On the first day of VidCon 2017, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki sat down with creators Rhett and Link of Good Mythical Morning on the stage of the Anaheim Convention Center Arena to talk about YouTube’s newest announcements and milestones. Some of these were impressive, to be sure, but none of them could cover up the fact that YouTube is still struggling to keep everyone on its platform happy, particularly advertisers and creators.
A quick internet search will tell you YouTube’s had a hard last few months. The site lost advertisers from around the world once these brands discovered their ads were running against extremist, controversial content. Because of this “Adpocalypse,” YouTube implemented a new advertiser-friendly system to try to prevent situations like this from happening again, but in the process, videos from a variety of creators which were deemed inappropriate (in some way or another) were demonetized and their ad revenues significantly cut. Creators, therefore, have been upset at YouTube who seemed to be catering to brands instead of supporting its home-grown stars.
With this admittedly generalized background in mind, Wojcicki’s keynote on June 22 presented an interesting insight into how YouTube is trying to respond to all the different directions it’s being pulled. For example, the speech’s setting was drastically different than previous years, where it was shared solely with the industry track attendees on the 3rd floor ballroom of the main convention center. Yesterday, however, YouTube chose to have Wojcicki present in the arena and allow all tracks — community, creator, and industry — to attend. Clearly, this decision was meant to show inclusivity, a gesture of goodwill to all the different types of people who use, watch, and interact with YouTube.
But while this open setting for Wojcicki’s keynote was a good idea, the announcements within her speech did little to address either creators or brands directly. Instead, Wojcicki focused more on YouTube users only, specifically with the announcements of a new and improved browser and mobile design, the reveal that there are now 1.5 billion logged in users who visit the site each month, the ability for users to share videos within the YouTube app, and the arrival of YouTube TV live television offering to ten new U.S. cities. Plus, YouTube Red users can expect 12 new original shows from some of YouTube’s biggest stars. Essentially, five out of Wojcicki’s six announcements were all user-facing.
So what can creators expect this year from YouTube? Apparently, they can look forward to a cheaper way to make virtual reality videos, but only ones in 180 degrees instead of 360 (i.e. the cameras will be easier to afford for lower-level creators). If there was anything else for creators this year, YouTube didn’t care to reveal it, at least not yet. And brands and advertisers were also out of luck, as the keynote addressed nothing new in regards to YouTube’s improved advertising system or how creators and brands can work together for mutual benefit.
The lack of transparency on Wojcicki’s part regarding YouTube’s Adpocalypse issue is frustrating, to say the least. It could just be the company wants to deal with its creator and advertiser issues behind closed doors, but by avoiding to publicly mention future steps it might take to rectify this situation, while at one of the industry’s biggest conventions of the entire year in front of many high-level creators and executives, Google’s online video site is inevitably hurting its chances to put video creators and advertisers at ease.