Beijing time of news of SINA science and technology on August 22 morning, very few people know, YouTube originate originally online friend. One of the first ideas of YouTube founders Chad Hurley, Chen Shijun and Jawed Karim was to provide a video site for people looking for a partner. That philosophy, however, has since given way to home video. Now, YouTube seems to be more interested in professionally produced videos.
Many may wonder why the Google-owned platform needs TV channels and streaming content. The User-generated content (UGC) model has made YouTube one of the most popular websites in the world, with more than 2 billion monthly active users -- far more than Netflix, Disney+ and Apple TV+ combined. YouTube has also attracted a large number of teenage users. According to the Pew Research Center, YouTube is the most popular social platform for American teens, surpassing even TikTok. Content on YouTube is also free.
TV channels and streaming video services are at odds with YouTube's stated mission to "give everyone a voice and show them the world." Yet the price of letting everyone have a say has been relentless criticism. The UGC model means YouTube has to strike an impossible balance between promoting free speech and moderating problematic content. On top of that, the platform's algorithms push videos containing extreme content to users. Netflix's programming may be expensive to produce, but it doesn't need to face criticism for that.
The problem for YouTube is that the company is criticized for being irresponsible if it allows the offending videos to remain on the platform, and for overstepping its authority if it regulates the content.
YouTube has been defending its moderation mechanisms and algorithms, while also scaling back recommendations for content deemed "wirestepping." Annie Chen of the City University of New York and other researchers have found that most viewers of extremist content on YouTube are a small group of people who follow a particular channel. In other words, these people are actually actively seeking out this kind of content, rather than YouTube pushing it to its users. Still, the idea that YouTube feeds extremist ideas persists.
In a new book about YouTube, "Like, Comment, Subscribe," to be published next month, Mark Bergen explains that content moderation was difficult from the start. For YouTube employees, deciding which videos to keep is also a painful task. When YouTube took a more aggressive stance on removing videos in 2017, the company even allowed pet dogs to be brought into the office to reassure employees.
This year's criticism is all the more galling because of the poor performance of YouTube's advertising business. Last quarter, YouTube's revenue grew less than 5%, its lowest in two years. Advertisers are worried about the recession and competition is increasing. Indeed, the slowdown in revenue growth was partly due to a very strong 2021, when the pandemic drove up audience numbers. Other social media platforms have reported similar problems.
Yet YouTube's monetization isn't great compared with other big social media companies. If YouTube does have 2 billion monthly active users, that would mean less than $4 in revenue per user last quarter. Meta's figure is almost double that.
So TV and streaming services are attractive to YouTube. This part of the business can increase YouTube's revenue without increasing the pressure on content moderators. More than 5 million subscribers already have paid for YouTube TV. It includes more than 85 TV channels, though the price is steep at $64.99 a month. There have been media reports that YouTube is working on a similar bundle for streaming services.
Online streaming has become the dominant way Americans watch TV, according to Nielsen. Not every tech company is willing to share data with YouTube, but if it can pull together the motley collection of streaming services and solve the problem of difficult selection, YouTube should do well.