Morgan Stanley told clients Feb. 5 that more disclosure about YouTube, as well as the smaller businesses lumped together on its balance sheet as “Other Bets,” could help investors see more value in the sum of these parts. Alphabet, which now has a market capitalization of roughly $708 billion could actually be a $1 trillion company, the bank’s analysts said.
I worry about these questions a lot, and I wonder if our 21st-century American institutions are up to the challenges they’ve created with their market successes and ethical abdications. Even so, when I visited Chennai, I felt okay about the media future we’re heading into. The toddler videos that ChuChu is posting on YouTube are cultural hybrids, exuberant and cosmopolitan, and in a philosophical sense they presuppose a world in which all children are part of one vast community, drawing on the world’s collective heritage of storytelling. That’s a rich narrative rootstock, with lots of lessons to teach—and right now who’s better poised to make the most of it than ChuChu and companies like it, especially if they can learn from the legacy of American educational TV?
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Chu Chu loved it. “She wanted me to repeat it again and again,” Chandar recalls. Which gave him an idea: “If she is going to like it, the kids around the world should like it.” He created a YouTube channel and uploaded the video. In a few weeks, it had 300,000 views. He made and uploaded another video, based on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and it took off. After posting just two videos, he had 5,000 subscribers to his channel. Someone from YouTube reached out and, as Chandar remembers it, said, “You guys are doing some magic with your content.” So Chandar and several of his friends formed a company in Chennai, in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, from the bones of an IT business they’d run. They hired a few animators and started putting out a video a month.
Of course, influencers have their own interests to look out for, too. “The process of creating a brand campaign is holistic, and the cost is not standard,” says Natalie Alzate, the woman behind NataliesOutlet, a YouTube channel with almost 6 million followers. “My manager, agent, and attorney work hard to ensure that each campaign is a success, which is measured by whether the fans respond to it as well they do to non-sponsored content.”
Individuals and businesses make millions of dollars through YouTube advertising, but there are risks to using a platform controlled by another company. Not only is there a chance that a change in Google's search algorithms could make or break video traffic, but Google also takes a hefty 45 percent cut of revenue from video advertising. Nevertheless, YouTube is a massive platform and is the world's second largest search engine after Google, which includes YouTube videos in search results. If the benefits of reaching YouTube's large audience and having Google handle the most labor-intensive parts of building an advertising network outweigh the costs and risks, this platform is a great resource for turning videos into cash.
Among the specific findings, researchers demonstrated that Sesame Street improved children’s vocabulary, regardless of their parents’ education or attitudes. Another study found that regular adult TV stunted vocabulary development, while high-quality educational programs accelerated language acquisition. The most fascinating study began in the 1980s, when a University of Massachusetts at Amherst team installed video cameras in more than 100 homes, and had those families and hundreds of others keep a written log of their media diet. Following up more than a decade later, researchers found that “viewing educational programs as preschoolers was associated with higher grades, reading more books, placing more value on achievement, greater creativity, and less aggression.” On the flip side, violent programming led to lower grades among girls, in particular. The team was unequivocal about the meaning of these results: What kids watched was much more important than how much of it they watched. Or, as the researchers’ refutation of Marshall McLuhan’s famous aphorism went, “The medium is not the message: The message is.”
Chandar met me and led me into a massive conference room. In addition to being the CEO, he composes music for ChuChu. He’s the public face of the company and, at 39, a few years younger than the other four founders, who each hold an equal stake. He sent a young man to get me a coffee, and then we sat down together with his friend B. M. Krishnan, a former accountant and a ChuChu co-founder who is now the company’s chief creative officer.
The men know this with quantitative precision. YouTube analytics show exactly when a video’s audience falls off. ChuChu and other companies like it—whatever their larger philosophy—can see exactly what holds a toddler’s attention, moment by moment, and what causes it to drift. If a video achieves a 60 percent average completion rate, ChuChu knows it has a hit. Using these data doesn’t let it “crack the algorithm”; everyone has access to a version of these numbers. Instead, Chandar uses the analytics to tune his and other creators’ intuition about what works.
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.
In February 2015, YouTube released a secondary mobile app known as YouTube Kids. The app is designed to provide an experience optimized for children. It features a simplified user interface, curated selections of channels featuring age-appropriate content, and parental control features. Later on August 26, 2015, YouTube launched YouTube Gaming—a video gaming-oriented vertical and app for videos and live streaming, intended to compete with the Amazon.com-owned Twitch.
7. Turn to crowdfunding: There are two primary types of crowdfunding: recurring and project-based. Recurring crowdfunding lets contributors pay an amount they specify on a regular schedule. You’d want to maximize this type of funding in order to turn a channel into a substantial income stream. Incentives such as one-on-one video chats, private classes or merchandise can entice viewers to sign up.
It's worth noting here that even Twitter (TWTR) , which is seeing minuscule monthly user and ad revenue growth, is valued at more than seven times its 2018 revenue consensus. And Snap (SNAP) , which (though seeing strong revenue growth) is contending with slowing user growth and faces big questions about its long-term profitability, is worth over 11 times its 2018 revenue consensus.
Think of the crude, misogynistic and racially-charged mudslinging that has transpired over the last eight years on YouTube without any discernible moderation. Isn't any attempt to curb unidentified libelers worth a shot? The system is far from perfect, but Google should be lauded for trying to alleviate some of the damage caused by irate YouTubers hiding behind animosity and anonymity.
Add all these factors up, and a surprising thing is revealed: Through the sustained efforts of children’s-TV reformers, something good happened. “Basic scientific research on how children attend to and comprehend television has evolved into sophisticated studies of how children can learn from electronic media,” a literature review by the Kaiser Family Foundation concluded. “This, in turn, has led to the design and production of a number of effective educational television programs, starting with Sesame Street, which many experts regard as one of the most important educational innovations of recent decades.”
I don’t mean the kind of corruption that regularly sends lowlifes like Rod Blagojevich, the Democratic former governor of Illinois, to prison. Those abuses are nonpartisan and always with us. So is vote theft of the kind we’ve just seen in North Carolina—after all, the alleged fraudster employed by the Republican candidate for Congress hired himself out to Democrats in 2010.
In any case, if you have incontrovertible evidence that YouTube is actually unprofitable today, and why that is (i.e. is it because they’re just investing all that profit back into growth, or are their upkeep costs truly just on the order of multiple billions of dollars?), would love to see it and adjust this accordingly. Doesn’t really change any of the points made though.
But even in relatively limited doses, these videos can affect young toddlers’ development. If kids watch a lot of fast-paced videos, they come to expect that that is how videos should work, which could make other educational videos less compelling and effective. “If kids get used to all the crazy, distracting, superfluous visual movement, then they may start requiring that to hold their attention,” Johnson says.
But as the latest controversy around PewDiePie illustrates, his jokes have failed to land with many, many YouTube users, and there’s growing frustration with YouTube for not doing more to combat the growth of extremism in its midst. Though its most recent move of simply erasing PewDiePew from its rosily optimistic look back at 2018 might temporarily help to create a positive public image, when considering the evolution of PewDiePie’s influence alongside his steady drift toward the far right, it’s increasingly difficult to look back and laugh.
But even if you discount YouTube's multiples a bit to account for its profit uncertainty, you're still left with a very valuable business. At six times Mizuho's revenue estimate, YouTube would be worth $90 billion. At seven times, it would be worth $105 billion. And those valuation figures would rise a little more if one tacked on a slight premium (say, $5 billion or $10 billion) for the potential of YouTube's subscription businesses.
Its a place where billions of people gather to listen to the voice of another, its not just a business anymore, its a massive public forum and its speakers deserve the protection of free speech laws, youtube needs to ditch the algorythm, tell advertisers to suck it up, tell copyright trolls that content will no longer be removed and usher in some new laws to stop copyright trolls from making youtube accountable for content and any complaints about a video should be raised to law enforcement of the region the video originated from, where the video can be reviewed by a person, and have a fixed fine for the origin of the complaint if the video was not considered a crime.
3. Check out YouTube Red: AdSense isn’t the only way partners can make money on YouTube. You can also make videos available on YouTube Red, which is the site’s ad-free subscription service. And if you have more than 1,000 active subscribers, you can put videos behind a paywall and enable Super Chat, which lets viewers pay to have their messages highlighted during a live stream. To use that feature, partners have to be older than 18.
The power of YouTube's ad-targeting abilities -- enabled by both its own user data and outside data it can get with Google's help -- have also helped its cause. So have its investments in building quality measurement tools that help companies gauge the impact of a video ad on things like awareness of a product and attitudes towards the brand that's selling it.