An Open Letter to Susan Wojcicki — ‘Don’t F*** It Up’

/ Feb 7, 2014

CEO of YouTube to keynote at VidCon again

Dear Susan,

Now, in your hands is a consumer product that touches billions of people around the globe. Through YouTube the world has witnessed countless memorable events — from Felix Baumgartner’s epic live jump from space to the more pedestrian “Charlie bit my finger.” Every day, new creators are made, new content is watched, and new communities are formed. In short, YouTube is a stunningly impressive behemoth and arguably the best consumer-web acquisition of all time.

So please, I’m begging you, please, please, please, don’t f*** it up.

Bear with me…

Yes, you’re the No. 1 online video platform. Yes, you have 100 hours of video uploaded to your platform PER MINUTE. Yes, you are rumored to have earned ~$5.6 billion last year. Like I said, you’re kicking ass, and with Google’s war-chest just a BART ride away, you don’t have to worry about keeping the lights on… like, ever.

But YouTube isn’t without its problems. For starters, even at $5.6 billion, monetization is an issue. I don’t really want to dig in much further than that because neither of us have all day here, but we all know that even Google’s massive army of ad sellers can’t force-feed ads to every single creator on the planet. And yeah, we know “mobile is huge,” but monetizing mobile is hard. Really hard.

Meanwhile, your creators aren’t exactly happy with you. The product isn’t meeting their needs (in fact, it seems to be getting in their way here), and don’t even get them started on the deal structure (Hi @Jason).

So, despite YouTube’s efforts to stymie the unionization of creators under one of the MCN’s [Yes. Stymie. At VidCon* last year, I heard a YouTube executive, on a panel, blatantly knock the MCN’s… ‘Why go to an MCN? YouTube offers you everything you need.’ Sigh… FACEPALM], the best creators are still joining up with Fullscreen, Maker, Machinima, and more.

But even the MCNs can’t save creators from YouTube-monetization-misery. They’re frustrated as well. (Hell, rumor has it some of them are in serious trouble, too. Fingers crossed they don’t disappear, lest we go back to the days of YouTube as pure UGC.) So frustrated, that I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them start to compete off-YouTube. Oh wait, that’s already happening.

So, Susan, No. 16 at Google, “the most important person in advertising,” “the most important Googler we’ve never heard of” …this is your charge, straight from Larry himself. To lead YouTube into the future.

The way I see it, you can approach this one of two ways and there’s a quote for each of them:

1. “When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

The ol’ top-down approach. Susan, you’ve been an executive at Google for a long time, and have likely driven TONS of revenue as the SVP of Google Ads, so you’re probably thinking… “How do we put our 12,000-person salesforce to work on YouTube? What OKR’s can we tweak to simply increase our volume? How do we get an ad unit on every video, on every device?” At the end of the year, you’ll look back and see that your $5.6 billion will be $6, $7, $8 billion and you’ll smile to yourself, because you met all your Googly OKR’s and helped the bottom line.

Don’t do that.

Instead…

2. “Get out of the building.”

That is, approach this from the bottom up. Go talk to your viewers, your creators, your MCNs and listen to what they’re telling you. Maybe it’s time you finally, FINALLY, loosen your vice grips on your 45% cut. Entice creators to stay. Entice MCNs to work with you before they ship off to their own destinations. Make the product changes that they’re asking for and preserve the relationship between viewers and creators (i.e. chill with Google+ among other things). Maybe even start to be more developer friendly (I know there’s a lot riding on it, but just give us a chance). In short, return YouTube to a platform that enables OTHERS to be creative, make money, to reach a wider audience, to be happy, and you, too, Susan, CEO of YouTube, will be a great success.

I know you think of ad units as “bits of information” and its Google’s job to organize and get that information to us, but there’s a better way than plastering them everywhere. You’re smart, you’re creative, and you’re a great leader within Google. Here’s to hoping that you put that energy to work at YouTube the right way, stopping the bleeding and bringing back the fun that made YouTube so special in the first place.

Best,

Reece Pacheco

*You will be at VidCon this year, won’t you? Please tell me you know what VidCon is. Please… cc Hank Green + John Green

reece headshotReece Pacheco is the co-founder and CEO of Shelby.TV. He previously worked in production and post production on national TV programs and in Hollywood. He has studied and produced video as a modern medium for over 10 years and often shares his thoughts on the Shelby.TV blog.

This post was originally published by Pacheco on Medium, and has been reprinted here with his permission.

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  • richardfrias

    I don’t comment often on stories, but couldn’t help to notice how aggressive this post is. How about you congratulate this extraordinary woman on all that she has accomplished in her career? How about addressing Mrs. Wojcicki with some respect? Running YouTube is a job larger than those who are willing to accept the position, and despite her willingness to take on this monumental task, you want to hurl “don’t f*ck it up” comments at her? Geez. cc: common sense

    • hey Richard

      appreciate your comment

      1. please don’t get me wrong… i know Susan is highly capable, as i wrote, she’s ‘smart, creative, and a great leader within Google.’ she’s one of the top executives out there and i have no doubt she can handle the job

      2. “don’t f*** it up,” as abrasive as it sounds, is a term of endearment among us in startups. before i go into many ‘big moments,’ peers/mentors will say ‘don’t f*** it up.’ i hope Susan can appreciate that

      3. this, my post, is honest, earnest input from someone who lives and breathes this space (me). the best thing Susan can do is talk to YouTube users, creators, employees, etc and really address their needs, NOT just come in and optimize revenue

      • richardfrias

        YouTube is not a start-up, and though I will not assume to know anything about Mrs. Wojcicki’s strategy, I am pretty sure she is not going into this position with her eyes closed.

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