After a decade of growing up as the pioneer of Internet video, YouTube still commands a massive audience. It has more than a billion users. It reaches more 18-to-49-year-olds than any cable network in the US on its mobile app alone. And the average mobile viewing session is now more than 40 minutes long. But other contenders are forcing YouTube to take seriously the idea that another site could overtake it. Facebook (especially with live video), Snapchat, and Amazon are all in the running.
To stay ahead, YouTube has done what any good investment strategist would advise: it’s diversified. YouTube has become many YouTubes. Each one commands a specific niche. It sounds counterintuitive—but to lock in the broadest possible audience, YouTube is figuring out how to go narrow.
At the same time, YouTube’s latest moves don’t have the flavor of a company that’s floundering, Verna says. It’s a giant that doesn’t show signs of fading. “I see YouTube as a company that faces a lot of competitive threats, but not existential threats,” he says. You could see YouTube breaking itself into more parts as a kind of dilution. But YouTube’s standalone apps seem more like a way for YouTube to multiply its force.