It started at the Zoo
The story of YouTube began on April 23, 2005, when a 19 second video was posted at the San Diego Zoo by cofounder, Jawed Karim, a Bangladeshi-German-American, briefly talking about the size of elephants’ trunks. A year later, the site was attracting 100M views per day. In November 2006, YouTube was purchased by Google for $1.65B. In 2018, YouTube was valued at $160B.
YouTube is now the largest online video sharing platform
YouTube is the world’s largest online video sharing platform with an astounding growth rate of more than 500 hours of uploaded video per minute. The platform attracts the second largest audience in the world (after its parent company, Google). YouTube has 2 billion monthly logged in users including 24 million Canadians. Further underscoring the platform’s growth are the number of channels with at least 1 million subscribers has doubled in the last year.
YouTube’s range of content is sprawling and unimaginably diverse - from the planet’s most popular music, to informative or inspiring how-to’s on an expansive range of topics, to entertaining and extremely quirky videos, to serious news. In all of these categories there are views that number in the billions. As this report will demonstrate, Canadian creators are influential and visible in each category on the platform.
A combination of Google public data and our research data indicates there are 160,000 Canadian YouTube creators. About 25% or approximately 40,000 channels are sufficiently successful to be in the Partner Program, meaning that they are eligible to earn revenue. As will be seen in the report, many in this new group of creative entrepreneurs are making YouTube their full-time occupation.
Just a few Canadian YouTube celebrities, all with billions of views, include music artists Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes; Lilly Singh, a lifestyle and comedic sensation who recently signed on to be a late night host on NBC for her eponymously named show A Little Late With Lilly Singh; Evan Fong (VanossGaming), a top video gaming channel and one of YouTube’s top earners; GigiGorgeous, the platform’s top transgender creator; Lewis Hilsenteger (Unbox Therapy), the platform’s top technology channel; and Gregory Brown and Mitchell Moffit (AsapSCIENCE), a top learning channel.
Some Canadian channels have become so successful they have become production studios, including WatchMojo and Super Simple Songs. Many more Canadian creators and their channels are profiled in these pages.
YouTube states their mission is to "give everyone a voice" and "show them the world", a duality that directly asserts the co-dependency of YouTube creators and consumers on the platform. As such, YouTube creators and consumers comprise the heart of YouTube.
The company cites “four central freedoms” that guide corporate decision making:
(1) Freedom of Expression
(2) Freedom of Information
(3) Freedom of Opportunity
(4) Freedom to Belong
Our report focuses on examining these claims for the purpose of assessing the values that YouTube contributes to Canada's national media ecosystem through the perspectives of Canadian YouTube creators and consumers.
The report contains two types of content: our original research findings, and contextual information about YouTube collected from public sources. The contextual information about YouTube includes nearly 25 images, and is purposed to familiarize the reader with the platform on and behind the screen.
The bulk of the report presents, describes and analyzes our research findings. Our study is anchored by quantitative and qualitative data resulting from two surveys, of both YouTube creators and consumers, with more than 1,200 and 1,500 participants respectively. In addition to over 50 charts that represent the quantitative data, the research generated more than 9,000 qualitative comments. As presented in the report, this qualitative data helps bring the quantitative findings alive.
In this study, YouTube creators are defined as they are by YouTube, as anyone who uploads a video. This service is free but requires signing up for an account and providing an email address. The act of uploading a video, whether that video is set to private or public, automatically creates a channel, defined by YouTube as simply the homepage of an account. The channel displays information such as the date launched, “about” information, and number of views - whether there are 2 views or 2 billion views, and whether the channel is monetized or not.
In this study, consumers are defined with multiple terms in consideration of the variety of ways that Canadians engage with YouTube to access content, as well as the multitude of reasons that they do so. Therefore, YouTube consumers are also referred to interchangeably as YouTube audiences, users and viewers.
YouTube is the first media space where Canadians go to learn.
Seventy percent of Canadian YouTube consumers rank YouTube as the first media space they go to learn things.
YouTube’s benefits are provided at no cost to the system.
While YouTube costs an estimated $6B+ per year to maintain, the platform is free for creators and consumers, incurring no technological or administrative cost to Canada’s media ecosystem.
The rise of the creative entrepreneur.
YouTube has facilitated the rise of a new group of 160,000 Canadian creators including 40,000 who have achieved sufficient audience traction to monetize their channels. These YouTube entrepreneurs have created nearly 28,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs for themselves and others. 15% of YouTube channels generate more than $50,000 annually in gross revenue; 12% generate $75,000 or more; 9% generate $100,000 or more; and 6% report $150,000 or more.
Diversity of creators and perspectives.
Canadians value the diversity they see on YouTube including genres, perspectives, voices, languages, geographies, genders, and ethnicities that are not as visible on other media.
ONE KEY TAKE-AWAY
For all of YouTube’s vastness and complexity, our research suggests a simple logline: YouTube plays a unique and significant role in Canada’s media ecosystem. The connection between creators and consumers goes two ways: one to global and global to one.
Since its launch fourteen years ago, YouTube, in addition to facilitating the rise of a new group of Canadian creative entrepreneurs who are inventing new forms of popular content, has resulted in significant outcomes with respect to diversity, employment, domestic popularity, global export, and global access. YouTube has achieved these results without requiring transfer of IP rights from creators (including copyright or distribution rights) and largely in the absence of public funding and its associated costs.
The report closes on a “cosmic” note. In fifteen years, YouTube has travelled from the zoo to outer space, quite literally. On the final day of his final mission, Canada’s most famous astronaut, Chris Hadfield, uploaded a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” to YouTube. The video went viral. Hadfield’s haunting, lyrical ode combines YouTube’s most popular features: science learning, music remix and above all, the authentic personal perspective that is unique to YouTube.