Marketing Technology for Growth

Social Search in 2012: Who Owns YouTube, Anyway?

Ok gang, it’s Friday morning - time for a quiz. google ceo larry pageThis is not an open-browser test, so keep your eyes on the blog while you answer this question:

Who owns YouTube?

For many of you, this is a no-brainer. But before you click off this post and unsubscribe to my RSS feed, give me a second. I’m going somewhere with this, I promise.

Answer: Google.

CEO Larry Page reminds us of this in a long-winded statement posted on Google’s Investor Relations blog on Thursday:

“In 2006, when Google acquired YouTube, we faced a lot of skepticism. Today, YouTube has over 800 million monthly users uploading over an hour of video per second,” Page writes.

Impressive numbers. They make me question why in 2012 everyone is obsessing about the health of social search darling Google+ when Google already has a muscular social/search engine behemoth in YouTube.

As Google moves closer to a complete integration of its various services, such questions lose relevance.

“So far, there have been more than 120 Google+ integrations,” writes Page,” to ensure a seamless and intuitive online experience from one Google product to another.”

He’s not kidding when he says this.



In order to use YouTube, you need to create a Google account. Granted, you can watch videos without an account, but you can’t comment on or upload a video or set up a personal or business “channel” unless you have a Google account (believe me, I tried).

When you go to Google’s account set-up page, you’re met with this statement:

“Your Google Account is more than just Gmail. Talk, chat, share, schedule, store, organize, collaborate, discover and create. Use Google products from Gmail to Google+ to YouTube, view your search history, all with one username and password, all backed up all the time and easy to find at (you guessed it)”

Nice and streamlined.

The set-up page asks you to provide the following information to create a Google account: your name, username/password, suggested g-mail address, date of birth, gender, mobile number, and alternative e-mail address.

Interestingly, only your username, password and g-mail address are required fields, although they don’t make this obvious with asterisks or some other flag. I only figured it out my clicking inside each field and noting which ones stated “you cannot leave this blank.”

There are two boxes at the bottom of the set-up page:

1) The standard terms and conditions/privacy language disclaimer, left unchecked, and

 2) A box that is checked by default saying “Google may use my account information to personalize +1s on content and ads on non-Google websites,” ending with an “about personalization” link.

When you click on this link, you are met with “personalization on non-Google sites allows Google to tailor content and ads to you across the Web, based on your Google profile, +1 activity, and social connections.”

There you have it. Your entire Google profile (which is increasingly your entire online profile) tied up in a Google+ bow.

But what does Google say about that other information you likely entered, thinking you had to?

  • Date of Birth - “Your date of birth helps us provide you with things like age-appropriate settings" (Or demographic profiling for ad targeting).
  • Mobile number - “Having a mobile phone number on your account is one of the easiest and most reliable ways to help keep your account safe" (Uh huh. This wouldn’t have anything to do with the 850,000 Android mobile devices Google is selling daily, or its pending acquisition of Motorola Mobility, would it? Nah).
  • Other Email Address“As with phone, an alternate email address helps us identify you and secure your account, as well as send you important notifications" (Thanks for your concern, Google, but I think you’ve got me identified pretty well already). 


Larry Page mentioned 800,000,000 monthly users uploading content on YouTube. Granted, more details are needed to draw any specific conclusions from that statement. But we do know that you must have a Google account in order to upload anything on YouTube, and all of this content is accessible on Google search results.

That is not to say that Google is deliberately favoring YouTube Google’s search results (this point is up for debate), but rather, YouTube has so much content that it drowns out other things.¹

Google’s search engine spiders can’t read images, but they can read all the comments users make on YouTube. They can then integrate all of this data into Google’s search engine while adding to your Google+ profile. In Google’s overarching algorithmic data landscape, information from one Google service seamlessly bleeds into others.

 It’s genius, really. Evil genius, perhaps, but genius nonetheless.

Google is interested in aggregating data in this way for three reasons:

  • First, Google needs to keep improving user experience in order to retain market dominance in search (it controls roughly 2/3 of all Internet searches).
  • Second, Google can use the information collected from Google+, G-Mail and YouTube to refine user profiles, which helps it sell targeted ads.
  • Third, the more data Google mines the quicker it can expand its knowledge graph and improve its semantic search capabilities.


As much as Google would love to build up Google+’s user base, it’s got a social search powerhouse in YouTube. After all, in 2011 YouTube had more than 1 trillion views or almost 140 views for every person on Earth. YouTube’s dominance is underscored by new data from Social Media Examiner’s 2012 Social Media Marketing Report.

The study surveyed over 3,800 marketers with the goal of understanding how they are using social media to grow and promote their business. One of its major findings was that 76% of marketers plan on increasing their use of YouTube and video marketing, making it the top area marketers will invest in for 2012.

With 800 million monthly users and a majority of marketers scrambling to get onboard, it seems that YouTube, not Google+, is Larry Page’s social media darling.

I’m not sure if Mr. Page would agree with my assessment, or if he’d even care. As Google continually integrates its services, such questions tend to lose their meaning. After all, it’s all going down the same data chute anyway.

Under the “Love and Trust” section of his blog post, Larry Page’s writing gets a bit dewy-eyed. “We have always wanted Google to be a company that is deserving of great love.”

We do love Google, Larry. You leave us no choice….


¹ Search Engine Land, “To Understand Google Favoritism, Think ‘If Google+ Were YouTube’”

Images Courtesy of and

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Topics: Search, Social, YouTube