Longtime Google leader Susan Wojcicki has left her post at Google Ads for the top spot at YouTube, Google confirmed via email today. The news follows reports of the move by Re/code and The Information, which cited unidentified sources. Wojcicki, who housed the early Google operations in her garage in Silicon Valley, may have the skills to solve one of YouTube’s biggest problems: a sustainable revenue system for creators.
Wojcicki’s strong leadership at Google Ads, and her success in that department, may grow YouTube’s prospects and profits in the long term. Butit’s hard to ignore the increasing unrest among content creators who see YouTube as an untenable ecosystem that ultimately doesn’t pay enough for the work it demands. Can Wojcicki make those creators happier, too?
While Google does its best to keep YouTube’s revenue-generating numbers hidden, particularly in how much it pays out to creators and channels (although it’s estimated that Youtube takes roughly 45 percent of ad revenue off the top), the anecdotal sentiment is that most struggle to make money on the platform. Individual creators can’t solidify a revenue stream through YouTube without an (often costly) partnership with YouTube itself or one of its many partner channels. Although these partnerships can be lucrative, they can also cause problems about who owns the content made for channels. If creators decide to go independent, they have a high chance of losing ownership, visibility, and the following that their partnered work has brought them.
It’s not just the little guy who gets swallowed up in the attempt to make money through video: larger partner channels like Machinima struggle under the weight of their own creator base, despite support and millions of dollars from YouTube. Without enough cash to go around, these channels may try to seek outside revenue from “partnerships” with other companies. Machinima came under fire recently for its partner advertising practices, as a leaked document from a campaign with Microsoft showed that the channel offered extra incentive for its thousands of creators to shill Microsoft products. The practice is murky at best, and an example of the lengths channels are willing to go to get that extra revenue stream.
Without the numbers to support it, it’s hard to know just how bad the creator revenue issue is for YouTube. The company itself may be performing admirably enough for Google’s standards, despite the fact that many involved on the platform see a need for improvement. But Wojcicki could have the skills to right the ship, thanks to her extensive time with Google ads. There is an opportunity to make better ads, which in turn would be better for creators and likely make YouTube a happier, more sustainable ecosystem in the long run. Solving Youtube’s low CPM issue could make the community that much more vibrant and free of the hiccups that dissuade people from seeing the platform as a place to earn money. But it’s also a serious chicken-and-egg issue that goes before and beyond YouTube, one that still deeply undervalues video ads online.
Wojcicki has her work cut out for her, but curing YouTube’s ills would cement her as a legendary leader of Google.
This report has been updated to reflect Google’s confirmation of Wojcicki’s position at Youtube.