YouTube’s new head talks priorities for 2023, including AI, podcasting, Shorts and more

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YouTube’s new head, Neal Mohan, wrote his first letter to creators emphasizing that the company wants to continue supporting the community in the coming year by giving them more tools to make money. He also talked about other priorities for 2023, including how YouTube wants to experiment with generative AI and multiple formats such as Shorts and podcasts, among others.

Last month Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s longtime CEO, stepped down from the position and moved to an advisory role at Alphabet. That led to Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan being promoted to the company’s top seat. He now heads YouTube, which competes in multiple categories ranging from short videos to streaming services.

In the letter, the newly promoted executive cited a study by Oxford Economics that showed that by 2021, more than 2 million creators would earn the money equivalent to a full-time job in multiple countries. In recent months, YouTube has begun experimenting with various methods for creators to monetize, including shopping-related features and ad revenue sharing on Shorts. The company mentioned that the number of subscribers to individual channels is up 20% year-over-year to six million.

The new YouTube headline also highlighted multilingual features, including dubbing clips into another language and automatic subtitles. He said the executives want to meet with more creators this year and give them more support.

“We are also listening to creators through more support. Last year, we more than doubled the number of makers and partners who can get live help via chat or email. More than half of these creators are outside the US. We’ve also significantly increased the number of creators who have a partner manager to provide strategic tips for success on YouTube,” he said.

Mohan, who was previously Chief Product Officer at the company, said the video streaming platform is experimenting with introducing more features for formats such as connected TV experience, Shorts and podcasts.

Most notably at a recent event, the company announced that podcasts are coming to YouTube Music with features like background playback. Last year, YouTube hinted at its plans when a new podcast page appeared for users in the US. The platform is now building RSS feed integration for podcasters so they don’t have to upload episodes to the service separately.

After announcing exclusive streaming rights to NFL Sunday Ticket last December, YouTube said the company plans to let users watch multiple games at once this year through a feature rollout.

Google is also keen to take over some of the market share of short videos from TikTok and Instagram. The company has grown to 50 billion daily views for Shorts, with the number of channels uploading short videos growing 80% year over year, the letter said. This year it introduces a side-by-side format that allows creators to include Shorts with other Shorts or videos, essentially incentivizing them to make more reaction videos.

Given the recent popularity of OpenAI’s ChatGPT bot, multiple platforms are exploring product use cases of generative AI. Microsoft is integrating the technology into Bing Search, the Edge browser, and even Windows 11. In response, Google has announced its own solution called Bard. Snapchat has introduced a ChatGPT-style bot for its paid user, while Meta has formed a group that aims to build AI-powered features. So YouTube doesn’t want to be outdone, but the new head of the company was sparse on details in his letter.

“Creators can tell their stories and increase their production value, from virtually swapping outfits to creating a fantastic movie setting through the generative capabilities of AI. We take the time to develop these features with thoughtful guardrails. Stay tuned in the coming months as we roll out tools for creators, as well as the protections to responsibly embrace this technology,” Mohan said in the letter.

He also stressed that YouTube is focusing on making the platform safe, especially for kids, with tools like parent-controlled playlists on Google TV.

In the letter, Mohan pointed out that YouTube is in talks with several governments about policy making. The company is involved in a U.S. Supreme Court case in which plaintiffs allege that Google is responsible for promoting content on YouTube uploaded before the 2015 Paris terrorist attack. The case hinges on how the court interprets Section 230, which the platform from responsibility for user-generated content.

At a time when Google’s position as a search giant is being challenged by rivals integrating AI into their searches, the company will look to YouTube as a major source of revenue going forward. The video platform already brought in $29.2 billion in ad sales last year. Plus, more than 80 million people pay for YouTube Premium and YouTube Music.

“This is a pivotal moment for our industry. We are facing challenging economic headwinds and uncertain geopolitical conditions. AI offers incredible creative opportunities, but must be balanced by responsible stewardship. Creators, viewers and advertisers have more choices than ever before about where they want to spend their time and platforms like YouTube need to deliver in different formats while investing in policies that protect platforms from harm in the real world,” said Mohan.

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