Latin American media use YouTube Shorts to increase views, monetize and reach new audiences

A few years ago, recording a video vertically was unthinkable for audiovisual purists. However, currently, all the main social networks such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube have a specific space for vertical video, the format made for mobile.

The main digital media in Latin America have not been left behind. Outlets such as El Universal and Excelsior from Mexico, Metrópoles from Brazil, La Nación from Argentina and El Tiempo from Colombia, which have millions of subscribers on YouTube, publish several short videos a day adding up to thousands of views.

In September 2020, YouTube launched YouTube Shorts, vertical videos with a maximum duration of one minute. This space emerged as a counterpart to the increasingly popular TikTok or Instagram reels.

“YouTube Shorts is a way for anyone to connect with a new audience using just a smartphone and the Shorts camera in the YouTube app,” the platform explained during its launch. “We are always testing new ways to get content to users.”

Argentine publication La Nación has 2.5 million subscribers on its YouTube channel and publishes an average of 40 YouTube Shorts daily. Some of these short videos exceed one million views. La Nación's most popular YouTube Short is an emotional reunion between a Ukrainian soldier and his grandmother, with 36 million views.  

screenshot Youtube channel

Argentina's La Nación has 2.5 million subscribers to its YouTube channel and publishes an average of 40 YouTube Shorts per day (Photo: Screenshot).

“We started publishing short videos on YouTube a year and a half ago, with special focus on the last year and for us it meant a significant amount of views. Shorts today represent a third of our total views,” Matías Boela, coordinator of digital audiovisual strategy at La Nación, told LatAm Journalism Review (LJR).

Smaller, independent media outlets have also joined the YouTube Shorts wave. La Encerrona from Peru, El Pitazo from Venezuela and 14ymedio from Cuba are exploring this space to connect with the audience.


Monetization and subscriptions


YouTube Shorts, according to data shared by the platform, attract more than 30 billion daily visits.

“In general, Shorts have more reach and more views than traditional videos. They are also monetizing very well,” Javier Melero, head of audiovisuals at El Pitazo in Venezuela, told LJR.

Just like horizontal YouTube videos, channels can also monetize their YouTube Shorts. To do this, the channel must have at least 1,000 subscribers with 4,000 hours of valid public views in the last year or 1,000 subscribers with 10 million public views of Shorts in the last 90 days.

Earnings from these videos depend on the number of views. According to YouTube, creators earn 45% of all advertising revenue, but how much they earn will depend on geographic location and use of background music. YouTube distributes profits between creators and music licensing costs.

El Pitazo started publishing YouTube Shorts just a year ago and its videos earn thousands of views. The YouTube Short with the most views published so far on its channel is an explanation of what government aid is provided by the government of Nicolás Maduro. It has more than 100,000 views.

This independent Venezuelan media outlet has suffered multiple blocks to its website, so through YouTube it gained a window to connect with its audience. 


However, in 2021 the publication suffered a blocking of its account by YouTube for having violated content publication rules. El Pitazo said that the content in question was journalistically relevant.

“Content policies should have a different application in the case of news because sometimes you have to report information about violence or abuse,” Melero said.

Melero said the blockage lasted a little over a month and affected El Pitazo’s growth on the platform.

“We may allow the kinds of violent or graphic content in some cases in educational, documentary, scientific, or artistic content, but this context must appear in the images or audio of the video itself. Providing it in the title or description is insufficient,” YouTube spokesperson Fabi Fróes told LJR.

Despite the success with monetization, the El Pitazo team has not seen similar results with its subscription numbers. 

“It is too early to know if Shorts are the best option to gain subscribers. What continues to work best for us are the serials, that is, the serialized content that people know they are going to see again and subscribe so as not to miss the next episode,” Melero explained.

In the case of the digital media outlet La Encerrona in Peru, YouTube is the main platform for disseminating the newscast it produces. The team started creating vertical videos shortly after the launch of YouTube Shorts and they had success in terms of views and subscriber growth. The short videos started to become so popular that views of its long horizontal videos ended up decreasing.

One of its most viewed Shorts is the first it published, a trailer for the newscast. It has 184,000 views.


“With YouTube Shorts we even had the feeling that, in some way, we were competing against ourselves. That is to say, the Shorts were competing against the 'normal' program and that has caused us to give them [Shorts] a break. If you notice, we have uploaded very few," Marco Sifuentes, director of La Encerrona, told LJR.


Video recycling

At La Encerrona, there is no distinction between short videos for YouTube, Instagram or TikTok, the latter two being where they currently focus. The material is reused on the different platforms and with this they break the trend that recommends making different content for each platform.

And that is the Encerrona style. The short newscasts of between 15 and 20 minutes that the team publishes from Monday to Friday are also sent – without changes – to all its distribution platforms: YouTube, Whatsapp, Facebook, Telegram, Spotify. The only change is that, in some cases, video is the format, and in others, it’s only audio.

“What we have done, in reality, is a reengineering of the second block of the program, which is the headlines. We have readapted those headlines so that they can later be cut up and converted into several Shorts, reels or TikToks,” Sifuentes said.

El Pitazo also “recycles” its material. Most of its Shorts are fragments of its longer videos.

“For example, an interview that is published completely on networks is later transformed into a Short because it is a good video clip,” Melero said.

La Nación uses a combination of recycling videos and producing content specifically for YouTube Shorts.

“In terms of production and distribution, YouTube Shorts at La Nación are considered just another channel. YouTube is no longer just traditional horizontal video," Boela said.

“This format has been fundamental because it has also allowed us to seek new audiences. The people who watch the Shorts have a lower average age than those who watch the rest of the videos, so the YouTube Shorts have not only allowed us to grow but also to create and reach new audiences.”