YouTube’s next frontier: Becoming more like TV

  • Video-sharing site to grow driven by mobility, interactivity, and channel centricity
  • More content architects flocking to YouTube as it democratizes the creative arts further

MENTION YouTube and most, if not all, would know what it is. The video-streaming and -sharing website first appeared on the Web in 2005 when its three founders – formerly of payment giant PayPal – were believed to have been experimenting with ways to easily to share videos with each other.
They figured out a way to do so and YouTube was born. The site they created has grown more than exponentially, especially after being purchased by search giant Google in November of 2006, some 21 months after it came into being.
Today, YouTube has 800 million unique users globally who visit the site in a given month, supports 61 local languages, and has 49 country-specific domains (including Malaysia) to better help its users search for local content that is relevant to them.
According to Adam Smith, director of product management and head of YouTube Asia Pacific, the future of YouTube can only get better as several factors will continue to drive the site forward.
YouTube’s next frontier: Becoming more like TVSmith (pic), who spoke to Digital News Asia at a regional media briefing in Singapore recently, said that three factors – mobility, interactivity and channel centricity – are what he believes will power YouTube to the next level.
“We believe in mobility and we’re designing YouTube to take advantage of this,” said Smith. “We’re positioning ourselves for this as we believe the mobile device is always on and it’s our aim to make YouTube viewable from any device.”
“For those who have never known a world without the Internet, interactivity is going to be central as they want to be able to share videos, comment, and respond to what is being shared – all of these [characteristics] are what makes YouTube [the media platform] to do this.”
Smith said the potential for this is bright, as YouTube has noticed that one in every four views globally happens on a mobile device. Other countries record even higher metrics, with one in three views happening on the mobile in India, and one in every two views in Korea and Singapore, he added.
“It’s clear that people are getting more comfortable viewing videos on their mobile devices," he said. “We’re moving from a tightly controlled broadcast world, where one entity [the broadcaster] controls what channels people get to see, to a world that has unlimited number of channels that caters for every interest.
“[This is why] we are witnessing media companies, advertisers and celebrities beginning to invest in their [respective] YouTube channels, so that they can create experiences where they can actively engage their fans and audiences.”
According to Smith, these observations by him and his colleagues at YouTube are not merely anecdotal, as recent empirical metrics have also shown this trend to be true.
“In the United States, if you took our top five YouTube channels and compare them in terms of ratings [against mainstream channels], they would rank in the top 20 relative to cable channel [programming] in terms of viewership,” he claimed, adding this is part of the shifting trend away from traditional broadcasters.
What next?
When asked what’s on the program for YouTube in the coming year, Smith said that the video-sharing site is gearing towards building its audience in a more targeted way and providing viewers with a more channel-centric approach to viewership.
Noting that YouTube had streamlined its look and feel a year ago to include a specialized channel bar on the left side of its website in a bid to attract viewers who share similar interests, Smith revealed that this move has worked out great for the company. He claimed that YouTube defines the channel in much the same way as a TV channel, something that all viewers are familiar with.
“We’ve always had top creators building channels, but now we’re really working with all of our creators, big and small, to come up with high quality channels,” he said.
YouTube’s next frontier: Becoming more like TV“When we say channels, we mean what is similar to the TV, [except that] creators come and program on YouTube channels [instead of TV] to whatever topic, genre, category that they’re interested in doing. YouTube will then help them build an audience on that channel as more users subscribe to it.
“So whatever someone’s interests is – and every user is different – they can go ahead and subscribe to the channel they’re interested in; what we’re doing at YouTube is putting the channel front and center of our user experience.”
Smith also said that YouTube has seen greater viewership as a result of this move with over four billion hours of video viewed every month, about a 50% increase in daily subscriptions on YouTube and 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute.
“We believe that YouTube is a democratic medium that people can exploit to upload and immediately make available their content on a global basis,” he said. “If you give people an easy way to share stories, they will.”
Besides making YouTube more channel centric, Smith said another change made some 18 months ago is also bearing fruit. Known as True View, this scheme  involves YouTube running an advertisement for the first five seconds in a bid to try and hook users to continue watching. The feature however allows vistors to opt out of the advertisement should they not want to watch further.
“The way it works is like this: A user visits YouTube and sees an advertisement, and if he or she doesn’t like it and skips the ad, the advertiser doesn’t pay. This creates a really interesting incentive system for the advertisers to create an advertisement to really hook users in the first five seconds."
Smith said YouTube believes this scheme provides a better experience for advertisers and users and for the content partner.
“There is a lower drop-out rate because users aren’t forced to watch videos they aren’t interested in, while advertisers are willing to pay more as they are only paying for users who are really engaged in viewing it,” he explained. “Creators like it because users don’t drop out when they’re waiting watch a video." 

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