This issue we’re diving into YouTube and its most recent updates that you should know more about. No, it’s not about resolving its disputes with the music business over the “value gap”. It’s a lot more functional than that – and a lot less thorny.
First up: YouTube Community. Let’s face it, as incredible as YouTube is, every time you want to actually talk to your subscribers, you’re having to hit up another platform – Facebook for live videos, mailing list for merchandise, Instagram for cat pictures and gifs.
So Community is a new tab on YouTube, sitting between Playlists and Channels, where users can update their audiences video-free. Sometimes fans don’t have time to find out about every single extra tour date and funny pug faces via a two-minute video; there’s a reason for short, snackable content platforms such as Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.
This feature enables users to communicate effectively with fans through one platform, potentially drawing in more subscribers without the need for video.
For YouTubers this will be gold. Grassroots artists largely based on YouTube will be able to build a hub within their user page whereby a more engaged audience can be created.
It’s currently in beta, but YouTube has given first dibs to the VlogBrothers (John and Hank Green), who are a perfect example of a YouTube-first act not particularly present in other areas of the social sphere. For them, the ability to build a community space within YouTube is increasingly paramount.
“It solves a long-standing problem we’ve had, which is YouTube can’t be the hub of our channels’ community if videos are the only hub,” they say. “Something as simple as, ‘I’m going to be playing a show in San Francisco.’ I can’t make a video about that. I can tweet about it and put it out on Facebook, but I can’t reach my YouTube audience.”
Basically, why wouldn’t YouTube want to offer users the tools to say on their platform what users are saying on others? The VlogBrothers have been posting weekly book reviews and tour dates while another artist with early access, a cappella singer Peter Hollens, has been posting photo updates of his recording and even sharing private YouTube videos of his baby son talking. Also on offer are animated gifs plus fans’ ability to thump up or down and comment on posts.
The question is: do we need to build a community in YouTube when there are better ones elsewhere? Sure for the native YouTubers it’s great, but for your average Joe popstar it might be a bit, well, futile.
On most of the beta profiles, posts on Community pages are only receiving around 200-2,000 counts of engagement, which is incredibly low for users with between 1.5 and 3.5m subscribers. Take Peter Hollens, for example; his Facebook page has 500k followers while his YouTube subscriber count is past 1.5m. On one hand, Hollens’ audience is clearly on YouTube, which is the obvious place to build a community. On the other, despite it being only a third of his YouTube audience, posts on Facebook on average get more than five times the engagement.
The feature has only been around for a few weeks, so this is most likely a case of it becoming more known. However, perhaps YouTubers just don’t spend that much time browsing a user’s homepage to notice. For the non-hardcore fans, YouTube will need to introduce a Community feed in the YouTube homepage so that users can keep track of updates from the channels they follow. Once this is rolled out, we’d expect this feature to appear automatically; otherwise, well, there wouldn’t be much point.
Alongside the new Community feature, YouTube has just launched another new feature in beta – YouTube Go. No, it’s not the same as Pokémon Go. Well, it’s a little bit similar. Instead of catching cartoon creatures, this app allows users to catch videos and save them offline in different sizes/levels of quality.
The app is a development on the Smart Offline feature which launched in India earlier this year. Similarly, the app has been designed for users with little or no data allowance. India has been selected to test the feature before it’s rolled out further, although so far there’s no comment on future plans. YouTube officials recently travelled to India to research the connectivity situation for users as part of the development of user experience for territories with typically less powerful mobile phones.
“While in Nagpur, I met a young man who loved using YouTube to watch WWE wrestling and wanted to show us his favorite video,” said Johanna Wright, VP of product management at YouTube. “But after he found it and tapped to play, the video just wouldn’t load. Maybe it was his phone or his 2G connection, but it just wouldn’t work.”
The app essentially lets users find videos trending their local area, preview videos before saving, with a choice of resolutions when doing so, meaning control over data allowances. One of the big developments is Bluetooth integration whereby users can share videos with friends and family without the use of data, whether online or offline – a huge development for territories like India.
The introduction of YouTube Go came along with several other announcements at an event in the country last month, such as the Google Station public Wi-Fi initiative, Google Assistant in Hindi and new versions of the Chrome and Play Store.
YouTube is clearly making tracks to become more of a hub, both in community and accessibility. While these two developments are still in beta, it’ll be interesting to see how they pan out. Does every YouTube user even need their own ‘Community’? We’ll see.