It's All Change at YouTube...

Apr 02, 2013

As a video communications agency, YouTube plays a major role in our day to day work. It’s a key distribution point for many of our clients and is the number one destination for video on the web. Big changes are happening at YouTube. Here are our thoughts on the subject...

What's changing?

Whereas it was once a lunch break destination for a couple of minutes  of amusement, YouTube is now attempting to change viewer habits to make the site a more long term destination to watch high quality video content. They have already changed the homepage layout and are now rolling out major changes to user channels. This change of direction has been made more evident with the creation of YouTube Original Channels, which YouTube are backing to deliver more professional content from a variety of categories and genres. You’ll see an awful lot of these channels appearing on the homepage when you first log in.

People struggle with change...so why have they done it?

Facebook change their layout and there is uproar...for about 2 weeks.  Then, everyone gets used to it and all is right in the world again. YouTube will be hoping this will be the case for their new layout, as they roll it out over the next few months. The homepage already has a different look- the 30 second videos of babies falling over are a thing of the past, replaced with neatly categorised content from brands and YouTube partners. These changes are an attempt by YouTube to move away from being a ‘2 minute distraction’ site, to becoming a destination that users visit to get a longer and more engaging viewing experience. This doesn’t mean everyone will start viewing hour long videos, but it does mean we’ll be seeing more high quality content with easier access to related content. YouTube is in the process of extending these changes out to individual channels- which has generated quite a bit of discussion...

What’s good about the new YouTube channel layout?

At first glance the new channel layout is a pretty underwhelming experience. Gone is the beautiful custom background, replaced by a left hand navigation bar and multiple options to visit and promote other channels.    The layout is a little busy, but on closer inspection it makes sense. The content is now easier to access and there are no long lists of single videos to scroll through or ‘load more videos’ buttons to push. One innovation that should prove popular is the option to create a channel trailer. Yes, the old banners and backgrounds looked good, but what better way to tell people about your channel than through video? YouTube has also taken note of the rising number of visits from mobiles and tablets and the new channel layout is designed to reflect this. While the customisation may be lacking, users should be able to get the same viewing experience no matter what device they are using.

Bring on the bad news...

The old YouTube channel layout, when used to its maximum potential, did look great. There was an excellent level of customisation that made the channel truly feel like an extension of a brand or individual. The new layout is much more uniform, with YouTube opting to strip back many of the branding options that used to be possible. This lack of customisation affects the title banner as well as the background. Yes, there are options to link to social media and websites, but there is no longer an option to link to other destinations (for example an iPhone App) directly from the banner. The other slightly odd thing is that for all YouTube’s emphasis on driving channel subscriptions, clicking on a video when on a channel still transports the user off to the regular ‘watch’ page. Surely it would make sense to keep viewers in one place until they make a decision to go elsewhere?

The Conclusions...

Whether we like it or not, these changes to YouTube are happening, and if it will change our viewing habits remains to be seen. Here at Somersault our initial reaction to the new channel layout was not overly positive, but, as is often the case, we are slowly coming round to it. The content is easier to access and the channel trailer function is a great idea which we’ll be taking advantage of for our various partner channels. It will be interesting to see how YouTube viewing habits develop over the coming year, and whether we will see it compete with the likes of Netflix in terms of engagement time, or if we’ll still be using it to get that quick fix of entertainment on our lunch break.

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