Thursday, 8 July 2010

YouTube gets even more multi-screen friendly

The YouTube team have been busy it appears.

Two developments this week - one, for let's call them BIG screens, and the other for POCKET screens.

Let's start with the big screens (formerly known and understood as TVs)

In May YouTube announced they would be launching a new service designed to make your YouTube experience on bigger screens even better. There's already YouTube XL, (which I rather like) and yesterday the next generation of that beta launched as YouTube Leanback .

XL gives you cleaner easier navigation around YouTube for those that have got their act together and either project content from the web or have a connected large screen at home.

 Leanback goes one step further towards Google's forthcoming TV Project.

Once you've launched YouTube/Leanback it will immediately start playing footage from the people/channels you've subscribed to, with a ribbon of other content from other subscription channels appearing at the bottom of the screen which you can quickly and simply navigate through using keyboard arrow keys.

What do I think?

It's easy to navigate yes, but in reality, I don't know that many people who as yet have either a home media centre /projector set up or a large screen that's net-connected. It will come, no doubt faster than we can imagine I am sure.

However, it's the implications of Leanback which are interesting, particularly for brand channels / broadcasters. Once you've got someone to subscribe to your channel (take BlendTec for example), using Leanback, you'll automatically be able to expose them via easy navigation to old or new content. Nice if you've captured people already but it makes it tougher to interrupt / attract attention given the human tendency (when watching content flopped on the sofa after a hard day) to take the easy route (i.e just channel flick the top 10/ routine channels) than lean in and look for new stuff.  Factor in the power of the social graph - when what you watch (next)is shaped by algorithms and messages that appear alongside your video saying "your friend Fred watched x or subcribed to y" or "z is really popular today / this week / right now" and the power of influence (or the votes of the crowd) scores over advertising yet again.

Yet another win for my "battle of the Somme theory". The time is now for brands and advertisers to be experimenting and learning what works or doesn't.  People are experimenting and making decisions whether it's about downloading or keeping useful apps for this or that or subscribing to useful/entertaining content sources on YouTube. I have no doubt that it will get harder and harder to get people to shift in the future.

Does your brand have a YouTube channel? Is it well thought out, called something sensible that makes it easy to find and publishing, framing or aggregating relevant and interesting content beyond just being somewhere to sling your made-for-TV ads??

Back to the POCKET screen.... YouTube gets even more mobile friendly ...

YouTube launched their mobile portal in 2007 when it was offering just 1000 videos in mobile friendly format. 2009 saw a 160% increase YoY on videos viewed on mobile handsets, and there are now 100 million videos viewed on a mobile every day.

So it was time for a revamp that's as much cosmetic as it is functional:  YouTube's mobile site is now faster than ever before, (on Android phones / iPhone at least), it's friendlier to touch screen navigation [video] and has much more of the functionality you experience on the site, i.e the ability to like / unlike, "favourite" or create playlists just as you can on the web. (Taking me nicely back to the previous point about Leanback and laziness - now it's easier than ever before to line up stuff you want to watch when you get home on a bigger screen whilst you are standing at the bus stop on your way home...).

Brands, what's your multi-screen strategy!?  It's not about channels any more, the silo walls are falling fast.

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