The YouTube Hack: Mystery of the “YouTube Shorts”

Polen Erciyas
4 min readOct 1, 2021

At this point, who ISN’T copying the TikTok format? Instagram jumped on the train with “Reels”, and soon after, we saw weird-looking vertical videos on our regular YouTube timelines, and suddenly all apps started looking like a TikTok knock-off:

YouTube timeline shown with the integration of shorts

If you read my previous post about the hacking of the infamous YouTube community polls, you can already guess: with the introduction of Shorts, Youtube is kind of broken -again- and of course, The Spiffing Brit exploited the glitch. I’ll summarize his findings, but if you want to watch the full video anyway, here it is:

As per usual, the Spiffing Brit starts with some findings and stats about the YouTube Shorts. Here’s a rundown:

  • YouTube shorts are vertical videos in 9:16 format, that are no longer than 60 seconds, and have to be uploaded with the hashtag #Shorts, in order to be recognized by the algorithm as “Shorts”.
  • Unlike community polls (which have a 1K sub threshold), “Shorts” do not require a sub count, which means even with zero subscribers you can start making shorts right away.
  • The beta feature was first introduced in Q3 2020, and at the time of the making of Spiff’s video (February 2021), Shorts brought in more than 3.5 billion views/day globally.
  • Shorts do not rely on the regular view algorithm. Shorts can exist like regular videos on the “recommended timeline”, but more so they live on the “Shorts Shelf”, which is an exclusive area for TikTok-like content in the midst of the YouTube timeline (see image on the left).
  • Last but not least, the thumbnail of shorts will be automatically generated, unlike the regular YouTube video, where the creator can upload a thumbnail of their choice. This means, the more visually attractive a “short” in general is, the better the chances of it having an attractive thumbnail, hence driving more clicks.

With all this information at hand, the Spiffing Brit goes on to experiment with 2 blank test channels: the first one is run by his editor and filled with creative, beautifully crafted content, while the second is run by him, where he used an AI video editor to randomly generate shorts for him. His findings from his experiment are as follows:

So, following these guidelines, you can also start experimenting with shorts:

  • Avoid using copyrighted music.
  • Try to include a CTA for your subscribers.
  • Keep in mind that the ad revenue from Shorts is much less than a normal video. But with great performance, you can always rely on sponsorships.
  • Unlike normal YouTube videos, language doesn’t matter and your content will be shown to the whole globe if it is good.
  • Use fast-paced content.
  • Try re-uploading your video to generate better thumbnails, when you think your thumbnail isn’t good enough.
  • Shorts-only channels perform much better than mixed channels.
  • Upload consistently. Daily content is the best.
  • Try to think in “Shorts” terms and do not try to make regular videos into shorts. Your concepts should make sense from a TikTok point of view.
  • Series do not perform well. Put all you want to say in one video rather than making a series.
  • You might experience crazy view durations if your content proves to be interesting. This is caused by people watching your Short over and over again.

There you go: all you need for your brand new YouTube Shorts channel. It’s all about taking the lead and experimenting with the glitch yourself. If you’re good enough, why not jump to a million subscribers like Block Facts, or even get to 7 million like Jake Fellman in less than a few months?



Polen Erciyas

Social media native interested in everything marketing, art, games and design.