UPDATE May 16, 2019 — Just shy of its 15th birthday, YouTube has experienced the ups and downs of being the envy of competing video-sharing platforms. Even in the throes of controversies with YouTube creators and recent monetization scandals, YouTube has maintained social relevance and online video marketing dominance.
YouTube video content makes its way to the screens of 1.9 billion people (over a third of all internet users) with those users consuming over 1 billion hours of video every day. More than 500 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube per minute, and of that, more than 250 million hours are watched on TV screens daily.
Today, YouTube has not only revolutionized how we consume online video, it has also spawned completely new video genres and hundreds of pop culture icons unique to itself. From vlogs to unboxing videos, top YouTubers of the YouTube creator community have completely redefined entertainment, learning, shopping, and more.
The 16 main types of YouTube videos include:
Commentary videos focus on YouTubers sharing commentary or opinions on a topic. Types of commentary videos include:
Bethany Mota’s “Valentine’s Day Vlog: Target & Starbucks”
Vlogs, or “video blogs,” capture the everyday life, thoughts, and feelings of a YouTube influencer. While the frequency of vlogs can vary, the content is authentic, unscripted, and focused on a specific topic. Much like television shows, today’s most popular vlogs attract thousands of subscribers who tune in regularly to watch the “video diaries” of their favorite social media influencers.
Casey Neistat’s “The Greatest Year Of My Entire Life”
Many top YouTubers have millions of subscribers who tune in regularly to watch their vlogs, often in place of a TV show or series. As Variety shows in their annual YouTuber study, top digital influencers continue to displace traditional celebrities in the eyes of today’s Millennial audiences. Due to YouTubers’ reach, relevance, and engagement with millions of viewers, brands realize the importance of advertising with social media influencers as part of a comprehensive influencer marketing strategy to reach consumers.
Shane Dawson’s “Investigating Conspiracies” Conspiracy videos center on conspiracy theories, both popular and obscure. YouTubers who cover conspiracy theories explore alternative explanations for events or situations, sometimes politically charged, despite a widely accepted viewpoint being more corroborated. Conspiracy content is widely present online, recently gaining traction on YouTube in the form of a series.
In Shane Dawson’s popular conspiracies video series, the prominent YouTuber calls into question phenomena and probes mysteries. While YouTube has worked to surface fewer videos about harmful conspiracy theories, conspiracy videos keep viewers on the edges of their seats.
In product reviews, YouTube influencers offer feedback on a product. Commonly referred to as “first impressions,” a product review typically includes a YouTuber’s assessment, critique, and personal feedback.
Marques Brownlee’s “Samsung Galaxy S10 Impressions”
Because people rely on YouTube for information, product reviews are instrumental in influencing purchasing decisions. Think With Google notes that 62% of consumers watch product review videos before making a purchase, and one poll found that customers are 52% more likely to purchase a product featured in a YouTube product review. Product reviews also come in the form of unboxing videos.
NikkieTutorials “Rihanna: Fenty Beauty – Review + First Impressions”
Another poll found that consumers between the ages of 16 and 45 are 52% more likely to purchase a product featured in a YouTube product review video. The survey also showed that 25% of people use YouTube product reviews to learn about products a few times weekly.
Unbox Therapy’s “OnePlus 7 Pro Unboxing”
Unboxing videos capture a YouTuber’s reaction and initial impressions as they open a product’s packaging for the first time, allowing the audience to vicariously experience the excitement of the new item. Now a cultural phenomenon, YouTube unboxing videos are often viewed en route to making a purchasing decision and have become an effective way for brands to increase product awareness.
Captain Sparklez’s “The Ultimate Google Unboxing”
Similar to YouTube product review videos, unboxing videos are often viewed en route to making a purchasing decision. Because of this user behavior, brands are keen to sponsor YouTube unboxing videos to drive up search visibility, generate immense amounts of recurring views, and reach millions of consumers at a critical point on their path to purchase.
James Charles’ “How To Get Perfect Skin With Makeup”
Educational in nature, how-to YouTube videos help audiences learn how to do a specific task. Also known as tutorials, these videos are instructional and walk viewers through a product or service. For a physical product, YouTubers will show how to assemble and use it. For software, YouTube influencers will show how to use the software at a high level or how to use a specific feature or functionality. For services, YouTubers will demonstrate using the services in detail. Generally, YouTubers use tutorials to educate their viewers on more intricate tools, features, and processes of products and services.
Roey Bros’ “How To Win Your 1st Solo In Fortnite Season 8”
“How-to” searches on YouTube have increased over the years, with 91% of smartphone users watching YouTube how-to videos when executing tasks. While all demographics are searching for instructional content on YouTube, Millennials watch YouTube how-to content the most.
How-to videos are often task-specific (as opposed to “educational” videos, which seek to provide more comprehensive topical information), giving brands access to unique sponsorship opportunities. Because these types of YouTube videos are watched over and over, they can garner millions of views over time. How-to videos are beloved within the beauty, tech, craft/DIY, cooking and automotive YouTube communities.
Also known as listicles, top list videos feature a list of a YouTuber’s top picks for a particular category and include the following formats:
Haul videos feature a YouTuber showing off products—typically makeup, clothing, or home goods—after a shopping spree. By nature, haul videos highlight specific brand names and may include a brief “first impressions” review. Because they are adept at showcasing exciting new products and informing audiences about upcoming trends, haul videos have become a favorite on beauty, fashion, and lifestyle channels.
Zoella’s “Stationery Haul”
Closely related to YouTube product review videos, hauls have been known to drive huge sales for products favorably discussed by YouTubers. And while primarily used by beauty and fashion YouTubers, haul videos are also popular in other niches (home, tech, health, etc.).
Jaclyn Hill’s “Sephora Makeup Haul”
Haul videos usually showcase the latest finds, purchases, and highlights from a recent shopping trip or products accumulated over a period of time (e.g. “summer shopping haul”). Additionally, hauls may feature genres or specific brands, such as in “drugstore haul” or “Sephora haul.” Furthermore, hauls will include a quick first impression or product review in addition to simply presenting the product on camera.
Vanoss Gaming’s “Best Moments Of 2018”
Because YouTubers are so trusted, fans often solicit their advice and opinions. This prompted the creation and popularity of the “Favorites” and “Best of” genre of YouTube videos, where YouTubers share their most beloved products.
Carli Bybel’s “My Non-Beauty Favorites”
A slightly different take on product review videos, “best of” YouTube videos feature a YouTuber sharing their favorite product, service, or experience within a specific category. A beauty vlogger might share her favorite eyeshadow palettes, while a travel YouTuber might list his favorite hotels in Brazil. These types of videos will flourish as viewers frequently look to YouTube influencers for advice about which products to buy, what to wear, and where to vacation.
Dose of Fousey’s “My Sneaker Collection!!”
In a collection video, a YouTuber walks viewers through a certain product they have been collecting over time. Typically, collection items include makeup, accessories, tech, home goods, and apparel. Though many YouTube collection videos integrate aspects of other YouTube videos (such as product reviews and favorites), this type of content is often used as a way for audiences to learn more about their favorite influencer.
Jenna Marbles’ “A Tour Of My Plants”
Today’s consumers value influencers’ opinions and enjoy seeing the types of products they have chosen to fill their lives with. As Millennial buying power increases, major brands should consider using these methods to resonate with their target audience.
TimTheTatman’s “Stream Highlights”
A compilation video is an edited series of clips taken from longer videos. Gameplay highlight reels are ubiquitous on video game channels, while “fail compilations” are popular on comedy channels. A compilation can be autobiographical, for example, YouTuber influencers will publish year-end compilations showing a medley of video highlights and key moments from their channel throughout the year. Further still, compilations can simply highlight a selection of items that the YouTuber is interested in or created (e.g. recipes, crafts, quotes, etc.).
Comedy videos incorporate comedic elements to provide humorous entertainment to viewers and include the following formats:
Lilly Singh’s “Types Of Kids At School”
Comedy videos are among some of the most popular YouTube videos, often creating a viral response and generating millions of views. Many top YouTubers like Lilly Singh and Freddie Wong have risen to fame through innovative comedy videos. YouTube’s video publishing platform makes it extremely attractive for young, aspiring entertainers to try out humorous content.
KSI’s “Top 10 KSI Skits”
Skit videos are small plays or performances performed by a YouTuber. Sometimes referred to as sketches, skits are normally quick scenes of comical situations with the creator’s personal twist. While skits are short comedy pieces, YouTubers sometimes use them to educate or inform their audience about important topics.
Prank Vs. Prank’s “Couple Prank War”
Like their television predecessors, prank videos on YouTube capture practical jokes and social experiments played by social media influencers on friends, family members, and unsuspecting members of the public. YouTube prank videos are incredibly popular—many of today’s top YouTubers have amassed millions of followers by creating hilarious prank videos, as prank content generates more shares and likes. While many of these videos are comedic in nature, prank-style videos have a distinct setup and aftermath.
Rocket Jump’s “World Biggest Ball Pit Prank”
Bart Barker’s “This Is America” Parody
Parody videos are created by YouTubers to mock, make fun of, or mash up existing video content. Intended to spoof the original content, parodies aim to imitate it in a playful or satirical way by making the creator, the subject, or the style the center of ridicule.
Adrienne Houghton’s “No Mirror Makeup Challenge”
Challenge videos have the potential to go viral easily, as YouTubers effectively spread new calls for followers to engage in a contest. Based on the thrill of competition, challenges can be created to raise awareness about certain causes, or simply for the sake of funny entertainment. Examples include charity challenges, like the Ice Bucket Challenge, and silly challenges, like the Cinnamon challenge. Other types of challenge videos formats include memes. Memes
Ryan Higa’s “Draw My Life”
Made ubiquitous by internet culture, memes are funny, socially-relatable, and often demographic-specific pieces of content shared across social channels. As an idea, catchphrase, quote, or activity that is copied and adapted throughout the YouTube community, memes videos are popular and shared quickly among viewers. YouTubers take turns producing their version of a specific meme. Classic meme videos include “David After Dentist” videos and “Bed Intruder Song” videos.
Nikki And Steven’s “Game Of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5 Reaction”
Reaction videos are made to capture a YouTuber’s reaction to a particular content piece or real-world event. Driven by strong emotions, these types of videos build suspense and excitement among viewers who want to react vicariously through the YouTuber. These types of YouTube videos can depict group reactions or a third party individual’s reaction. Reactions can be in response to viewing TV series episodes, film trailers, commercials, games, news events, magic, and other YouTube content.
Rosanna Pansino’s “Sister Q&A”
In Question and Answer videos, YouTubers answer questions from their viewers. The line of questioning is usually predetermined by the YouTuber, who solicits inquiries from fans in the video comments section and puts together a list of the most popular queries.
YouTubers have amassed large followings by engaging directly with subscribers, and Q&A YouTube videos can deepen the connection between YouTube influencers and fans by providing a candid glimpse of their inner thoughts. Q&A videos can also provide a forum for a YouTuber to address a controversy or set the record straight on rumors.
Mo Vlogs’ “First Q&A With Logan Paul”
YouTubers have become stars in their own right, partly because they seem more relatable than traditional celebrities. Through YouTube Q&A videos, YouTubers can engage audiences and foster a sense of closeness with their followers at a level seldom possible in other media.
True Geordie’s “Jake Paul Interview”
An interview video is a conversation between two parties where questions and answers are exchanged. Functioning as a one-on-one dialogue, the YouTube interviewer aims to discuss topics with the interviewee that are of interest to their audience. These topics may range from pop culture to politics to career to conspiracies.
Shane Dawson’s “The Secret World Of Jeffree Star”
Not unlike a documentary, YouTube docuseries videos have grown more popular among YouTubers interested in creating a series of thematic videos. Docuseries comprise several parts that YouTubers release in segments to build anticipation and nurture a more loyal following.
Since docuseries are longform, these videos are less snackable and build viewership through detailed accounts of the creator’s life, interests, or involvement in events over a period of time. In terms of quality, producing a docuseries requires a deeper understanding of the craft of filmmaking than uploading a quick-hit YouTube video.
Veritasium’s “Can Silence Actually Drive You Crazy?”
Educational videos provide audiences with topical information through thought-provoking, interesting, and cultural content. These videos often target specific demographics such as children or college students. Because educational YouTube channels help keep viewers informed, answer questions, dissect complex issues, or provide interesting random facts, this content receives high traffic and recurring views via being shared as a resource.
AsapSCIENCE’s “Amazing Facts To Blow Your Mind”
YouTube has become one of the greatest sources of learning, featuring hours of content from established entities like Harvard Medical School and the Associated Press. As the world’s second-largest search engine (second only to parent company Google), YouTube is consistently searched for educational content and learning material. As a cornerstone of YouTube, learning-related videos are viewed more than a billion times on the platform every single day.
KSI’s “On Point Logan Paul Diss Track”
YouTubers who dabble in music occasionally create music videos, which are videotaped musical performances of a song accompanied by imagery. These videos often contain other musical elements, including dancing, visual graphics, lyrics, or other performers.
Music videos can be made from scratch, parody existing music, or remix songs. Unlike traditional music videos created by music artists, YouTube music videos produced by YouTubers may be somewhat less sophisticated in production but still aim to tell a story and capture musical tunes.
Narrative videos simply entail the YouTuber narrating a report of either real or fictional events with the aid of videography.
Storybooth’s “Being The New Kid In School”
Story videos occur when YouTubers employ storytelling and imagery to communicate the events, characters, conflicts, and resolutions of a fictional story. This may come in the form of a YouTuber recounting an experience or imagining hypothetical situations.
DramaAlert’s “James Charles Losing Subs Explained”
Explainer videos offer explanations on a topic of interest. YouTubers who produce explainers aim to provide commentary on topics, whether educational or not, and may use animation, graphic design elements, or dramatic flair to illustrate it.
Gaming videos capture video game play by YouTube gamers and can take on various formats, including livestreams, walkthroughs, tutorials, challenges, game reviews, or montages. Within the crowded niche, gaming videos are among the most-searched topics on YouTube. The saturation of the genre and the rise of niche gaming sites like Twitch mean that gaming YouTubers face immense competition. Nonetheless, YouTube gamers are some of the most successful influencers who consistently drive high views and engagement.
Ninja’s “Ninja Gets Revenge On Tfue”
While there are many different types of YouTube gaming videos, Let’s Plays remain one of the most popular styles for YouTubers, fans, and brands alike. A Let’s Play is a video screen recording of the user playing a game while providing ongoing commentary. These types of YouTube gaming videos tap into a much larger gaming lifestyle with vast, engaged communities, meaning both gaming and non-gaming brands are keen to advertise within the YouTube gaming community
DrLupo’s “January Twitch Clips Montage”
YouTube Gaming and YouTube Live have become a bigger part of gaming culture on YouTube, which puts the platform in direct competition with the current reigning champion of gaming: Twitch. Gaming and livestreaming continue to be a growing part of YouTube’s strategy. Twitch still outpaces YouTube Gaming in regard to user activity, but YouTube Gaming has grown faster than Twitch.
Gibi ASMR’s “Good Cop Vs. Bad Cop | Sleep Police”
Wildly popular as of late, ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is a genre of YouTube videos that causes “tingly” sensations when viewers see and hear certain videos. By supplying audible and/or visual input, ASMR YouTubers (i.e. ASMRtists) can cause physical ASMR reactions which feel soothing and zen-like.
Poki ASMR’s “Soothing Spa Sounds”
With multiple formats practices, ASMR primarily helps viewers relax. YouTubers who use ASMR have the added benefit of connecting and communicating with their subscribers in a new capacity, so YouTubers offer brands a unique way to get in front of their audience.
Sports videos run the gamut but essentially involve YouTubers playing, reviewing, watching, or discussing a sport of some kind. Alternatively, YouTubers can record voice-overs of televised sports games, create sports fail compilations, or design sports challenges.
Savage Brick Sports “Best Sports Bloopers/Fails Of 2017
Dude Perfect’s “All Sports Golf Battle 2”
True to their competitive and unlikely nature, trick shot videos aim to amp up viewers by performing extremely challenging, high-intensity, and record-breaking trick shots. Made popular by trick shot YouTube channel Dude Perfect, these videos have grown viral and continue to push the boundaries of epic skill feats that are near impossible to complete.