YouTube Looks to Unexpected Recommendations

YouTube_logoYouTube (s GOOG) is taking a page from Netflix (s NFLX), 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 (s DIS) and Time Warner (s TWX) 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.