Google unveiled YouTube Moderator Thursday to give members a sounding board and to solicit ideas and questions on any topic. The discussions appear on the users' or brands' channel page, giving community members a chance to vote the best ones up to the top.
People who use YouTube can embed the module onto their channel to create a focused discussion and share ideas. YouTube used the tool during the interview with U.S. President Barack Obama allowing people to submit questions. The World Economic Forum in Davos has used it to debate economic and environmental issues.
Kina Grannis recently embedded the module on her YouTube page to share her music and get feedback from fans. Through the tool, Grannis asks followers to help write the lyrics to her next song. About 828 people have submitted 457 suggestions and cast 6,394 votes.
Aside from giving musicians an outlet and a sense of community to let people collaborate on music, a Stanford University professor relies on Moderator to allow people to ask questions about heart disease and genetics-based medicine. As the audience submits text and video responses, the owner of the channel can moderate it in real-time, removing or answering questions as they appear.
Advertisers looking to strengthen ties with consumers can solicit feedback from their community around a specific campaign or create contests. Olivia Ma, news manager on the news and politics team at YouTube, called the module a "virtual focus group" for advertisers, because they can get immediate feedback around a campaign or product launch.
YouTube also will make Moderator as an API, allowing brands to embed the module on their own Web sites, with a code snippet embedded into the HTML page. Unfortunately, the tool does not offer an alert sent to the moderator's PC or mobile phone providing a signal that someone has uploaded a comment. Setting up a live session does let moderators post a notice to followers.
YouTube also did a poll in January using Moderator. When YouTube asked the community which features they would most like to see, the No. 1 answer came back as support for HTML5.
Setting up a moderated panel discussion with a specific focus seems to be the major difference between this tool and comments. The owner of the channel puts out a call for questions and comments on a specific topic, and the community can vote on submissions.
Google sites dominated search market share in April 2010, with 14.0 billion search queries, but YouTube/all others declined 7% to 3,440, according to comScore.