YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has published “an update on my 2019 priorities” aimed at YouTube’s community of creators. It includes some news about how YouTube will be managing its trending-videos tab, as well as her determination to continue YouTube’s campaign of lobbying around the new European copyright directive.
On the trending tab – YouTube’s section highlighting videos that are currently hot on the platform – Wojcicki said she’s heard YouTubers’ complaints that “it doesn’t seem to reflect what people are watching on the platform and that too many of the same creators show up time and time again”. Among the remedies: “Going forward, our goal is to have at least half the videos on trending come from YouTubers (with the remainder coming from music and traditional media), something we’re close to already but will expand on.”
What might that mean for music? As a snapshot, at the time of writing this bulletin, in the UK, there were 50 videos listed in the main part of YouTube’s trending feed, including six music videos. Of the 30 videos shown below that in a separate ‘recently trending’ section, seven are music videos. Note, there is a dedicated ‘Music’ sub-section of Trending too, while YouTube would argue that increasingly, discovery of artists’ content will be driven by its YouTube Music app, as well as recommendations when people are watching videos. So changes to the main tab aren’t such a big deal for music, really.
Wojcicki also hinted at tweaks to the way Content ID works. “We also heard firsthand that our Manual Claiming system was increasingly being used to claim very short (in some cases one second) content or incidental content like when a creator walks past a store playing a few seconds of music,” she wrote. “We were already looking into this issue but hearing this directly from creators was vital. We are exploring improvements in striking the right balance between copyright owners and creators.”
As for the copyright directive, Wojcicki says YouTube isn’t giving up on the battle around Article 17 (formerly Article 13) in the legislation. “While we support the rights of copyright holders – YouTube has deals with almost all the music companies and TV broadcasters today – we are concerned about the vague, untested requirements of the new directive. It could create serious limitations for what YouTube creators can upload,” she wrote. “This risks lowering the revenue to traditional media and music companies from YouTube and potentially devastating the many European creators who have built their businesses on YouTube.”
The music industry continues to dispute this interpretation of the legislation, including arguing that Article 17 isn’t such a change from the way YouTube’s Content ID system already works. However, YouTube isn’t done with the debate. “While the Directive has passed, there is still time to affect the final implementation to avoid some of the worst unintended consequences. Each EU member state now has two years to introduce national laws that are in line with the new rules, which means that the powerful collective voice of creators can still make a major impact,” wrote Wojcicki, addressing her community. “This is not the end of our movement but only the beginning.” A principle that will surely also hold true for the music industry’s bodies as they gear up for the directive’s implementation – and the lobbying around it.