A year of cultural highlights and inspired creativity
A view from Ronan Harris

A year of cultural highlights and inspired creativity

YouTube played its part in many moments of 2018.

We are fast approaching the end of a year that has been packed with moments of drama, tension, laughter and excitement – all captured on our screens.

All these emotional moments have been shared, rewatched and pored over on YouTube – the moving exchange of vows between Harry and Meghan has enjoyed 4.5 million views on the platform, while our national sport obsession reached fever pitch with the Champions League final on BT Sport’s YouTube Channel – the biggest sports live stream so far on YouTube. 

Pop cultural moments that have caught the imagination include the arrival of the first female Doctor Who – the reveal in the BBC’s Doctor Who Christmas special last year was carefully managed on the franchise’s YouTube channel and the clip has since been watched 5.4 million times. 

There have also been some amazing examples of creative long-form advertising that have resonated with audiences and prompted action from viewers. Among the worthy winners of our YouTube Works for Brands Awards was Libresse/Bodyform with its film showing the authentic experience of periods for young women that promoted debate across all forms of media. 

However, 2018 isn’t just about specific moments. Innovation is in our blood and we’ve been excited to launch ventures this year including YouTube Music. Superstar artists such as Dua Lipa and Stormzy, whose creativity and charisma shone through in their use of the platform to connect with passionate fans, featured in the launch campaign and have continued their incredible rise in popularity, with the latter now confirmed to headline Glastonbury in 2019. Additionally, many of our viewers have become popular creators building livelihoods on YouTube and we have more than 400 channels with more than one million subscribers in the UK.

We are now also firmly in the business of content creation and launched another new batch of Originals programming produced here in the UK – a place we know is a powerhouse of storytelling ideas and craftsmanship. Jack Whitehall’s Training Days and the science-fiction franchise Origin are just two examples.

The year has also revealed changing media consumption trends worth highlighting. Ofcom data shows that 16- to 34-year-olds now watch more than two-and-a-half hours a day of non-broadcast content. This year also saw daily watch time of YouTube among 18- to 34-year-olds exceed the one-hour mark, according to Comscore.

My favourite stat is that watch time for "explainer" videos on YouTube has doubled in the past year. In fact, we intend to invest £20m in YouTube Learning, a channel featuring some of the best "how to", DIY, tutorial and educational videos, to support education-focused creators and expert organisations that produce high-quality educational content. We see such success with the educational videos of Mr Bruff – a former teacher whose engaging and colloquial style has raked in more than 31 million views and counting, as well as recognition on radio and in the national press.

Over the year, we have also worked hard to fulfil our commitment to invest more in technology and people to enforce policies across our platforms to help ensure brands can advertise and connect with audiences in a safe environment. Last year, I pledged that we would tackle this critically important issue and, to underline this point, in the second quarter we removed nearly eight million videos for policy violations. Investment in people and automated monitoring is paying off, with automation now catching 85% of removals. I believe our ecosystem has become stronger and is working better than ever for our users, for our advertisers and for our creators. 

With a wary eye on the coming year, we are also preparing and marshalling our arguments against the European Union Copyright Directive. A part of it, known as article 13, could drastically change the internet as we know it today. The ability to produce memes, commentary and off-the-wall inspiration that powers so much of YouTube and the internet’s creativity will be severely hampered. Our partners and creators are the lifeblood of our platform and we want them to continue to build audiences and forge careers.

The legislation also threatens to block users in the EU from viewing content that is already live on the channels of creators everywhere. This includes YouTube’s vast library of educational content, such as language classes, physics tutorials and other how-to films.

We realise the importance of all rights holders being compensated – this is why we built the Content ID system and a platform to pay out to all types of content owners.  But the unintended consequences of article 13 will put this ecosystem at risk. We are committed to working with the industry to find a better way forward during the coming year.

From my vantage point, it has been a busy but very exciting year. The coming 12 months hold big challenges, but if we continue to work in partnership, as an industry, there are amazing opportunities to reach digital audiences with content that will inspire, engage and excite them. 

Ronan Harris is vice-president and managing director, UK and Ireland, at Google