Are web shows changing the way we look at online media? Google seemed to think so, and decided to make big changes to the user interface at their flagship acquisition, web video giant YouTube.
YouTube made its name on the internet as an easy-to-use, easy-to-search and nearly endless bazaar of user-uploaded videos. Little more needs to be said: by now we all know that if you want to find a video of something online, the very first place you go to look is YouTube.
But as web shows continue to draw viewers away from traditional television, it became apparent that people don't just want to do searches for specific 30-second videos. They also want to watch episodes, seasons, or whole series at once, and could easily get hooked in by serial or related content being offered all on one go.
This was the reasoning behind Google's revamp of the YouTube front page and UI, with a bigger-than-ever emphasis on “channels.” While users can still make their own channels of any content they want, organized channels that feature serial content play a bigger role, and the ability to find, subscribe to, and play through a channel is more visible in the interface.
Channel subscriptions are up 50%, and the total amount of time users spend on YouTube has increased 60% to nearly seven hours a month for an average user.
In other words, Youtube has made a foray from a social media-sharing site to a faux television network. And so far, it's working.
What remains to be seen is what long-term changes these results might herald. The most immediate opportunity is an advertising revenue coup for Google, which could presumably place more ads and charge more for them. It also raises the question of whether they can continue to push Youtube in this direction and see further increases, or if this is a law-of-diminishing-returns front. And if they do keep pushing, will rival video-sharing sites spring up and take a chunk of their market by offering the more laissez faire, see what you find format to those nostalgic for the old Youtube?
Of course, no further changes have been announced by notoriously secretive Google at this time. Like everyone else, we'll have to wait and see.