YouTube’s new look: Web surfing meets channel surfing
(Corrects earlier version to clarify YouTube has hundreds of thousands, not millions, of channels)
The world’s No.1 video website unveiled an overhaul of its site on Thursday that will put the hundreds of thousands of online video “channels” front and center.
For many, YouTube is a place to go looking for a specific video. With the redesign, YouTube hopes users will make a habit of visiting the site just to see what’s playing on their favorite channels.
“We’re trying to take the best of what we see in TV and the best of online and bring it together,” said Shishir Mehrotra, YouTube VP of product development, during a briefing with reporters at the company’s San Bruno, California headquarters.
The notion of channels on YouTube is not new. Amateur and professional video producers already create their own specialized channels – devoted to topics ranging from soccer to Lego animation – through which they organize the various clips they offer on YouTube.
With its redesign, YouTube wants to make it easier for websurfers to browse through those channels, and to create a personalized homepage displaying their favorites (this requires that users create a Google account, and log- in when they visit YouTube).
Currently, the average user spends 15 minutes watching videos on YouTube, said Noam Lovinsky, a group product manager . With the new channel-focused design, those sessions could stretch into 30 minutes or even one hour-plus sessions, he said.
YouTube also unveiled a specialized version of the site for Microsoft’s Xbox video console, providing a way for people to watch YouTube videos on their television screens beyond the current crop of Google TV devices, which have not been hugely popular.
While YouTube came of age with home-made videos of pets and babies, the site has been steadily supplementing its video library with “premium” content, such as Hollywood movie rentals and October’s announcement of 100 original video programming deals with media partners including Madonna and Jay-Z.
YouTube has also been busily figuring out ways to incorporate advertising into the videos without annoying users. Earlier this year YouTube began testing a skip button for the “pre-roll” ads which appear at the start of some videos. According to YouTube executives, advertisers actually like the feature since it means they only pay when users don’t skip their ads. Already, half of the video pre-rolls on YouTube now offer the skip feature.
YouTube, which is owned by Google, doesn’t disclose financial figures. But Mehrotra did let slip one interesting nugget during Thursday’s briefing: YouTube’s revenue has doubled every year since 2009, though he declined to give any specific numbers to put the growth in context.