Skip to content

Long-Form TikTok: YouTube Challenger or Identity Crisis?

TikTok, the platform that made 15-second videos a global obsession, is now flirting with the idea of 60-minute uploads. Will it stick?

Photo by Rubaitul Azad / Unsplash

In 2023, YouTube was the most widely used online platform measured in Pew Research's survey. Roughly eight-in-ten U.S. adults (83%) reported ever using the platform. Meanwhile, TikTok usage stood at 33% of U.S. adults, up 12% from 2021. Pretty impressive, considering all the attempts to shut it down and regulatory scrutiny. But what's different on YouTube that TikTok doesn't have? Longer videos.

The app allowed users to upload 15-second videos at launch, but TikTok has been increasing that limit over the past few years. First, it was a minute. Then three. Then ten. Fifteen. Thirty. An hour… While the company rose to popularity for its short-form video format, it's slowly been embracing long-form content to take on one of its biggest competitors.

But longer videos mean more than just competing with YouTube. It's a shot at streaming giants too. TikTok's already full of show snippets. Give users full episodes, and Netflix might start sweating. The question is: will users and creators be onboard with this?

The Platform Tug-of-War: A History of "Inspired" Features

TikTok and YouTube have been playing copycat for years.

Back in 2022 YouTube, feeling the pressure from TikTok's popularity, launched "Shorts" as a direct response to TikTok's growing influence. YouTube even began offering financial incentives to short-form creators, a clear attempt to lure talent from its competitor.

Now, in 2024, TikTok's playing the “long” game. They're pushing creators to make longer, horizontal videos to get paid more.

But YouTube's not backing down. In 2024 they launched "Collab" for Shorts. It's like TikTok's duets, but with a YouTube flavor. And now they announced adding music video remixing to Shorts right when UMG went silent on TikTok.

So, who's winning this digital tug-of-war? In 2024, TikTok users are expected to spend 55 minutes per day on the app. That's 5 minutes more than YouTube. But in this game, tomorrow's another day. And another feature to copy.

But all this back-and-forth is giving creators a whiplash. According to Isla Moon, a travel influencer, it’s becoming increasingly challenging for creators to keep up with ever-changing social media platforms: “Creators are left scrambling to figure out each platform's algorithms, which seem to change every few months. It also seems that each platform wants a piece of every pie. It used to be one platform per type of content. For example, Instagram was for photos, YouTube for long-form videos, and TikTok for short-form videos. But today, creators must post all styles of content across almost all social media apps. On the one hand, this is great, as it allows us to reach a bigger audience on each platform, but it does come with downsides."

Viewing Experience Puzzle

TikTok built its empire on short attention spans. Fifteen seconds of dopamine-fueled scrolling. Rinse. Repeat. Now, they want us to sit still for 60 minutes? Good luck with that.

And it's not just about attention spans. It's about the whole viewing experience. TikTok's built for vertical viewing. You know, like how normal people hold their phones. And while there were promoting horizontal uploads it’s not that simple. Isla Moon explains the headache: "I spend a lot of time creating long-form YouTube content, which is already hard to repurpose on TikTok due to conversion issues when it comes to switching landscape video to portrait. This makes creating content for all platforms very hard, as the formats required are different. This will be the same case for the 60-minute long-form TikTok content. TikTok does allow you to publish landscape videos now, but they have to be viewed by flipping your phone around. In my experience in testing this feature, I tend to get far fewer views on landscape videos than on portrait ones."

Imagine trying to watch an hour-long video while holding your phone vertically. Your arm would fall off before the intro ends. But here's the kicker: TikTok users are actually watching longer content. Chloe Sappern, a social media strategist who's definitely seen more TikToks than I’d handle, says:

"The TikTok audience is definitely engaging with longer form content - we are seeing vlogs, tutorials, demos etc generate good engagement on the app. Audiences also tend to follow and relate more to creators who generate longer form, personal content vs the ones who only post short form trending videos. I do find that the TikTok audience still prefers the vertical viewing format vs the landscape videos that require them to click in and rotate their phone."

So, TikTok's caught in a weird spot. Users want longer videos, but they don't want to turn their phones sideways.

The big question is: will TikTok force us to flip our phones, or will they somehow make hour-long vertical videos a thing? Either way, it's going to be a strange new world for our thumbs.

Creator Conundrum: Will YouTubers Make the Switch?

TikTok wants YouTubers. But do YouTubers want TikTok? Let's talk about money. According to a calculator by Thinkific, a YouTuber with 10,000 subscribers and 10,000 views per video could make up to $20 from ads and $220 from sponsorships per video.

TikTok? A measly $4 per video from their Creator Rewards Program. While all these are not set in stone numbers (the difference in earnings is huge depending on the niche, user engagements and dozens of other metrics) the trend is pretty obvious.

But wait, there's more. YouTube offers a clear path to monetization. TikTok? Not so much. Isla Moon, a travel influencer, puts it bluntly:

"As a Canadian creator, I'd say that if TikTok doesn't implement a creator fund, I will not be creating original long-form content on the platform. YouTube has a monetization program for Canadians, whereas TikTok does not."

Harsh, but fair. Why make an hour-long video for pocket change?

Tom Jauncey, Head Nerd at Nautilus Marketing, thinks there's hope: "If TikTok will be providing monetization options and required tools, the content creators could possibly shoot original long-form content. And, there would be more room for content engagement and reaching out to a broader audience. The key is to create a perfect balance between creating unique content and keeping the viewers engaged for longer periods."

But creating that "perfect balance" isn't easy. Chloe Sappern, a social media strategist, points out the challenges:

"It will be interesting to see if more traditional YouTubers start repurposing their long form content on TikTok (almost the opposite of what is currently happening with TikTokers repurposing their short form content on YouTube Shorts). I'd also be curious to see if podcasters start uploading entire episodes to TikTok the same way they had been doing with YouTube. I think if anything, this decision will give creators more opportunities to reach their audiences wherever they are consuming content."

So, we've got a platform that doesn't pay well, creators who might be skeptical, and a user base that might not even want hour-long videos.

But the surprising truth is: TikTok doesn't need YouTubers to make the switch. It just needs to keep its current creators from jumping ship. If TikTok can offer better monetization and keep its addictive algorithm, it might just pull this off.

The Future Landscape: TikTok's Potential Moves

If the move to 60-minute videos is successful, what's next? Two-hour TikToks? Full-length movies? And is it even possible for the company to keep going? TikTok's still fighting battles on multiple fronts. There's the ongoing legal drama in the US, where concerns about Chinese government access to user data have led to threats of bans. And despite its massive user base, TikTok isn't even profitable yet.

So why push for longer videos now? My guess is that TikTok is doing the same as any giant company that has been losing money for years — Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, to name a few. They want to dominate. They want to be more than just a social media app. It wants to be THE platform for all video content. Your go-to for everything from 15-second dance clips to full-length documentaries.

Imagine TikTok-exclusive TV shows, TikTok Originals to rival Netflix. Or TikTok News, delivering hour-long deep dives into current events. It's not just about competing with YouTube anymore. It's about becoming the new TV.

Tom Jauncey, Head Nerd at Nautilus Marketing, thinks longer videos might be a good thing for the company:

"This would open up a path for new revenue streams as advertisers would also be able to incorporate longer ads and do potential partnerships. It will indeed position TikTok as a versatile platform as it attracts more users and advertisers. However, TikTok has to ensure that its algorithm must be able to promote long-form content, without affecting the core user base."

Whether or not the move will turn into a success it’s not clear yet. But I hope it will, because a little competition always turns out to be great for users. As one highly upvoted Redditor specultates: "if it becomes popular then youtube got real competition which means YouTube are less likely to keep pushing more ads and block ads block.”

Let’s just hope that it will stop at that and TikTok won’t become our one-stop-shop for all video content deciding what's trending, what's funny, and what's newsworthy.