to reward creators directly. To access these additional methods of monetization, TikTok requires users to be part of the Creator Next program, which creators can apply to through the app. Qualifying for this program isn’t as demanding, but creators will still need a minimum number of followers to access the monetization features. Live gifts, for example, only require 1,000 followers, while tips and video gifts require 100,000 followers.  

With multiple hoops to jump through, making money on TikTok won’t happen overnight. And even then, top TikTok creators have complained that payouts are low and becoming increasingly lower. 

YouTube

YouTube Shorts has a $100 million creator fund. It’s not as big as TikTok’s, but there are fewer hoops to jump through to access the fund. YouTube states that Shorts creators can receive payouts between $100 and $10,000 from the creator fund per month, a distinction that TikTok fails to make. To access the fund, YouTube requires users only be 13 years of age and live in an eligible country. Following the community guidelines is also required.

The only other requirement is uploading a short in the last 180 days. If creators get enough views, YouTube will send out a notification for payment via email or the app. Creators will have to accept YouTube’s terms and create an AdSense account to get paid, which should occur between the 21st and 26th of the month — creators have until the 25th of the month to claim the payment.

Qualifying for YouTube’s Shorts Creator Funds is almost too easy. It’s so easy that YouTube says “over 40 percent of creators who got a check from the Fund last year weren’t previously monetizing their content on YouTube.” Still, the creator fund is only one way to monetize YouTube Shorts. Starting this year, YouTube is planning to add several new ways to monetize, like Super Chat. The Super Chat feature allows viewers to highlight their comments by paying money, which goes to the creator. YouTube is also making BrandConnnect available to Shorts creators, giving them an opportunity to work with brands to create branded content. Another feature planned for this year will allow viewers to shop directly from Shorts, putting money in creators’ pockets whenever viewers buy a product mentioned in the video.

Whereas TikTok puts obstacle after obstacle when it comes to monetizing content, YouTube, in comparison, leaves the door wide open and accepts all takers. And with more opportunities to earn money from Shorts being added, it seems that YouTube’s platform has a lot more to offer to creators going forward.

TikTok or YouTube? 

Picking between the two should be much easier after reviewing how creators can reach audiences and monetize content. While TikTok has the upper hand in creating content within the app, YouTube’s more established presence is better for creators who may want to branch out into new formats in the future. Additionally, the Shorts Creator Fund is more easily accessible, and it rewards creators with smaller followings.

Still, the choice is up to you. Do you pick TikTok because you think it’ll prove better in the long term, or do you go to YouTube, which seems the better option right now? Or, maybe you decide to split your time until one becomes the clear winner. Whatever your choice may be, you already made one choice that matters more: choosing to create short-form content. It’s where content creation is headed.


Cover image via Freepik.

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Alejandro Medellin

Alejandro is a freelance writer who covers the intersection between consumer technology and fields such as content creation, video production, and video games. He has bylines in Input, Crunchyroll/Funimation, The Inventory, UploadVR, and more. Cooking and spending too much money on books/manga/graphics novels are his passions.

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