Google’s YouTube is now attracting 1 billion hours of viewing a day. The possibility of YouTube overtaking television as the most watched medium of entertainment, news, and content is a very real. As with much of the digital age, no one could have predicted something like this even ten to fifteen years ago. That averages out to about 8.4 minutes a day by every person on the planet. But how did Google and YouTube get to this historic milestone and what does this mean for the future of our content consumption?
One billion hours is no small task, and would be almost impossible if it were attempted organically. The Wall Street Journal published an article which credits the monumental feat to Google’s clever algorithms paired with personalized profiles of users to make suggestions based off the information google collected from the viewer’s travels around youtube and around the Internet.
Google began introducing the advanced algorithm for matching related content in 2012 and since then has refined and improved them constantly. What we have now is a rather coherent (though constantly improved) system of suggestions designed to keep you falling further down the rabbit hole with your mouse. While the math and code behind it all is beyond our understanding, the principle is devastatingly simple: you’re more likely to keep watching what you would like to watch. This means if the autoplay or suggestions are copacetic to your tastes, the likelihood of you continuing to watch them are much higher, translating to increased viewer retention and more ad revenue for Google.
It was not only coding that helped YouTube achieve this goal. YouTube and Google have both steadily been employing more qualitative scientists and user experience researchers lately. These specialized social and data scientists offer unique insights into how and why users behave in the ways that they do, which is indispensable when designing interfaces and code.
Even with all of this being said, it is uncertain whether or not YouTube is profitable yet for Google. It is no secret that Google was sinking money into YouTube for a while, but the other facets of the company allowed them to run the video sharing platform at a loss. This kept the video sharing platform monopoly essentially in their hands, since the concept was not profitable enough for any business that could not afford to take a hit.
Now Google may be approaching the ownership of such a monopoly and making money off it too. This is due in no small part to YouTube’s launch of a premium service, YouTubeRed. In addition to offering exclusive content and a coupled subscription to Google Music, YouTubeRed is ad-free. At $9.99 a month, this ensures a far steadier stream of revenue than monetized videos could have ever provided to both content creator and YouTube. While YouTube has not released its 2016 monetary data yet, it will be very interesting to see how services like YouTubeRed and the mega milestone of 1 billion hours of views a day will impact the profitability of this business.
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