Hunter Walk is director of product management at YouTube and is delivering an opening day Keynote at the Broadband World Forum 2012, taking place on the 16 – 18 October 2012 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. We speak to him on what has made YouTube the global success it has become and how he sees the video platform evolving in the future.
YouTube has grown incredibly since it first came on the scene. What are the latest of your headline numbers such as unique users and videos viewed and uploaded a day?
YouTube has truly become a global living room. Today the YouTube community is more than 850 million monthly visitors. It’ll be a billion-person community quite soon. This has resulted in more than 72 hours of video per minute uploaded, and four billion hours of video watched per month. What’s really amazing is that growth hasn’t slowed down – there’s an incredible appetite for video.
What is it about YouTube that has captured people’s attention over the last few years rather than any other site?
I would say the breadth of content and original voices. Whether you want to watch SourceFed or The Mom’s View or a sitcom like MyMusic, YouTube is uniquely able to connect you with video you care about. As a platform, YouTube turns niches into massive audiences plus robust revenues, and this enables new types of content to be created.
YouTube has been credited with creating celebrities and toppling governments. Does that ever come into your thinking as you develop the platform?
YouTube is most successful when we help the community succeed, so yes, to the extent we see people using the platform to find fame or express their civil rights, we always ask ourselves ‘how can we make this better?’ But we find that features we build rarely aim at just a single type of user. For example, in the YouTube Video Editor, anyone can automatically enhance their video – image stabilisation, colour correction, audio normalisation. Now this is a great tool whether you’ve uploaded an extreme sports video from your mountain bike or recorded a government protest from a smartphone. We don’t think about building “YouTube for Activists” and “YouTube for Musicians” as different products. We just focus on building “YouTube for Everyone.”
Is there more focus on the monetisation of content that there has been in recent years?
Not more focus, just more success. A few years ago we were working hard on experimenting with different ad units and trying to help advertisers understand YouTube. Now with Trueview we’ve created an ad format that aligns interests – advertisers only pay if their video is watched, content creators benefit from healthy ad rates, and the consumer knows they can skip an ad if it’s not relevant to them. The result is more revenue in the pockets of content creators, which is our top goal for monetisation. At the end of the day, YouTube is about great content.
Do you think the social media aspects of the site have has had as much impact on fostering social change as the video themselves?
To succeed, a social change campaign needs to have three attributes: content people want to watch, a community to support and amplify the video, and a call-to-action so that those who were moved by the content can help create change. If any one of these components is missing it’s an opportunity to improve. The social media aspects of the site play a big role in not just the community (sharing video) but also the content. What people sometimes forget is that YouTube isn’t just a one:many broadcast tool, it’s a conversation. When Invisible Children uploaded Kony 2012 it eventually reached 92 million+ views but just as amazing was that more than 40,000 videos were later uploaded about Kony – some in support of the campaign, others criticising. YouTube is a place where you get to hear multiple points of view and decide what you believe matters.
Many TV stations use YouTube as a platform. Will YouTube become the world’s TV station in the next few years?
Well I do think we’re in a unique position to be a global living room, a global classroom and a global town square. There’s no other video platform with similar reach. That enables us to help content owners maximise their audience. It’s why for the last two summer Olympics we’ve worked with the IOC to ensure the games are available in every country. It’s why Bollywood studios have discovered enthusiastic audiences in Estonia. The benefits of not just large audiences but a connection to those viewers— with YouTube Insights every creator can see aggregated data about the demographics of their audience and other helpful analytics—is what makes us so valuable to content producers.
We’ve seen HD video, 3D and support for 4K resolution coming to YouTube. What new innovations have you got coming down the pipeline?
In July we became the first online video service to support automatic face-blurring – if you upload a video depicting people, you can algorithmically detect and blur all faces via the YouTube Video Editor. In addition to this you’ll see more examples of YouTube apps native to device platforms – such as the PlayStation 3 integration we recently launched.