To be clear, it’s hard to make videos that very young children can learn from. (Johnson’s doctoral adviser, Georgene Troseth, was part of the team that demonstrated this.) Children under 2 struggle to translate the world of the screen to the one they see around them, with all its complexity and three-dimensionality. That’s why things like Baby Einstein have been debunked as educational tools. Most important for kids under 2 is rich interaction with humans and their actual environments. Older toddlers are the ones who can get something truly educational from videos, as opposed to just entertainment and the killing of time.
Advertising rates -- Online media in general has had major problems with ad revenue. Even though video ads pay better than banners or other text ads, advertisers only want to be charged for people who actually see the ads. The question of verifying the actual audience that saw an ad is a thorny one. Older media like print and television were hugely profitable in their heydays because they never had to show that the audiences they claimed were ever truly realized by advertisers.
Facebook and Twitter could pose new challenges to YouTube, because those social networks are creating their own video services. “If YouTube wants to move towards strong profitability, or to be profitable, they are gong to have to take that advertising and make it part of any actual programming,” Bajarin said. “And one way to have control over all that is to create their own content.”
ChuChu does not employ the weird keyword-stuffed titles used by lower-rent YouTube channels. The company’s titles are simple, sunny, consistent. Its theory of media is that good stuff wins, which is why its videos have won. “We know what our subscribers want, and we give it to them,” Chandar says. ChuChu says it adds roughly 40,000 subscribers a day.
Watching my daughter play with my phone is a horrifying experience, precisely because her mimicry of adult behaviors is already so accurate. Her tiny fingers poke at buttons, pinch to zoom, endlessly scroll. It’s as though she’s grown a new brain from her fingertips. Most parents feel some version of this horror. Watching them poke and pinch at our devices, we realize that these rectangles of light and compulsion are not going away, and we are all dosing ourselves with their pleasures and conveniences without knowing the consequences.
The YouTube interface suggests which local version should be chosen on the basis of the IP address of the user. In some cases, the message "This video is not available in your country" may appear because of copyright restrictions or inappropriate content. The interface of the YouTube website is available in 76 language versions, including Amharic, Albanian, Armenian, Bengali, Burmese, Khmer, Kyrgyz, Laotian, Mongolian, Persian and Uzbek, which do not have local channel versions. Access to YouTube was blocked in Turkey between 2008 and 2010, following controversy over the posting of videos deemed insulting to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and some material offensive to Muslims. In October 2012, a local version of YouTube was launched in Turkey, with the domain youtube.com.tr. The local version is subject to the content regulations found in Turkish law. In March 2009, a dispute between YouTube and the British royalty collection agency PRS for Music led to premium music videos being blocked for YouTube users in the United Kingdom. The removal of videos posted by the major record companies occurred after failure to reach agreement on a licensing deal. The dispute was resolved in September 2009. In April 2009, a similar dispute led to the removal of premium music videos for users in Germany.
How does a video streaming service with one billion active users per month and $4 billion in revenue not turn a profit? Ask YouTube, which couldn't break free from breaking even in 2014, according to a new report. Sources tell the Wall Street Journal that Google's video unit posted $4 billion in revenue last year, up from $3 billion in 2013, and that while the service accounted for 6 percent of Google's overall sales, it contributed nothing to earnings.
Of course, YouTube is funded by advertisers. So it makes sense to pay attention to their wants and desires. But under the current model, brands’ reactions are often a placeholder for third party regulation. And at the moment – as content creators are sketching the line for appropriate content – it is often advertisers who have the final say about acceptability.
Estimates for YouTube's annual revenue, nearly all of which still comes from ads, vary a fair amount. But many of the estimates are now above $10 billion. At different points, Bank of America and Mizuho forecast that YouTube would post 2017 revenue of $13 billion and $12 billion, respectively. And in February, Baird's Colin Sebastian estimated YouTube is doing around $15 billion in annual sales.
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YouTube ads provided a big percentage of the Segarses’ income during those early days, and worked well with their content. “Our workouts require strategically placed water breaks, which easily lends itself to monetization/ads that aren’t intrusive to the user experience,” says Segars. “People even joke about how relieved they are to see ads and get a quick minute to catch their breath.” Meanwhile, that revenue allowed them to adopt a no-sponsor policy. “It has cut out a lot of monetization opportunities, but our audience is well aware of our stance and appreciates it,” Segars continues. “We think that trust is an important part of building a brand.” As a result, they’ve roped in a loyal audience that’s now willing to pay for a variety of workout programs and meal plans for sale on the Fitness Blender website.
Other, more intense measures could help, too. For example, how about restricting toddler videos to the YouTube Kids app? Toddler content could, in effect, be forbidden on the main platform. If video makers wanted their work on the YouTube Kids app, they’d have to agree to have it only on the Kids app. This might hurt their view counts initially, but it would keep kids in a safer environment, and in the long term would protect the brand from the inevitable kid-related scandals. The issue of inappropriate videos popping up in YouTube Kids has received a good deal of national press—but society can live with a tiny sliver of bad things slipping through the company’s filters. It’s a small issue compared with kids watching billions of videos on regular YouTube. Why worry about the ways a kid could hurt himself in a padded room, when huge numbers of kids are tromping around the virtual city’s empty lots? (Ducard said that YouTube knows families watch videos together: “That’s why this content is available on our main YouTube site and also on our YouTube Kids app.”)
YouTube is pulling in plenty of dollars – 4 billion of them in 2014, up by a billion on 2013 – but it’s also spending it like there’s no tomorrow. People “familiar with its financials” told the Wall Street Journal this week that after forking out for original content and also the infrastructure to keep the whole shebang going, the company is just about breaking even.
Another focus for the viral video platform has been supporting the many creators who have flocked there to create videos. Actress and comedian Grace Helbig, whose channel has 3 million subscribers, joined the site three years ago to start her show because of the creative freedom. “There are no gatekeepers,” said Helbig, who appeared onstage with Wojcicki.
YouTube earns advertising revenue from Google AdSense, a program which targets ads according to site content and audience. The vast majority of its videos are free to view, but there are exceptions, including subscription-based premium channels, film rentals, as well as YouTube Premium, a subscription service offering ad-free access to the website and access to exclusive content made in partnership with existing users.