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 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.