YouTube is one of the fastest growing digital video platforms in India with over 225 million people watching it on their smartphones. India is one of the fastest growing countries not only in terms of watch time but also in terms of the Indian content creator ecosystem that is proliferating with new creators finding global audiences on YouTube. India has over 200 channels that have hit the 1 million-plus subscriber mark this year. And out of these channels, 80 are creator-led and original YouTube-first content. At year-end, Satya Raghavan, head of entertainment, YouTube India, shares insights on the “year that was" trends that shaped the biggest pop culture moments of 2017 and what makes it so popular. Edited excerpts:
How has 2017 been for YouTube ?
It’s been an amazing year for YouTube, its content and content creators. At the beginning of the year, we had 180 million monthly mobile users that has by the end of the year grown to 225 million monthly users on the mobile. This has been an amazing change in the numbers and all of this has happened because of how things shaped on the platform. YouTube India is a 10-year-old brand but till about 2014 in India, we had only traditional media content on YT, with four main verticals: movies, music, television and news. These four categories have grown by leaps and bounds. For instance, T-Series today has over 28 million subscribers. So the growth in traditional media content has been amazing. Around this time, we also saw new YT first verticals emerge like comedy, food, beauty, technology, kids, web series, short—these are categories that we call YT firsts and we suddenly saw creators in these categories emerge out of nowhere. Comedy was very popular as it tends to get shared a lot and is very visible, so lot of comedy creators emerged in 2014 who in turn inspired other creators to come out in other verticals to put out content that they were either good at or passionate about. Then we saw that same story repeat itself in the South—in 2014 most of the content was in Hinglish but in 2015 we saw the south Indian languages beginning to explode like Tamil, Telugu. Creators in these languages came out and started putting content.
By 2016, other languages emerged like Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi and today from a language point of view, YT speaks many languages in India. In 2017, many of the verticals began to evolve in a very interesting manner. We saw lot of that happen in 2017. For instance, beauty started evolving as we realized that women were watching lot of content around fitness, wellness, health, nutrition so suddenly this vertical expanded from beauty and today we call it Women’s Lifestyle. So we saw this category became broader and deeper, the same thing happened in technology which was earlier only about mobile reviews but we saw these creators getting into gadgets, software so we saw them take on technology in a more holistic sense and men, in particular, also started consuming lot of content around motoring, gaming, sports etc. So in 2017, we have an ecosystem that is very wide, deep and well balanced across 10-12 verticals and all of these verticals now have sub-verticals and all of these sub verticals now speak many languages. So that in reality is how the ecosystem has shaped up. In 2017, we also saw some newer verticals—wellness, health, even dance started to grow as new verticals.
What according to YT Rewind have been some of the biggest moments of 2017 for India?
The top 2 personalities and creators on YouTube in 2017 are BB Ki Vines (comedy channel about BB Ki Vines is about BB and some funny instances happening around him & his family) and Technical Guruji and it is primarily because they actually create content in a very approachable Hindi language.
As you trace the rise of the Indian consumer consuming video on YT, you find that these personalities speaking about technology, for instance, in an approachable manner (which) resonates with many. Also, in a country we are now buying so many gadgets, that channels like Technical Guruji have become a reference point for consumers and are a vital part of the consumer’s journey as they start to make a purchase.
Another one of the top 10 personalities in 2017 is Mastanamma who took us by surprise because food is a category that is evergreen and we have housewives who regularly create food-related videos but suddenly we saw this 106-year-old who stays in a village appealing to the basic food cooking sensibilities of the Indian. With her unique background, the oldest YouTuber was making the effort to create these videos that caught the fancy of a whole lot of people. Other top personalities of 2017 include Mahathalli who does comedy videos in Telugu and Kabita’s Kitchen who does food cooking in Hindi. These big personalities on YT are now the influencers for the next billion people. Till recently, brands would want to work with influencers who came from Bollywood or television but now we see brands actually wanting to work with these big personalities on YT as they see them as the influencers of the next billion. So while the YT Global Rewind video celebrates some of the biggest personalities and you will see that video includes BB ki Vines and Technical Guruji who are featured at global level. This reflects the whirlwind force that these YT creators have become and it is a celebration for them. But in India, we like to look at what happened in 2017 with a lot more local context, celebrate what has happened over the year on YT from a consumer point of view, the advertiser point of view and from the creator point of view.
What have been your strategies that have helped in the proliferation of content and creators?
At the core of what we do is help creators focus on their content and improve their content over time. They are people like you and me who are passionate about something or good at what they do. So we have a bunch of programs where we give them access to tools to create content. In Mumbai, we have our own studio and creators can use the facility to shoot their videos, we have back to back tutorials on every aspect of video creation right from writing skills to advanced production techniques. When these languages started to emerge, what we also do is every month we are in a different city of India and have started working with local creators and started imparting the same knowledge to them. So people from my team travel and we have these YT Gujarati Day in Ahmedabad and YT Punjabi Day in Chandigarh where we share success stories, tips, strategies etc.
YT is truly a democratic platform where anyone can create a channel and upload content. So whether you are a single person talent or a group, a big city or small you just need to be connected and upload. Earlier the content was metro-centric in its sensibilities and while 2017 has seen return of Hindi but the Hindi now is not metro-centric but it is very middle India, small town, we hear a lot of local and interesting dialects.
How many languages does YT support ?
Literally, there is content in every Indian language but some of the largest languages in terms of content, in no particular order, are Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Malayalam and Kannada. Late last year, we also created 10 localized YT Home Pages—so now if you log in for the first time from a town in Tamil Nadu you might see lot more Tamil videos so this localization is done at a product level purely because we saw many consumers come on to the Internet for the first time. So then they get content in the language they are familiar with and over time, the algorithm will understand what they like and suggest what they like and what they can watch. The top four languages on the platform remain Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and English. In 2018, we want to work very closely with creators from the Northeast who are creating great original English music.
How many Indian content creators are there? Who are the stars of this year (how many subscribers do they have)?
We have lakhs of creators in India today. These creators are coming from big cities and small towns too and across age groups from teens to 80-plus. It feels fantastic to see such great creativity coming in from creators from different parts of India. Approximately 4,000 of these creators in India have over 100K subscribers and 200 channels (80 of which are creator-led) have crossed the 1 million subscriber mark. Also, if you see the subscribers the top creators have gained in 2017, you will understand the true reflection of success witnessed by these creators in 2017 alone.
There have been many reports of objectionable videos and content on YT. What steps are you taking to protect advertisers, creators and viewers from inappropriate content on your network?
Fundamentally how this works is if people find content that is objectionable they flag it off and we then review it against our community guidelines. We operate in so many countries across the country that we have to operate within the rule of the land. Thirdly, we have lot of trusted partners to help review this content and it is in this area that we will do a lot of investment. Our CEO has just come out with a blog post where she mentions that since June we have removed over 150,000 videos for violent extremism. Additionally, machine learning is helping human reviewers remove nearly five times as many videos than they were previously. Today, 98% of the videos we remove for violent extremism are flagged by our machine-learning algorithms. Since we started using machine learning to flag violent and extremist content in June, the technology has reviewed and flagged content that would have taken 180,000 people working 40 hours a week to assess.