Incoming YouTube CEO Neil Mohan has crypto enthusiasts excited at the prospect that blockchain-enabled technology could soon become an element of the video site.
Little is known about the executive, who joined in March 2008 after he helped sell his ad-tech firm DoubleClick to Google for $3.1 billion. One of the few one-on-one interviews with Mohan dates from August 2021.
Publications like Decrypt are now pointing to a post from last February in which Mohan, then YouTube’s chief product officer, argued non-fungible tokens offered “incredible potential” for its bustling creator economy in a sneak peek into new products and features coming to the platform.
“We believe new technologies like blockchain and NFTs can allow creators to build deeper relationships with their fans,” he wrote at the time.
“Giving a verifiable way for fans to own unique videos, photos, art, and even experiences from their favorite creators could be a compelling prospect for creators and their audiences.”
How YouTube is challenging TikTok in short-form video
Enabling digital payments has already generated a lot of interest after Elon Musk revealed plans to integrate payments into Twitter and reward influencers for content—a business model pioneered by YouTube back in 2007.
Mohan is taking over from veteran CEO Susan Wojcicki at a critical juncture for YouTube, the largest ad-based video-on-demand service in the world with over 2 billion monthly active users.
ByteDance’s viral phenomenon TikTok is reshaping the landscape of social media with its focus on sharing brief user-generated videos that have become a threat to established names. Other rivals including Musk’s Twitter may also be elbowing into YouTube’s turf.
Since the popular streaming platform traditionally sells ads that run during long-format videos targeted by creator, figuring out a way to monetize content no longer than 60 seconds has been particularly challenging—just ask Meta execs tasked with rolling out Instagram Reels.
In September, YouTube responded with its own tailored concept called YouTube Shorts. Since ads only run between videos, the company has opted to share 45% of revenue based on their share of total views, rather than the traditional 55%.
Section 230 legal challenge could upend industry
Monetizing short-form video content amid a broader industry exodus of social media users to TikTok is only one challenge facing Mohan—albeit one partially under his control.
This week the Supreme Court is expected to begin hearing arguments in the case Gonzalez v. Google that could remove protections enshrined in U.S. law. Under Section 230, digital media are deemed neutral platforms rather than publishers accountable for content on their sites, often described as a “get out of jail free” card for the industry.
YouTube itself is at the core of the debate. The family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old woman from California murdered during the Islamic State’s 2015 terrorist attack in Paris, alleges the Google subsidiary unlawfully recommended videos on its platform.
“Section 230 is foundational to the Internet. It protects free speech and helps platforms more effectively combat harmful content,” wrote Mohan in January. “The stakes could not be higher.”
Despite the various challenges facing YouTube, departing CEO Wojcicki argued Mohan would be a “terrific leader” with a “wonderful sense” of the business as well as its creators and users.
“YouTube’s most exciting opportunities are ahead, and Neal is the right person to lead us,” she wrote last week.
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