YouTube comes out swinging on mobile … but where have all the Hollywood stars gone?
YouTube invited advertisers, partners and many more to its new Los Angeles production space on Wednesday, staging an alternate version of the presentation it will deliver advertisers in New York next month.
(Above: Korean band Monsters Calling Home perform at the YouTube presenation.)
While most of the presentation consisted of videos of some of YouTube’s most recognizable personalities — Chris Hardwick, Grace Helbig — it also staged a private talk afterwards between journalists and two of YouTube’s top executives, Robert Knycl, head of content, and Lucas Watson, head of sales.
Here are five things we learned from the presentation and meeting:
Some YouTube Channels Will Soon Charge Viewers.
For YouTubers who create great value with a small but passionate fan base, “the potential of paid channels unlocks an opportunity to create new revenue streams,” Kyncl told reporters, teasing what has been previously reported. Then, later, he hinted at the real news: Channel creators will need to teach people to take out a credit card. But lest you think Kyncl was affirming this would happen, he then added: “That being said, we have nothing to announce at this time.” Translation: wait a few months.
It makes sense. YouTube knows that channels with devoted followings could earn a tremendous amount of money by charging viewers. Fans of Helbig or Hardwick’s Nerdist Channel will fork over cash to watch their videos. For a platform dependent on advertising revenue, subscriptions would benefit both its creators and its own economics.
YouTube Has Adapted to the Mobile Revolution.
“Mobile consumption took everybody by surprise,” Knycl said. “Not just YouTube, but every big service out there, the whole world. It’s going incredibly fast.” As Kyncl noted, thousands of companies are adapting to a new world order where the vast majority of people have a smartphone on them at all times. The revenue possibilities are as tantalizing as they are challenging.
YouTube has come out swinging. Kyncl said that 25 percent of its videos are now watched on mobile devices — and up to 50 percent in some countries. A desire to take charge in its own mobile future prompted YouTube to pull its app from Apple's operating system last year and relaunch one over which it could have more control.
“The rate of adoption has been amazing,” Watson said, claiming the new app has almost reinstalled its user base already. “They had to choose to do it. It’s a testament to how much people want it on the phone.”
Remember All Those Hollywood Stars Jumping on the YouTube Bandwagon? Forget ‘Em.
It’s been a year and a half since YouTube announced that it would fund 100 original channels, part of an effort to elevate quality of programming and reorient the service around channels (like TV).
While stars like Jay-Z, Amy Poehler and Sofia Vergara drew the headlines at the time, YouTube’s presentation Wednesday was all about talent that grew up on YouTube. It began with Shira Lazar, host of popular show "What's Trending," and ended with Philip DeFranco, one of the most successful vloggers and YouTube impresarios around.
There were sporadic mentions of Hollywood celebrities, but the most successful channels still belong to guys like DeFranco. One reason? “A lot of people who used to create and still do for TV are not used to retailing their own content,” Kyncl said. “A lot of them try — a whole bunch succeed and a whole bunch don’t.”
1 Billion Monthly Users! (But Measurement Is Still a Problem.)
YouTube announced at the presentation that it now boasts 1 billion monthly unique visitors. Billion. Still, the online video industry needs a more effective form of measurement to assure advertisers of the numbers. If companies are going to start spending more for ads on the platform, then they need to have figures they can trust.
As often as people denigrate Nielsen numbers, advertisers know what they mean. There is no equivalent online. “It’s a question of hearing them from Google versus from an industry-accepted objective third party like Nielsen, Comscore,” Watson said.
But Not a Big One.
YouTube has little reason to fret — yet. It’s the second biggest search engine after parent company Google. And engagement, the amount of time people spend on the site, is up. That’s what YouTube cares more about because the more time people spend, the more ads they see.
“If [advertisers] spend all their money on YouTube, we’re totally standardized,” Kyncl joked.