Here’s What Industry Experts Think Online Video Looks Like in 2020

Those with intimate knowledge of the industry offer their predictions for the year ahead

Image: Chris Stokel-Walker

All things told, 2019 was a weird year for online video. YouTube struggled to combat more negative headlines, but continued to grow apace. TikTok came from nowhere to be on the tip of all our tongues, thanks to the thronged fans descending on VidCon. And Twitch has recognized there is competition in the game streaming space, thanks to months of big-money deals for gaming’s biggest talent, kicked off by Ninja.

2020 is likely to be even more bizarre, and — thanks to a newly-invigorated media that is starting to acknowledge online video can’t be ignored — will be even more under the microscope in the coming 12 months than the last.

Here’s what a handful of experts in front of and behind the camera in the world of online video think the next year holds.

Roberto Blake, YouTuber

Traffic is the product that the platforms are selling to advertisers, but creators are not taking full advantage of this and not building a way to have direct access to their community. If you don’t own your traffic, if you don’t own the access, you don’t own your business. You’re building your empire on rented land.

Be platform agnostic and be everywhere if you can, but also build your own email list and website where you can control and distribute content on your own terms. Build your own products and don’t rely on the platforms for a paycheck.

Stop investing everything in building a platform you don’t own. A business you don’t own.

Elspeth Rae, managing director, The Creator Project

This is due to a myriad of reasons including an ever-changing platform, mental health but also because they’re growing up and may want to try new things.

Matt Gielen, Little Monster Media Co

But YouTube will still be eating everyone’s lunch, and laughing all the way to the bank.

Jennifer Quigley-Jones, Digital Voices

This campaign was creator-led, rather than starting with YouTube or a charitable institution first. This shows the self-directed nature and ethical consciousness of the creative community. Hopefully 2020 will dispel some of the critical press attention and break some negative stereotypes of influencers. These poeple are generally creative entrepreneurs, who tend to care about the world around them and want to have a positive impact.

Richard Waterworth, TikTok’s U.K. General Manager

We’ve seen that with ‘Old Town Road’, we’ve seen that with ‘Ride It’, which was a huge number one. We’ve seen it with older songs — whether it’s with Mariah Carey or other people — where older songs have become huge again thanks to TikTok. So we fully expect that trend to continue.

Rupa Shah, Hashtag Ad Consulting

TikTok, with its large youth audience, will continue to face scrutiny for some of the techniques used by influencers to encourage payment for example shoutouts and video appearances. The rise of virtual influencers will bring more nuanced transparency and disclosure issues to the fore but the recently created Virtual Influencer Practitioners Association and their evolving Code of Ethics seeks to address those concerns and provide a strong ethical standard for the industry to follow.

Nerd City, YouTuber

There are signs everywhere that Big Tech has shifted priorities. They’ve already maxed out on user adoption and screen time, and now they’re wrestling with ethical issues about what kind of world they’re making. So in areas where it’s convenient for them, we’ll see more and more feature changes and policy enforcement where now they’ll act like Big Mom. Some examples so far: Instagram hiding Likes; Twitter moving followers and shrinking the font; YouTube rounding the subscriber count to nearest thousand; YouTube changing their harassment policy to now appoint their outsourced content reviewers as judges of bullying versus satire.

Big Tech acting concerned for their users’ “quality of life” comes from a good place (kinda), but it’s also dripping in their executive’s self-importance, self-back-patting, and virtue-signaling. So the roll outs on these changes will continue to be messy: the platforms will keep trampling all over what their communities actually want, remove features we use daily, and ban popular accounts, all the while congratulating themselves for hitting the milestones of their new “initiatives”, I’m sure.

Plus on top of this Big Mom movement, a lot of what these companies have been doing seems to grow out of an anxiety about their impact on U.S. elections. And it sure looks like we’ve got a nasty one of those ahead of us.

Maayan Gordon, TikToker and TikTok consultant

Dylan Collins, chief executive, SuperAwesome

In Europe, YouTube faces a similar kids digital privacy action under GDPR-K and is forced to increase the threshold of its child-directed content from under-13 to under-16. This starts to impact a huge number of games-focused creators, forcing YouTube to consider its entire architecture and consider building a contextual-only model.

Kevin Gould, Kombo Ventures

Everything comes full circle and the Vine days are back but better with platforms like TikTok and Triller. Short form is definitely having its moment again.

But you can’t sleep on compelling long form content, particularly from a creator’s point of view. Shane Dawson and Jefree Star proved with their series around Shane’s beauty launch, that while overall attention spans are shrinking, compelling long form content from creators is in demand and I think we will see more of this next year.


Getting you up to speed with the world of online video

Chris Stokel-Walker

Written by

UK-based freelancer for The Guardian, The Economist, BuzzFeed News, the BBC and more. Tell me your story, or get me to write for you:



Getting you up to speed with the world of online video

Chris Stokel-Walker

Written by

UK-based freelancer for The Guardian, The Economist, BuzzFeed News, the BBC and more. Tell me your story, or get me to write for you:



Getting you up to speed with the world of online video

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