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Digiday+ Research deep dive: YouTube investments pay off for publishers’ brands, revenues

YouTube content can often be a heavy lift, but sometimes that lift is worth it. In this final installment of Digiday+ Research’s deep dive into how publishers are using social media platforms, we’re covering how publishers are investing time and money on YouTube — and how that’s translating to their revenues and brands.

Digiday asked 72 publisher professionals earlier this summer about how they use YouTube and found that there was a big jump in the number of publishers who post regularly on YouTube over last year. In 2022, 83% of respondents said their titles posted content on the platform in the last month, compared with just 67% in 2021.

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Despite the jump in publishers who said they post regularly on YouTube, though, Digiday’s survey found that the frequency with which respondents are posting on the platform has remained relatively flat. However, among the 83% of publishers who use YouTube, most are posting on YouTube once a week or more; The same percentage (83%) said their titles post content on the video platform every day or at least once a week. Fewer than one-fifth post only once a month.

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When it comes to investing in original content, publishers are spending the most on YouTube content — which makes sense when you think about the nature of the platform. The highest percentage of respondents to Digiday’s survey (29%) said they make a significant investment in creating original content for YouTube, compared with 26% each on Meta platforms Facebook and Instagram, 19% on TikTok and 13% on Twitter. And the number of publishers who are spending a lot on original YouTube content is inching up: Last year 26% of respondents said they invest a lot in creating original content for the platform.

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A slightly lower percentage (25%) of publishers said their titles purchased advertising on YouTube in the past month. This number is well below Facebook and Instagram, where 75% and 46% of publishers are buying ads, respectively, and well above TikTok, where only 10% of publishers are buying ads. It is on par with Twitter, where 26% of respondents to Digiday’s survey said they’ve bought ads in the past month.

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Publishers’ investments in original content and advertising on YouTube is potentially paying off: 15% of respondents to Digiday’s survey said the platform is extremely valuable to driving their titles’ revenues, compared with only 7% last year. However, YouTube has fallen among publishers who consider it to be somewhat valuable or valuable to driving revenues. This year, 19% of respondents said the platform is valuable to driving revenues for their titles, down from 26% last year, while 25% said it’s somewhat valuable, down from 30% last year.

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As we’ve learned in past Digiday+ Research deep dives, social platforms’ real value to publishers lies in brand-building — and Digiday’s survey found YouTube is no different. In fact, YouTube’s value to building titles’ brands is on the rise: This year 57% of respondents said YouTube is valuable or extremely valuable for brand-building, up from 52% last year. Meanwhile, very few publishers said the platform has little or no value when it comes to brand-building. Only 6% of respondents said YouTube is not very valuable to building their titles’ brands, which is actually down from 14% last year, and only 4% said it’s not valuable at all, which is the same percentage from last year’s survey.

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And YouTube’s brand-appropriateness is on the rise, as far as publishers are concerned: 54% of respondents to Digiday’s survey said YouTube is appropriate for their titles’ brands, up from 41% last year. Meanwhile, publishers who said the platform is only somewhat brand-appropriate fell from 21% last year to 14% this year. Additionally, not one respondent to this year’s survey said YouTube is not appropriate at all for their titles’ brands.

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