YouTube, Answering Critics, Tries a New Metric: Responsibility

YouTube, Answering Critics, Tries a New Metric: Responsibility

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YouTube is changing the way it measures success on the world’s biggest video site following a series of scandals, according to Bloomberg. There’s just one problem: The company is still deciding how this new approach works.

The Google division introduced two new internal metrics in the past two years for gauging how well videos are performing, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. One tracks the total time people spend on YouTube, including comments they post and read. The other is a measurement called "quality watch time," a squishier statistic with a noble goal: To spot content that achieves something more constructive than just keeping users glued to their phones.

The changes are supposed to reward videos that are more palatable to advertisers and the broader public, and help YouTube ward off criticism that its service is addictive and socially corrosive. Creating the right metric for success could help marginalize videos that are inappropriate, or popular among small but active communities with extreme views. It could also help YouTube make up for previous failures in curbing the spread of toxic content. But the company has yet to settle on how the “quality watch time” metric works, or communicate how the new measure will impact millions of “creators” who upload videos to the site.

YouTube declined to comment on the new metrics, but a spokeswoman said that "there are many metrics that we use to measure success." The company also did not share whether it has abandoned “watch time.”  But its leaders have said repeatedly that they are addressing its content problem. They have stressed that they want to do more than punish people who upload or spread nasty videos.

Executives there recently began talking about rewarding content based on a rubric for responsibility. The company “saw how the bad actions of a few individuals can negatively impact the entire creator ecosystem, and that’s why we put even more focus on responsible growth,” Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s chief executive officer, wrote in a February blog post.

The two new metrics, tracking total time on site and “quality watch time”, influence a lot more than just YouTube recommendations, according to the people familiar with the plans, who asked not to be identified. The measurements also help dictate how YouTube surfaces videos in search results, runs ads and pays the creators who make videos. Changes to YouTube’s internal metrics also have long-lasting impacts for creators.

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