YouTube looks to counter the trust deficit in one of its biggest markets

Ten years of unbridled popularity and a 100 per cent year-on-year growth in its user base later, YouTube India is up against its first big hurdle. Big Indian brands, following in the footsteps of global peers are getting feisty about inappropriate content that appears alongside their ads on the platform while users are questioning its content moderation policy and use of personal data, in the aftermath of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal. While almost everyone acknowledges that there is a crisis of trust engulfing social media brands in general and also YouTube in particular, whether it will translate into advertisers pulling out or users shunning the platform is debatable, they say.


YouTube says that it is sensitive to advertiser concerns. Rajan Anandan, vice president, India & South East Asia, Google said at a recent event (the YouTube Brandcast 2018), that in the past year they blocked 320,000 publishers from the display network along with 90,000 websites and 700,000 mobile apps for violating content policies. Globally YouTube has also said that it will actively encourage greater human intervention over trending content and in the coming months, launch a feature that will flag fake/conspiracy theory videos with information from Wikipedia.


Is this enough? Sunil Abraham, executive director, Centre for Internet and Society says, “YouTube’s current plan to push the onus of veracity on to Wikipedia is likely to overwhelm the Wikipedia community with content from vested interests overnight. Unlike YouTube, Wikipedia doesn’t have paid editors, so it isn’t like there is any help that YouTube can provide in managing the edit wars that will ensue.”


However, concerns over content, privacy and data sharing are not likely to be a deterrent, given YouTube’s massive reach. YouTube sees about 225 million users in India every month, by 2020, it expects around 77 per cent of Indian internet users to consume video content online and the company today has 34 per cent share in online video viewership as compared to 19 per cent in 2016. India is the fastest growing among the top 10 YouTube markets.


One of the leading ecommerce players said, privacy, data leaks are not big concerns among the majority of users on digital platforms and brands will keep following them wherever they go. “If a couple of companies decide to take an ethical stand and not advertise on these platforms, they will be more likely to miss out on customer acquisition than make a huge political statement,” he added.


Abraham says that in recent times, Unilever is the only global company with a large Indian presence that has openly warned these platforms about cleaning up their act. However, he does not see a solution in excessive regulation, neither for advertisers nor consumers. “Proactive regulation cannot be substituted with consumer awareness. At the moment the principle of caveat emptor or buyer beware does not work for data protection because privacy policies and term of use are verbose and incomprehensible to most users of these platforms.”


Today 65 per cent of YouTube viewers subscribe to their favourite channels while 85 per cent of them watch newly uploaded videos within two days the company said. Subscriptions indicate commitment from the viewers, thereby signalling to the brands that they would be reaching a set of customers who trust the platform or the channel. Also seven out of 10 viewers watch ads on YouTube with the sound on and more than 50 per cent of female professionals watch YouTube videos for more information before making a purchase in categories like beauty, automobiles and real estate.


Google, however, wants to let consumers know that their concerns are not being dismissed. "We do not take trust for granted. We've taken a number of steps over the last year to ensure that videos on our platform are appropriate for users and brands," said Anandan, and adds, “We're using new machine learning led algorithm to capture five times more video content that brands may find inappropriate.”


YouTube is also aggressively pitching itself as the advertising platform of choice for brands with cheaper and more visible ads as compared to print and television media. As internet data became cheaper following the entry of telecom disrupter Reliance Jio in 2016, YouTube has seen its market share in online video viewership jump.


India has over 400 million internet users, with 330 million connected smartphone users. And on an average, they are consuming 4GB of data every month, and it is projected to grow to 11GB per month in the next 4 years. By 2020, the total number of users in India, consuming online video is expected to reach 500 million (FICCI-EY Report 2018).


YouTube expects new viewers to join its platform and old viewers to spend more time on their channels. Advertisers will find it hard to ignore the audiences that the platform attracts, even if they do have serious concerns over the content, say several digital media experts.


Besides, YouTube has launched a slew of tools to allow brands to increase awareness, recall, physical store visits and ultimately, sales. According to YouTube executives, Livon (Marico Industries) got a 7X conversion rate through one of its ad formats with 65 per cent increase in modern trade and e-commerce. Another brand, Uber saw a 63 per cent increase in first rides at an 18 per cent lower cost/first trip after a campaign.


"YouTube has become a powerful platform for users, content creators, and advertisers alike. For brands, YouTube is now an end-to-end platform and as per the Dec 2017 ComScore Video Metrix Multi-Platform, it reaches 85 per cent of all highly engaged Internet users, in the 18 years and above age-group, across India," said Anandan.



· 300 channels on YouTube in India are over the one-million subscribers mark, 133 of these are independent creators and there are around 90 channels in the 750,000 to a million range

· 65% of audiences who view videos have brand opinions which have been strongly influenced by a YouTube influencer they follow

· YouTube sees about 225 million users in India every month, it has 34% share in online video viewership as compared to 19% in 2016

· Amongst the platform's top 10 countries worldwide, India is one of the fastest growing - both in terms of total watch-time and mobile watch time

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