YouTube's new head talks 2023 priorities, including AI, podcasting, Shorts and more

YouTube's new head Neal Mohan penned his first letter to creators emphasizing that the company in the year ahead aims to continue supporting the community by giving them more tools to make money. He also touched on other 2023 priorities, including how YouTube is looking to experiment with generative AI and multiple formats like Shorts and podcasts, among other things.

Last month, YouTube's long-time CEO Susan Wojcicki stepped down from the role and moved to an advisory position at Alphabet. That led to Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan being promoted to the company's top seat. He is now in charge of spearheading YouTube, which competes in multiple categories, ranging from short videos to streaming services.

In the letter, the newly promoted executive quoted a study from Oxford Economics indicating that in 2021, more than 2 million creators earned the money equivalent of a full-time job across multiple countries. In the last few months, YouTube has begun experimenting with different methods that let creators make money, including shopping-related features and ad revenue sharing on Shorts. The company mentioned that people subscribing to individual channels have jumped 20% year-on-year to six million.

The new YouTube head also highlighted multi-lingual features, including dubbing clips into another language and auto-caption. He mentioned that the executives will be looking to meet more creators this year and offer more support to them.

"We’re also listening to creators through increased support. Last year, we more than doubled the number of creators and partners who can get live help through chat or email. Over half of these creators are located outside of the U.S. We've also significantly increased the number of creators who have a partner manager to give strategic tips for success on YouTube," he said.

Mohan, who was previously the chief product officer at the company, said that the video streaming platform is experimenting with introducing more features for formats like connected TV experience, Shorts and podcasts.

Notably, at a recent event, the company announced that podcasts are coming to YouTube Music with features like background play. Last year, YouTube hinted at its plans when a new podcast page appeared for U.S.-based users. The platform is now building RSS feed integration for podcasters so they don't have to upload episodes to the service separately.

After announcing exclusive streaming rights for NFL Sunday Ticket last December, YouTube said that the company plans to let users view multiple matches at once through a feature rollout this year.

Google is also pretty keen to take some market share of short videos from TikTok and Instagram. The company has grown to 50 billion daily views for Shorts with the number of channels uploading short videos growing 80% year-on-year, the letter said. This year, it is going to introduce a side-by-side format that lets creators record Shorts with other Shorts or videos — essentially nudging them to make more reaction videos.

Given the recent popularity of OpenAI's ChatGPT bot, multiple platforms are exploring product use cases of generative AI. Microsoft is embedding the tech in Bing search, the Edge browser and even Windows 11. In response, Google has announced its own solution called Bard. Snapchat has introduced a ChatGPT-styled bot for its paid user while Meta has formed a group that will look to build AI-powered features. So YouTube doesn't want to stay behind — but the new company head was sparse on details in his letter.

"Creators will be able to expand their storytelling and raise their production value, from virtually swapping outfits to creating a fantastical film setting through AI’s generative capabilities. We’re taking the time to develop these features with thoughtful guardrails. Stay tuned in the coming months as we roll out tools for creators as well as the protections to embrace this technology responsibly," Mohan said in the letter.

He also highlighted that YouTube is concentrating on making the platform safe — especially for kids with tools like parent-controlled playlists on Google TV.

In the letter, Mohan made a point that YouTube is engaging with various governments on policymaking. The company is involved in a case in the U.S. Supreme Court where plaintiffs have alleged that Google is responsible for promoting content on YouTube that was uploaded before the terrorist attack in Paris in 2015. The case hinges on how the court interprets Section 230, which absolves the platform from responsibility for user-generated content.

At a time when Google's position as a search giant is being challenged by rivals incorporating AI in their search, the company will look toward YouTube to be a significant revenue driver in the future. The video platform already brought $29.2 billion in ad sales last year. Plus, more than 80 million people are paying for YouTube Premium and YouTube Music.

"This is a pivotal moment for our industry. We face challenging economic headwinds and uncertain geopolitical conditions. AI presents incredible creative opportunities but must be balanced by responsible stewardship. Creators, viewers, and advertisers have more choices about where to spend their time than ever before and platforms like YouTube need to deliver across a range of formats while investing in the policies that protect platforms from real-world harm," Mohan said.