5 Questions With time, guys, and we’re going big instead of going home with Google’s Hunter Walk, who is in charge of product development at YouTube. This isn’t the first time we’ve talked to Hunter — most recently, he appeared at NewTeeVee Live 2010 to announce just how much video is now being uploaded to YouTube every minute. But today, he discusses the tools that help creators connect directly with audiences, as well as YouTube’s strategy for dealing with the content world in the light of those Next New Networks rumors.
1. What’s the one big issue/law/attitude/restriction that you think is holding back the industry?
Content that didn’t start out as a TV show is still undervalued by advertisers, despite being loved by viewers.
But it’s definitely changing. We’ve seen YouTube increasingly included as a ‘channel’ in advertisers’ TV spend as opposed to just getting included in online video budgets. Multiplatform viewing explodes the overly simplistic terminology we use today; when a video is watched by 10 million people every week — five million on a Google TV, three million on their PC and two million on their phone or tablet, what do you call that content? A TV show? A webisode? A mobisode (*shudder* — remember the mobile video industry trying to push that one)? No, you call it content with an audience, and advertisers target audience.
New content creators should be able to increasingly realize “TV CPMs,” which means that you will have a significant increase in your distribution options via YouTube and other services. You can achieve your professional and creative goals without ever having to talk with someone wearing a suit.
2. What industry buzzword do you never want to hear again?
“Premium,” as applied to suggest that something which was filmed on a soundstage is automagically superior (e.g. “They should license more premium content”). Look, I’m not dissing the value of Hollywood and I also don’t think 60-minute scripted dramatic content is going to start appearing overnight from sources other than traditional media.
But I refuse to put content from any one source on a pedestal. If YouTube has proven anything it’s that given a level playing field and democratization of creation tools, anyone can build an audience of millions through good ideas and hard work. So I try and stay away from segmenting content into “premium” and “other.” New vocabulary will emerge as the media industry evolves.
3. If someone gave you $50 million to invest in a company in this space, which one would it be? (Mentioning your own doesn’t count.)
How about whatever George Strompolos is up to? (Plug for former YouTuber!)
I believe the future of video is still in the living room, it’s just via a large screen connected to the Internet and increasingly with a second screen also available on your laptop/phone/tablet when needed. Accordingly I’d take $10 million and start a living room app development fund. What Android apps should be developed as an on-screen or accompanying experience?
Then I’d take the other $40 million and sprinkle it among all the companies which are helping creators go directly to consumers: Kickstarter (a personal fav), Topspin, Threadless, Etsy for example. Watch out though, guys, I take a board seat with my investment and I have LOTS of opinions.
4. What was the last video (that you weren’t personally involved with) that you liked enough to spread to others?
Oh, I share a ton of videos (surprise!). I’m a total sucker for tilt-shift videos because I believe they are familiarizing a generation of viewers with a whole new visual language. Here’s a beautiful one of San Francisco (where I live), which I love not just because it’s beautiful but also because it’s a video response to one of New York City (where I grew up).
To see the YouTube community being inspired by one another and riffing on each other’s ideas, man, that’s why we come to work everyday.
5. WILD-CARD: Last month’s rumors that YouTube might acquire Next New Networks had many people reconsidering YouTube’s relationship with the production world (even though, of course, both NNN and YouTube were quick to state that those rumors were speculative). Looking forward at 2011, how is YouTube as an organization strategizing that relationship?
It’s really simple: We’re not a media company — we’re a media catalyst. It’s our goal to see content getting created, help it find the largest audience possible and make the content creators lots of money so they can reinvest in their vision.
To do this, we’ll build tools and a technology platform, but we’re also going to think about other adventurous ways we can be a productive partner. For example, in December we gave $1000 gift certificates to 500 YouTube partners so they could buy new video production gear.
In 2011 you’ll see us be even more creative and broad in our support of content creators because our business is going great and we believe more than ever in the ability for great content to be successful on YouTube. Whether it was produced by one person in their backyard or 1,000 people on a Hollywood backlot, we’re going to help you accomplish your goals.
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