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Summary:

YouTube is taking a page from Netflix, looking to recommendations as a way to squeeze a few more video views (with ads) out of its massive audience. Only this time around, the recommendations YouTube wants to make are of a more unexpected variety. The Wall Street […]

YouTube_logoYouTube is taking a page from Netflix, looking to recommendations as a way to squeeze a few more video views (with ads) out of its massive audience. Only this time around, the recommendations YouTube wants to make are of a more unexpected variety. The Wall Street Journal writes:

So Walk and his team are now trying to figure out how to find new topics to engage users, a process he calls “manufacturing spontaneity.” The “serendipity of YouTube,” he said, is to show people a “selection of videos you didn’t intend to see but are very compatible. I didn’t come here to watch this. But somehow I find myself watching 10 videos about topic blah.”

The article provides the example of how someone who watches Van Halen videos might get “fatigued” after viewing a bunch of them in a row, so YouTube might generate a recommendation to watch scuba videos (Snorklin’ With the Devil?) instead.

Getting more relevant recommendations was the impetus behind the million-dollar Netflix Prize. After all, if stimulating a viewer’s interest gets them to rent one more movie, or in this case, watch one more vid — that means one more ad.

Tweaking recommendations is also low-hanging (money-generating) fruit for YouTube, especially at its scale. Its attempts to become more of an advertiser-friendly premium content destination have been somewhat stymied lately, as both Disney and Time Warner have only opted to provide the site with clips as opposed to full-length TV episodes or movies. Plus, impending TV Everywhere plans from networks and studios means more professional, long-form content won’t be on YouTube as it will be locked up behind an MSO subscription wall.

Creating unexpected recommendations is a way for YouTube to make the most of what they have, and by bundling together short clips, it, in effect, creates its own unique long-form show for the viewer.

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  1. As the YouTube product manager quoted in the piece, I totally want to use your “Snorklin’ with the Devil” line. Awesome!

    I was thinking it was more a reference to the album Diver Down ;-)

    Obviously i’m biased but i believe YouTube has a great opportunity to help surface tremendously interesting content for our users that they didn’t know we had on site and didn’t come looking for. Get you great, interesting video without you having to work too hard to find.

    1. Thanks, Hunter, please feel free to use that line anytime you like.

  2. YouTube’s Hunter Walk to Speak at NewTeeVee Live Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    [...] Walk heads up product for YouTube. He works on things like making YouTube more of a social network, improving serendipitous recommendations, and getting up official Susan Boyle clips. At NewTeeVee Live, he’ll be joining us on stage [...]

  3. Making Content Relevant Pays Off; NBC Signs Up The Filter – A Collection of Latest Happening in Technology Field Thursday, April 8, 2010

    [...] Now, after successful trials, The Filter has secured its biggest media partner to date, NBC. The company will power recommendations for short-form videos on NBC.com such as clips from shows such as “Saturday Night Live.” At a time when the video experience is fragmented and competitive, getting a user who actually visits your site to stick around for more than a couple minutes is huge. It’s something folks like YouTube think about a ton. [...]

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