New YouTube And Google Features Focus On Community
December 7, 2012

YouTube And Google+ Introduce New Features To Encourage Online Communities

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Google, it seems, has found their point of attack when it comes to their social offerings: active communities.

Yesterday, two of Google´s entities made separate announcements about new features meant to drive their users to connect and engage with a smaller group of people. The theory here is that if users are connected to smaller groups of people, the entirety of social media becomes more manageable, thereby driving interaction with the social tools.

Google+ introduced Communities which features public or private groups centered around a basic topic, such as cars, recipes or Star Wars.

YouTube also took to their blog to announce a new addition to their services. YouTube Channels will now be available across more devices, such as iPhone and Android smartphones, Google TV, PlayStation 3 and more.

YouTube channels were introduced in 2005 as a way for users to find and subscribe to their favorite feeds. This feature was brought to the YouTube homepage last year to make it easier for these users to find their videos.

When subscribed to a channel and logged in to their account, a YouTube user can find the latest videos from other users with similar interests and tastes. Until now, this feature was only available on the website and only available to users who were signed in and dedicated enough to subscribe to these channels. Most casual, one-off users likely haven´t subscribed to any channels.

These channels remain available only to those users who have signed in, but YouTube likely hopes that by making them available on all these new devices they will be able to bring these users back more often. Furthermore, as these channels also tend to be very community-based, subscribers are more likely to become active and engage in these communities.

Noam Lovinsky, the director of product management for YouTube, recently told the New York Times that these channels can do more than encourage community involvement: they can also work like regular TV.

“Part of the goal is to start using YouTube just when you have 10 minutes to kill and you´re bored, rather than waiting for someone to send you a link to a video or when you have a search in mind,” said Lovinsky.

Just like watching television, it´s easy to spend more time than planned when watching a YouTube channel. Those related videos on the side act as ads for the videos themselves, promoting further entertainment and fun — and more often than not, they work. And according to Lovinsky, those who subscribe to YouTube channels are more likely to keep coming back and spending even more time on the site, watching their videos and interacting with other users.

“This pattern of behavior — the ability to program YouTube and then develop this habit to know, ℠Hey, even if I´m not sure what I want to watch, I´ve told YouTube what I like´ and come back — increases watch time dramatically,” said Lovinsky.

“It´s our big bet for how to get to audacious TV-type watch time.”

To make the videos more enjoyable to watch, YouTube has also given the site a “cleaner, simpler” look.

These redesigns, these new features and the shift towards communities are all a part of encouraging users all across the Google-sphere to spend even more time interacting with their services and, ultimately, become even more attractive to potential advertisers.

It´s just as the new-old saying goes: If you aren´t paying for it, you´re the product.