With New YouTube Feature, Attention Spans Are Officially Zero

As if TikTok, Instagram’s Reels, and Snapchat haven’t zapped Gen Z’s attention spans enough, YouTube is now experimenting with a feature that allows users to automatically jump to the best parts of a video.

Our doom-scrolling society is doomed.

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“We’re running a very small experiment in the U.S. for a Premium-only feature that combines user-watched behavior data and AI to help identify the next best point a viewer particularly wants to skip ahead to,” the on-camera host of the “Creator Insider” channel on YouTube, run by YouTube’s creator-facing technical team, said in the video announcement.

Here’s how it works: If a viewer is already double-tapping to skip ahead (10 seconds) on what is considered an “eligible segment,” YouTube will display a “Jump Ahead” button that takes the viewer to what the data and AI tells them is the next point in the same video the viewer “may be aiming for.” The experimental product will also be available to creators while watching their own videos, even if they don’t have YouTube Premium.

YouTube users can already press and hold on a video for 2x speed, and, on mobile, double-tap to skip ahead 10 seconds in videos.

“Jump Ahead” may be a “very small experiment” to the very giant YouTube (owned by the very giant-er Alphabet, fka Google), but it has a huge potential reach. Last month, YouTube surpassed 100 million Premium and Music subscribers — the number includes those on a free trial. YouTube Premium, which is essentially ad-free YouTube, costs $13.99 per month after that one-month free trial. YouTube Premium allows for video downloads and comes with YouTube Music (as a standalone, Music Premium is $10.99/month).

YouTube may not be home to as many auteurs as the IndieWire audience would prefer, but its (humongous) presence within the industry should not go ignored. While we normally consider Netflix the biggest video-streaming platform around (and for our usual purposes, it usually is), YouTube actually has quite a bit more usage. (But not more paying members: Netflix has 260 million of those worldwide. Don’t feel bad for YouTube: It made more than $31 billion in advertising revenue in 2023.)

According to the TV ratings company Nielsen, YouTube alone represented 9.3 percent of all TV and streaming viewership in February 2024. Netflix claimed 7.8 percent during the most-recent month, and third place — a tie between Hulu and Amazon Prime Video — wasn’t even close. And just to be clear, the YouTube domination is no anomaly for February 2024: it had already been number 1 each month for a year.

While it may not feel that way, linear television is still the most popular place to watch shows and movies at home. Streaming in its totality made up *just* 37.7 percent of the entire pie. While streaming has incrementally grown and linear TV (broadcast and cable) usage has incrementally shrunk over the years, this too is a pretty typical breakdown.

YouTube’s “Creator Insider” channel was created in 2017 with the goal to facilitate a direct line of conversation between the employees that program the platform and the creators that feed the beast with their content — like yes, Mr. Beast.

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