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Is Your Channel Prepared? The Biggest Changes On YouTube in 2021

2020 has been a crazy year - not only for the world but for YouTube creators as well. COPPA alone shook the community and made people think: should I keep making videos? Definitely yes! Stay tuned because there are a bunch of exciting features coming to YouTube next year.

Let's dive in and learn which new features, rules, and trends you should be aware of in 2021 if you have a YouTube channel.

The Biggest Changes On YouTube In 2021

These are the top 7 biggest changes happening on YouTube in 2021:

  1. Changes to YouTube video monetization
  2. YouTube video chapters are gaining more strength
  3. YouTube shorts are expanding to the rest of the world
  4. The subscriber count is losing its importance
  5. YouTube gives viewers more choice
  6. Increasing focus on mobile creators
  7. New features in YouTube Studio

#1 Changes to YouTube video monetization

In 2020, to earn money on YouTube, you needed to apply for and be accepted into the YouTube Partner Program (YPP). This meant that certain requirements should also be met. To qualify for monetization, your channel had to have at least 4,000 hours of watch time within the last year and at least 1,000 subscribers.This policy went into effect at the beginning of 2018 and was another way for YouTube to prioritize watch time (as opposed to view count, which was the platform’s previous focus).Watch time is the total number of hours users have spent watching your channel’s videos. Since YouTube ultimately wants to keep users on the platform for as long as possible, watch time has become more and more valuable to creators.

youtube business model

However, YouTube is changing their terms of services for 2021 meaning that soon creators can monetize channels outside the YouTube Partner Program. A new monetization process is already available in the US - the rest of the world will get access in 2021.Essentially, YouTube is going to place ads on videos of YouTubers that are not in their partner program.What’s the catch? The revenue of these videos will entirely go to YouTube and will not be shared with the creator. A lot of creators in YPP are expecting CPMs to drop even though YouTube said that this is “very unlikely” to happen. But we know that unlikely is of course not impossible.

#2 YouTube video chapters are gaining more strength

Chapters, introduced in 2019, break up your YouTube video into sections, each with an individual preview. These chapters can help viewers by giving more info and context and by allowing them to rewatch different parts of the video.

youtube chapters progress bar

Video Chapters are automatically generated based on timestamps you enter in the video description and will show in the video progress bar (aka the “video scrubber bar”) below your video. If you want to learn more about chapters, check out our guide here.In 2021 more and more new features will be introduced. One of the most exciting things is that chapters are shown on Google when a video is recommended. Users can navigate through video parts directly there and skip to the part of interest.

youtube chapters google serp

There are also some experiments and A/B testing happening, for example, automatically placing chapters in videos so the creator does not need to do it manually.Another thing that is currently being worked on is timestamp usability. The most common reason why chapters don’t work - creators don’t insert them correctly. In our chapters guide, we’ve gathered the most common mistakes when it comes to timestamps formatting.

#3 YouTube shorts are expanding to the rest of the world

Following Instagram’s release of Reels, YouTube has recently launched a new short-form video creator called YouTube Shorts. Shorts are short videos (15 seconds or less) that can be created on mobile phones and uploaded directly on YouTube.

“Shorts is a new short-form video experience for creators and artists who want to shoot short, catchy videos using nothing but their mobile phones.”YouTube Official Blog

YouTube Shorts is now being compared to the leading short-form video app TikTok. However, Shorts have a clear advantage: 2 billion users which are more than both TikTok and Instagram combined. Moreover, there is a possibility to monetize the video creation process on YouTube.The monetization feature is still missing in TikTok and Instagram Reels which might attract more creators to Shorts.

youtube shorts showcase

Shorts were only available in India this year. Users in the rest of the world could still get their videos to appear in the “shorts” section by adding hashtag #Shorts to the video title and description. 2021 can be the year when Shorts are rolled out to the rest of the world.

#4 The subscriber count is losing its importance

At the time when YouTube was still a “blue ocean” and the number of creators was relatively small, it was easy to find and choose the content you like. However, this has changed over the years. A massive amount of videos and creators made it hard, on one side, for new channels to get discovered, on another side, for viewers to discover new content.

buy subscribers

As a reaction to this growing problem, YouTube tries to filter and recommend videos more and more algorithmically. Most viewers don’t watch in their subscription feed but on the homepage that’s why YouTube is thinking about sorting the subscription feed to make it easier to navigate.What does this mean for creators? More focus on click-through-rates and view durations, less focus on subscribers. Big channels with bad videos get way less attention and small channels with great videos are promoted by the algorithm.

#5 YouTube gives viewers more choice

Video Categories

You’ve might already seen the video categories on the home page. YouTube breaks down different topics and types of videos that you watch regularly e.g. Gaming, Photography, or Piano, but also Live, Recently uploaded, or “Good for listening”.

Video categories

Currently, this feature is available only in the English version. Hopefully, the video category feature will be rolling out to more languages next year (as this is a current focus of YouTube).


YouTube tries to not only use quantitative analytics data to improve UX but also qualitative one. How? By asking "Did you enjoy the video?" after a viewer watched a video.What does this mean for creators? The same thing as always: make good videos that people enjoy watching!

Reporting bad ads

This is a feature that was rolled out by YouTube on mobile only. The ability to report bad ads is another way to give the viewers more control over their experience.

#6 Increasing focus on mobile creators

Facts: more people watch YouTube on mobile than on desktop, and more and more creators shoot and manage their whole channel on mobile!

“More than 70% of YouTube watch time comes from mobile devices.”YouTube

YouTube Studio app is still missing a lot of features compared to the desktop. For example, editing metadata, sort functions, real-time analytics, and dark mode were only added in October.

“With a global community of two billion people on YouTube, we’re always looking for ways to make it easier to watch and interact with your favorite videos.”YouTube Official Blog

We can definitely expect even more features to be added next year.

#7 New features in YouTube Studio

We saw the introduction of many new metrics in the analytic part of YouTube Studio in 2020:

  • The time when your viewers are on YouTube
  • Other videos your audience watched
  • Key moments for audience retention

Most features are now in the new YouTube Studio and you can notice that YouTube puts more effort into developing brand new features. We are very excited to see what is going to be added next year.I hope this article was helpful to you. If you have any further questions, leave them in the comment section down below👇🏼 .

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