[Photo by Reuters / Yonhap]
YouTube, the U.S. online video sharing and social media platform owned by Google LLC, has become South Korea’s top application by number of users, and overtaking KakaoTalk, operated by Kakao Corp., which was the country’s top mobile messaging app until now, for the first time.
According to data from big data analytics solution IGAWorks’ Mobile Index on Sunday, YouTube took the top spot with 45.65 million monthly active users (MAUs) in December 2023. KakaoTalk’s MAUs was 45.54 million, which saw it drop to second place.
KakaoTalk had maintained the number one spot in MAUs since the Mobile Index data was first collected in May 2020, but lost the spot for the first time in December 2023.
The gap between YouTube and KakaoTalk has widened in 2024 to date, with the MAU gap between YouTube (45.47 million) and KakaoTalk (45.25 million) at 220,000 in January, double the gap of 110,000 from the previous month. YouTube, which rose to the top spot among Korean mobile platforms, is recognized as one of the most popular video platforms based on its solid user base.
Industry insiders attribute YouTube’s success to its concise editing style and short videos (Shorts), which have been a strong draw for users, particularly Generation Z users who were born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s.
After launching Shorts in 2021, YouTube changed its structure in February 2024 to allow creators to generate advertising revenue. This change is also credited with contributing to the spread of Shorts content and increasing the usage time.
Changes in the mobile usage patterns of users in their 30s are also said to have contributed to YouTube taking over the top spot. YouTube was the top app for those under 10 and in their 20s, while KakaoTalk led among those over 30, until August 2023, but YouTube has been the most used app among users in their 30s for five consecutive months since September of that year. YouTube also outpaced KakaoTalk and Korean tech platform Naver Corp. in terms of total usage time, further widening the gap.
The time spent watching YouTube on mobile devices in Korea was 1.95 billion hours in January 2024, or close to 2 billion hours. This is more than three times the 500.5 million hours for KakaoTalk (second place) and more than five times the 300.7 million hours for Naver (third place).
Google previously made its music platform service, YouTube Music, Korea’s top music app by linking it with its ad-free service, YouTube Premium. YouTube Music recorded 7.40 million MAUs in December 2023, surpassing Melon, a Korean online music store and music streaming service that had 7.29 million MAUs, to take the top spot for the first time.
Industry insiders noted that the U.S. company’s strategy of bundling YouTube Music, which previously required a separate monthly subscription fee of around 8,000 won, with YouTube Premium at a discounted rate, has proven successful in the market.
By Kim Dae-gi and Yoon Yeon-hae
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]