What does the future hold for YouTube? If you listen to what top executives at parent company Google say, it sounds an awful lot like the search giant’s primary product.
YouTube remains the king of free streaming video, and that appears unlikely to change any time soon.
On Alphabet’s quarterly earnings call last week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told analysts that “the number of YouTube channels with more than one million subscribers nearly doubled in the last year, and the number of creators earning five or six figures grew by more than 40% year-over-year.”
In other words, not only is YouTube big, but it is getting bigger and bigger.
Premium offerings such as YouTube TV and YouTube Premium are also a major source of investment.
“We are clearly investing in areas where we see opportunity,” Pichai said. “We are pretty thorough about making sure our investments deliver growth on the other side. And so we monitored with metrics and beat engagement and revenue growth and we see a lot of opportunity here.”,
Still, it was Pichai’s comments about the “long run” that piqued the most interest. YouTube has quietly become one of the biggest search engines in the world, second only to sister company Google in terms of the number of search queries it handles.
Pichai believes the company needs to leverage that advantage.
“In the long run, I think for me, YouTube is a place where we see users not only come for entertainment, they come to find information -- they're coming to learn about things," Pichai says. “They’re coming to discover, to research, and so being able to match that intent over time in a way that we can bring the right value for our users and advertisers -- I think there's a long-run opportunity. And we're taking all the right foundational steps to realize it.”
YouTube as a the place to find information? Of course, the video giant has major hurdles it needs to clear before it can move that needle. The platform still has a massive problem with misinformation and conspiracy theories appearing as top search results.
In January, however, the company took the first actionable steps to fix those problems, saying that it would de-emphasize misinformation and “borderline content” on its platform, without removing the videos entirely.
In an open letter last week, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki noted those rule changes, and added that “we’ve prioritized supporting the journalism community” through a handful of initiatives.
Still, there is a long way to go to improve its search results. One thing is clear, however: YouTube is increasingly thinking of itself less as a place to watch videos, and more as a gateway to the rest of the web.