Jun 05 2019
YouTube is Gen Z’s cable and they’re growing up watching content you don’t understand. Gen Z is more likely to watch video content on YouTube weekly than any other platform, including cable. According to our most recent media consumption survey, 69% of 13-17-year-olds watch video content on YouTube weekly, compared to 21% who watch cable weekly. About half of Millennial parents let their kids watch free videos on YouTube weekly or more often. The fact that YouTube is Gen Z’s top entertainment source drastically changes the kind of content that they’re watching. Unregulated, privately made short-form videos for kids are their norm. According to The Atlantic, the biggest kids’ content creators today are YouTube upstarts, not traditional media companies, with channels like ChuChu TV and Billion Surprise Toys garnering billions of views for weird content.
And the videos earning huge audiences on YouTube are impacting traditional entertainment, and creating offline trends. Insight Strategy Group found that eight in ten five-to-twelve-year-olds would watch a TV show or movie featuring a YouTuber or Instagrammer they know, and over half had purchased, tested, or asked their parents for a product after learning about it on YouTube or Instagram. Of course, trends like unboxing and slime mixing originated on YouTube and have become major phenomena, sparking new types of toys, packaging, and offline experiences. Ryan ToysReview, the breakout unboxing star, recently got a greenlit Nickelodeon show. The infamous “Baby Shark” video blew up first on YouTube, and is also now going to be a TV series on Nickelodeon. Viral videos like “Johny Johny Yes Papa” are another example of the kinds of low-budget, off-beat (to put it lightly) videos that are being consumed in massive doses by the next generations. But there are many, many more genres of kid videos on YouTube that would likely surprise older viewers. Some, like kids’ ASMR videos or those strange, unregulated animated nursery rhymes, are sparking major concerns and debates. But others are flying under the radar while amassing millions of views. Often low-budget, simple, and low-tech, we found five genres of kids YouTube content that you’ve probably never heard of, but that are earning the eyes of young consumers, and potentially influencing what they want, and do, offline.
Marble racing is literally videos of marbles racing each other through obstacle courses. The basics of the action is literally in the name—yet this genre still requires quite a bit of explanation. Marble racing videos generally assign characters, like Pokémon or Marvel super heroes, or even countries, to a color of marble at the outset of the video. Some of these involve stop-motion animation introducing teams of marbles to the viewer. It is not fast-paced. Then, you watch as these marbles are set into races through courses that resemble toy race tracks, often with elimination rounds, so the video starts with a large set of marbles and race after race is completed until only a final two remain. In other words, some of these videos are not short. Entire channels are devoted to the marble racing genre. Jelle’s Marble Runs has over 400K subscribers, but their most popular videos rack up millions on millions of views. Just one example: “Marble Race: MarbleLympics 2019 Qualifiers” is almost 17 minutes long and has almost 8.5 million views. The channel Toy Racing features almost exclusively marble race content, in themes ranging from NBA players to Avengers: Endgame or Super Mario characters. Pokémon Rush creates video after video where marbles are assigned Pokémon characters (there are a lot after all) and they race. Their video “HUGE 10 Pokémon Marble Elimination Race” currently has over 1.4 million views. This is slow, simple, and (older generations will be happy to know) pretty wholesome content, which also makes it pretty unexpected.
Speaking of slow, relatively pure content, real time coloring is as simple as it gets, and yet these videos are clearly capturing young viewers in a unique way. Following a fairly uniform pattern, coloring videos generally start with a blank page, shot from above, and viewers watch as hands draw a simple outlined drawing—like you would find in a coloring book. Popular characters, like SpongeBob or Peppa Pig, are frequently featured. From there, the hands use paint, highlighters, markers, or crayons to color the drawing, and you view it all in real time or slightly sped up, as some kids’ music (like, yes, “Baby Shark”) plays in the background. The videos last from five to ten minutes, and it’s all bright, low-tech, and somehow hypnotic. How hypnotic? This “Peppa Pig Drawing & Painting Mummy Pig Sleeping Time Coloring Book & Colors For Kids Children” has earned over 41 million views since being uploaded in September of 2018. Again, entire channels, like Ali 09 Art, Voving Coloring, and Art Bee, are devoted to these coloring videos.
Type in “wrong heads” on YouTube and your results will be flooded with all of Gen Z kids’ favorite characters—and they’ll all be decapitated. Less gory than it sounds, but still unsettling, this YouTube trend involves swapping out characters’ heads (or clothes, or hair, etc.) with other characters’ bodies or random objects (like fruits or soda cans), often letting the floating head swirl around the body for a few eerie moments before it’s attached. The top videos feature PJ Masks and Paw Patrol, but the list goes on to include Disney princesses, Marvel heroes, and even photo-realistic farm animals. They’re either animated or involve toys, and most make the educational claim that they’re teaching kids to identify colors. Learn Colors For Kids’ video leads the results page with 193 million views, while similar clips from SuperToyzCollector, TinyLessonTime, and many more all bring in millions of views of their own. Like many kids’ videos on YouTube, their titles are jam-packed with search friendly terms—and they earn views accordingly. ANIMISHKA’s “Wrong Hairs Cartoon Ladybug Paw Patrol Elsa Hulk Spiderman Nursery Rhymes Song” has 10.8 million views.
Browsing through the rabbit hole of kids’ content on YouTube makes one thing clear: rainbow hues are a major draw. The learning colors genre of videos capitalizes on the inherent appeal of ROYGBIV. These videos generally feature toys, with anything from Play Doh sets to (like “Play Doh Rainbow Popsicles Ice Cream!,” with 6.7 million views), to figurines, and toy cars (like “Learn Colors with Street Vehicle and Flying Toy Car in Magic Slide Pool Pretend Play for Kids” with 110.9 million views) being used to teach colors in different, sometimes weird, ways. Sometimes, a row of glasses or bottles featuring rainbow-colored water is used, and the figurines in question change when they’re dipped into each. Often, bottles or bins full of beads—again in rainbow order—are played with to the same effect. While their titles indicate that they’re educational, for the most part, the main draw of these videos is the toys. In “Learn Colors with Pj Masks Wrong Heads, Pj Masks Balls Beads 5 Bottles Surprise Toys” (75.7 million views) colored balls are put on the top of a line of rainbow bottles until the correct color is ball matched with its correct color liquid—when it is, the liquid changes to colored beads. Then, figurines are revealed out of each bottle, lose their heads (see above for context on this), and are dipped into another series of rainbow cups until their head reappears in their corresponding color. It is as strange as it sounds, and the whole thing is accompanied by sound effects, like children’s cheers. “Learn colors With lightning Mcqueen and Friends Cars 3 Toys Pj Masks Toys Beads balls learning” features similar elements: figurines of popular characters, rainbow-colored water, and colored balls and beads, but racecars are pushed down a ramp into the water in this variation on the theme. It has 151 million views. In essence, there are a million ways that toys can be submerged in rainbow water and beads, and Gen Z kids are watching all of them.
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