Booknotes+ Podcast: Mark Bergen, “Like, Comment, Subscribe”

By | December 20, 2022

On the cover of Bloomberg reporter Mark Bergen’s most recent book, “Like, Comment, Subscribe,” it says it will take the reader “Inside YouTube’s Chaotic Rise to World Domination.” Mr. Bergen, our guest this week, has reported on Google for the past seven years. YouTube was bought by Google in 2014 for $1.6 billion. In the prologue to the book, Bergen reports that more than 2 billion people visit YouTube every month, making it the second most visited search engine on Earth, second only to Google. He adds that YouTube is still dominated by music, gaming, and videos for children.

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On the cover of reporter Mark Bergen's Recent book It says he will take the reader quote Inside YouTube's chaotic rise to World Domination Unquote Bergen As reported on Google for the past seven Years YouTube was bought by Google in 2014 for 1.6 billion dollars In Mark Bergen's prologue he reports That more than 2 billion people visit YouTube every month making it the second Most visited search engine on Earth Google is first Bloomberg reporter Bergen writes that YouTube is still dominated by music Gaming and kids video Mark Bergen at the front of your book You have a quote from somebody by the Name of Logan Paul and you have quote Marks around it saying we found a dead Body in the Japanese suicide forest YouTube 2017 the quote is it was going To be a joke this was all going to be a Joke why did it become so real what's That about This was one of the most pivotal moments For YouTube as a as a company and I Think just um Really resonated where they you know the The whole mission of YouTube was to they Said Broadcast Yourself give everyone Sort of a platform to become Broadcasters uh and forward the first

Decade plus of the company there were Very few lines about sort of what was Deemed responsible and respectable I Mean here you had Logan Paul who was a Time one of the most popular and still Is popular YouTubers and as us Mainstream celebrity who can launch his Career on this platform Uh he'd shown a video that depicted Someone like hanging uh from a suicide And it was something where he you know He posted it online It came it was a Viral hit Um it was the hope for the holidays when A lot of people at the company weren't Uh were not working uh and it became one Of these flash points where they had This this sort of existential moment They realized this we can't just give These young people a cart launch to to Um post whatever they want right there Their repercussions Um and they haven't really changed the Rules and how it operates and Um and it was just this I thought it Looks really a fascinating moment of Like modern celebrity uh where we have Feel this need to kind of document Everything including the death of Another human being how do you Personally use YouTube How do I personally I think I use it Probably I'm in my sort of late 30s I'd Say like a lot of people my age and

Older as a utility right I use it to Um I will look up recipes I'll um during The pandemic I watched a lot of like Exercise videos to try to stay in shape Um I use it to watch a lot of I'm a big Basketball fan I used to watch a lot of Free clips and highlight reels of Basketball games Um I you know I think that is a way that A large swath of the population uses the Site Um I don't use it like uh necessarily Like a lot of people younger than me do Which which is as a entertainment Platform as a news platform as sort of An all-consumption like all-encompassing I don't necessarily follow YouTube Creators the way I think that of the Younger generation does For someone that has never thought about It Maybe never watched it what is it what Is YouTube Um you know YouTube has many things I Mean it is the worlds and has been for a Long time the world's biggest Video platform it's sort of it's owned By Google and I think it's it's really Critical to think of it as um you know Google for video right it is in much the Same way that Google kind of Organizes the entire web YouTube is Basically Created that where you have a video at

Sort of every subject imaginable Um and so it is this incredibly valuable Archive Um it is entertainment I mean it's the World's biggest music library it's the World's probably the biggest podcasting Library it's certainly the biggest kids Entertainment platform Um and I think it's the make the case in The book it is the company that has Shaped the future of of the direction of Like the the internet Commerce and like The social media not just as a Phenomenon but as a business where is it Physically located YouTube is in San Bruno California so It's been there since early on it was When it was acquired by Google in 2006 They had an office there and Google has For the most part kept the YouTube as Its own separate headquarters its own Chief executive uh and it's its own Office culture that that's a little bit Separate from Google but you know talk About in the book there they're very Closely intertwined how long has Susan Wojcicki Run Google I mean run YouTube And eventually I want to get to the Garage story but how long has she run it And what's what makes her qualified to Run it So wojitski has run YouTube since early 2014.

He is probably one of the most Central And important people in Google history I Think arguably one of the most powerful Influential women in Silicon Valley Google was started in her garage So she had a connection with the Founders of Google personal connection Um she was also one of the earliest Employees there their first marketer uh I mean there is a There are certainly like people who at The time when she was appointed there Are people that were very surprised by That appointment she has no background In Media Um she'd never run a company that like Like YouTube right it is if it's an Advertising business but it's also the You know the world's largest media Business but she had at Google spent um Most of her time before then working on Its uh what we call think of as kind of Display advertising business so all the Little banner ads that you see on any Website you visit are likely powered by Google and YouTube's business is in many Ways just taking that bottle where Google's you know sprays Um advertisements all across the Internet and they're just applying that To video Um and so she was very qualified to run An advertising business and from Google's perspective that's what that

YouTube needed to be for it before she Took over YouTube was kind of bleeding Money and so she was brought in to help Make it a profitable business how much Money total did they make last year Uh last year I believe it was so the 28 Billion in advertising Revenue Um so what we don't that's you know what They disclose is just their advertising Revenue we don't know YouTube also has a Premium service where people will pay Like ten dollars a month to Um have access to certain features no Ads a music service uh they have an Over-the-top TV cable package Alternative called YouTube TV they don't Disclose how much money they make from Those subscriptions but I think most Estimates are that's pretty marginal so I think you know probably close to Around 30 billion you open your book The Prologue with the name daud Nabi Who is he and why did you start with That He was one of 51 victims of the Christchurch massacre in 2019. in New Zealand In Christchurch New Zealand right it was Um one uh tragically uh Something that's become very familiar to Us it was a mass shooting executed by an Endowed white supremacist And it had was tied into YouTube for for Several reasons

Um one is that the the shooter in that Case actually broadcasts they did had a Body camera that it broadcast the Shooting Um which is this just uh unbelievable Horror that no one inside YouTube I Think ever anticipated that their their Service would be used this way Um there was also New Zealand government Did an analysis uh after the shooting And Um Talk to the to the shooter and Discovered that a lot of his worldview Was shaped by the videos that he watched On YouTube Um and so it was a pivotal moment for The company that's I think still Reckoning with that and I think for Society that is trying to understand how These platforms like YouTube that have Transformed their life in the past two Decades what real world impact they have Um and and I wanted to start with that Story and I wanted to start with the Victims and sort of Center them in the Book Was did he uh have it attached to YouTube on a live basis when he did it He was actually streaming on Facebook Live which is a Um which Facebook set up to compete with YouTube and then the video sort of Jumped pretty quickly

Um it seemed like people were Re-uploading the footage on YouTube how Did it change YouTube's life after that Happened So the the primary way is that after That they readjusted what they called Their hate speech rules Um and so they've been under criticism For for uh certainly externally in the Press in U.S Congress and Europe Um what I talked about in the book was There's a lot of criticism inside the Company that no one really unders I Think outside understood That the YouTube just the way it's Structured the way that they recommend Videos the way that they're sort of the Way to drive people to watch Consistently and Um and they really reward their system Tends to reward outrage and Extreme Videos Um was propagating these white Nationalist beliefs and so they after The Christchurch shooting they they took An action where they they like a lot They became much more strict about Certain types of views Um that they see a discrimination around Race and around ethnicity they outlawed Um What they kind of deem uh denying Well-documented violent events and so The most classic example is the

Holocaust right there where before this Time if you went on YouTube and said the Holocaust didn't happen that was fine You could that video could continue to Stay on YouTube and in many ways Um some ways you can make money from That video Um it could be promoted from their Algorithm after that that the company Decides they they rewrote their policies To say you can no longer do that Um and other different cases like that And I think you know since then they've Had a hard time you know writing rules In their guidebook is one thing but Enforcing them and sort of identifying Um you know where people crossed a line In the video that is just an ongoing Problem that they're never really going To solve I've got a couple of Clips to run the Next one That I am going to run is supposedly the Top music selection seen by something Like a it run by 11 billion times I wouldn't know about this if it wasn't For one of the players for the Washington Nationals who took this idea And became during the World Series game Back in 2019 became a big deal I'm going To run it it's a bit of a jolt for People who've never heard it just it's Just about 39 seconds and then gets you To talk about it

[Music] Mommy shark That is [Music] Mark Bergen what is that That's the song that's going to be stuck In my head for the rest of the day um That is I believe it's it holds the Record for for the most viewed um you Know what in my research I think I found A video this is just a sort of the Marvel of YouTube I believe it was 10 Hours of that song on repeat Um and that exists on YouTube it's Been Watched many times and I think it Suggests that you know how YouTube has Become the de facto babysitter for for a Lot of people Um so I The company there's I talk about this in The book it's really fascinating history Where For like like many sites on the internet Commercial internet they from their Onset um in the fine print said we're a Site for for people over 13. because There were rules about Um the data you can collect around Minors and so YouTube's lawyers and Their Founders decided we're just not Gonna We're not going to go after children Because that's a whole regulatory Complication where most of the

Internet's like really unregulated which Is what Silicon Valley kind of prefers That became about a decade ago really Hard to ignore when you started this you Know a lot of creators discovered that YouTube as a free service you have the IPad was invented in 2010 Um it was a phenomenal way to entertain Children Um and there are all sorts of new types Of creativity and I won't necessarily Say what the quality of baby shark it Seems like an innocent song it's Certainly not educational but you know It's it's is it a reflection of it's Sort of like Children's TV but you know as I Discovered in research children's TV has Been regulated and you there are certain At least on broadcast television there Has to be a certain amount of Educational programming and there has to Be a certain amount of Um you can't have overtly Converse Commercial messages Child labor their child labor laws none Of that existed on YouTube Um and so within a few years there was This explosion of content directed Towards young children often made by Young children Really as a kind of wild west but with No rules and very little oversight Let's say that you and I

Want to start a channel And we want to get the advertising in And we want to make some money how do we Do it It's harder to do now for a long time Starting a decade in 2012 it was fairly Easy you we would start a channel and We'd make videos and as long as that we Didn't violate copyright rules instead Of taking you know as long as we didn't Kind of just pirate videos from from a TV show or a booby We were pretty much cleared to uh post On on YouTube and it was fairly easy to Make money from their advertising system So every dollar that a marketer gives YouTube YouTube pays out 55 cents to the Video creator that that ad runs on that The ad runs you know often you see it Before video sometimes in the middle of A video Um that changed you know we talked about At the beginning Logan Paul that Incident with the with uh in Japan that Was one of the several moments where YouTube sort of unruly Stars misbehaves In ways that the company had to change The the way that they their financial System works and so now it's much harder You have to hit a certain threshold of Subscribers and and Views in order to Make money But how do we let's say you and I form a Company and we want to get on you to do

We talk to a human being or do you do it All online oh God no no just just you Just go you just you upload the video on Their system and and it's there how do You do that though uh physic I mean is There a guidance somewhere that tells You exactly how to do that Yeah but I think that there are Certainly cottage industries now that Can can walk you through the basics Um in the sort of how to Um I mean you can watch a YouTube video That shows you and then how to do that And and the tricky part is not Necessarily uploading video which is Relatively simple it's the tricky part Is getting an audience like we we could Post this video and then you know I can Send it and maybe my mother would watch It but um in order to get an audience That is something that you know even the Best YouTubers don't necessarily have The have the formula for that Um and by now it's a very crowd like There are just millions of YouTubers That are over 2 million are making money On the platform I mean millions and more Are trying to make money it is an Incredibly crowded place Is that all done Uh say for instance if you're making Money you just get a check in the mail Uh effectively yeah I mean YouTube has Is basically one of the biggest uh

Internet economies ever created Um and so it it comes out Cuts Like A Cuts the monthly check based on your uh The number of ads that you run uh and a Formula that's relatively you know the Ads have our very like television they Have varying costs Um you know if you have a certain if You're making Um educational videos you tend to get Better ad rates because advertisers are More willing to Um to sponsor that but but some of your Um you know it really depends on it's All sort of a secret formula and to be Very clear like YouTube as a company Doesn't provide a lot of transparency Around this like unless you're a really Big star it is hard to even get in touch With a customer support representative There right Um Google tends to favor systems that That work on on software and machines Rather than having to hire a bunch of Call support Um and so it's it's a very opaque system Tiny little thing when you watch Anything on YouTube there are two Different ways that you know commercials Are coming one a little Block in the corner after five seconds You can get rid of the ad Or the ad is there and you have to see The whole thing what's the difference

Between those two and what makes money For you if you've got something a Channel or whatever you're you have on YouTube Yeah the the one you describe this is Actually it's called a skippable ad and It does precisely that Um and it's sort of remarkable I mean I Still struggle with this to think about How many how many people will not you Know I if I see that I'm skipping too Right you sort of uh the way that that YouTube system works is the advertiser Only pays it if someone does not skip if Someone watched the entire ad Um this was something that that YouTube Invented this format and it's been Um they don't disclose this this data But from from what we can understand It's remarkably it's done remarkably Well Um and I think What happens there is they're able to Charge higher rates and the example that Someone at YouTube A former executive told me you know it's Imagine that Nike uh makes this Commercial that everyone kind of wants To watch it's a really you know we've Seen we've all seen like these Nike is a Good example these Sports companies can Can make really compelling Advertisements commercials if they make An ad that no but very few people are

Skipping then Adidas will want to pay More to get in front of viewers what They're at Um and so that's and YouTube is not and These are not necessarily happening with Sort of like in the television world With handshake agreements this is an Automated system With algorithms that are set up to On YouTube side make as much money as Possible from these ads and so Um and often the case of skippable ads Tend to be the most expensive if um if You're an online Creator uh the most Rewarding Who's PewDiePie PewDiePie Um PewDiePie is the YouTube handle for a Swedish Um YouTuber and video game streamer mostly Felix shelberg He was for a long time uh for about a Decade starting in 2012 the most Successful and and probably one of the Most um And like handsomely rewarded uh the Wealthiest YouTubers Um and he has gone through a series of Controversies with the company uh Starting kind of right right around the Trump election Um with the videos that that uh many uh Accused of of being anti-semitic

Um and and problematic and hateful Um and he's been wanting to be most Fascinating because of that relationship The way that you know he is have all Sorts of headaches and problems for YouTube and yet he has a devoted Audience and is sort of he's a been this Personification of the new type of Celebrity that YouTube wanted to invent It I wanted to invent um in many ways Has invented and Um I think he's just he's at the center Of of many of YouTube's major issues of The past decade how did he start did They know him at YouTube when he started Uh nope he was one of um you know Hundreds of not thousands of uh I think He was in college college kids that was Uploading video games he plays video Games this is what he mostly did he Would play a video game and then he Would stick the camera a web camera on His face and do kind of color commentary Kind of like what you imagine and you're Watching a baseball game Um and this was a genre that took off on YouTube for a couple reasons one it's People are entertained by it Um two is it's fairly cheap like it you Don't there's not a lot of editing Required you don't need a green screen You don't need a big you don't need a Script screenwriters it is just one Person a camera and a video game

The we have a little clip you can't see Him and that's I suspect half the thing That makes it interesting but you can Just hear it it's about a minute long PewDiePie P-e-w-d-i-e-p-i-e and this is something Called the dumbest deaths in history and It's from 2021 he had 3.9 million views Here it is and I'll get your comment Afterwards Back with the new camera new mic shaved Face ready to rate some dead people's Death This is called victims of the 1580s dance plague excuse me what this Is an historical event in the Holy Roman Empire now wait I thought you were Talking about oh it happened many times Dance plagues are a thing we gotta watch Out okay another uh death from laughter This uh dude was Italian who is it all Right this joke is off the hook man There's got to be some pickle Rick level Okay let's hear this joke uh he died From laughing too much at an obscene Joke during a meal in Venice that's it Well what's the joke it was so funny no One lived to tell the tale Hans Steininger look at this dude look at That man's beard hell yeah he died from His beard He died when he broke his neck by Tripping over his own beard I'm not sure it would help you to see it Uh what age group watches PewDiePie

Um that's a good question I mean uh we Don't know I think they're estimates I Think we would say to assume it's Probably in the 12 to 24 age range What do they like about it Um you know I think there's a there are A couple things Um One you know he If you saw the clip he was sort of Basically like going around Wikipedia Right and and this is like he is sort of Um part of this uh generation of YouTubers that uh often it makes videos About the internet and about the Internet culture Um and I think one of my theories that I Kind of developed from talking to people Inside the company is like you know the Internet is and YouTube is just a very It can be a very befuddling confusing Place Um and it's certainly like I I'm a Professional journalist at covers Tech And social media and I am often very Confused about about the trends and the Phenomenons that happen right Um and if you have someone like what PewDiePie often does is he kind of Becomes this Navigator of of online Culture uh you know translator Um and he's also driving it in many ways And so I think that's entertaining when People can

Um have someone to kind of guide them Around Um I mean he's clearly like he's an Online comic and presents himself that Way what I think is also unique is that You know unlike a reality TV star or a Television star he often reveals you Know you saw the beginning of that clip How he's talking about just that he Shaved his face right and that he bought New equipment Um You know even though PewDiePie's is not His real name most people uh Sociologists will call this a parasocial Relationship where the fans they don't Know him they've never met Felix Shelberg the human being but they feel Like they know him and they have this And they're invested in his success and His performance as a as an online Creator in a way that Um I don't think it really happened in In media before it doesn't happen with Other types of celebrity and reality TV And that was with that has a this you Know can create new business models Where he can tell fans to buy a certain Item and they're going to go out and buy It Um and it has a dark side which is what When he is making choices that um have Big Society societal risks he has a lot Of fans and that are extremely devoted

To him and are going to take you know Become like trolls and he calls them the Bro Army and we've seen that become very Misogynistic and have this sort of toxic Underbelly has he ever been sued Oh good question Um Not that I'm aware of And is he still active He is still active he is no longer a Thief he kind of lost the crown Um as the he was for a long time the Most subscribed he was a YouTuber with The most subscribers uh he lost that I Believe it's now sort of There are three different new new Kings Of YouTube one is a Bollywood Entertainment channel uh one is a kid's Channel and and the third is a Creator Named Mr Beast again online this morning And looked at Mr Beast Um what's the attraction there do you Thinking can you explain what he does Sure Mr B says a really interesting new Phenomenon he he's sort of like reality TV for the YouTube Generation Um he is largely famous for his sort of Stunts of excess Um he will do something kind of these Are these are reality TV formats right But he will Um have a contest where he has you know One I'm just thinking of Maybe a dozen people putting their hands

On a really expensive car and the last Person to uh keep their hand on the car Will get to keep the car Um or he will pretend to be an Uber Driver and then at the end of The Uber Ride he gives the person in the car who Took the ride with him this really nice Tesla right like he does these um and Sometimes they're they're Charities he Will film himself trapped inside of a Box for 24 hours like these are formats That have been proven successful on Reality TV He is part of this generation he's been On YouTube since he was making videos on YouTube since he was 12 years old I Think he's maybe 24 now And he does it sort of he spends a lot Of money he has a pretty major media Business to make these videos uh and and That ends up becoming like pretty fairly Profitable Um C-SPAN has a lot of c-span's material Has ended up on YouTube now we have a Channel which we have an arrangement you Know uh like we were talking about Earlier but an enormous amount of our Material Finds Its way to YouTube and we Didn't give anybody permission to do That What how often has that happened and I At some point I want you to tell us About the Viacom suit because I suspect It's all wrapped up in that

Yeah I mean this was a problem that Emerged pretty early on uh with YouTube One of the the one that the staff Struggled to sort of Stamp Out was um Uh WWE wrestling became where fans were Just would would uh pirate the videos And put them up without permission Um and so you know the fundamental issue And you brought the Viacom lawsuit this So the Viacom sued YouTube for a billion Dollars for copyright infringement in March of 2007 uh which was a few months After Google purchased YouTube Uh and the fundamental issue that Viacom Claimed was that YouTube was knowingly Allowing by comic to me Icom owned MTV Comedy Central Nickelodeon allowing Their shows to be re-uploaded without Their permission and then making money From them and the copyright law in the US is basically makes it very clear that You can't sort of have Commercial Success from pirated footage uh what YouTube built uh in in probably the most Successful sort of technology that They've made is something called Content ID That automatically you know C-SPAN for Instance C-SPAN we can can go in and Upload their their footage and then YouTube the way it's supposed to work is That every time someone goes around C-SPAN and say uploads footage without Without the station's permission then

YouTube will alert the copyright owner And say we found this video footage here Uh and you have two options you can take It down like or request to remove it or You can just make money from the ads That run Um and that is an arrangement that has Worked very well for YouTube because a Lot of media companies are interested They're fine with having the material Remain on YouTube it is successful it is A very good marketing channel And then they end up making all the Money from the ads anyway Um and so I think because of that Because very you know Google has uh Incredibly well paid and Savvy lawyers Um they were able to to fend off the the Bicom lawsuit Um and and basically keep YouTube in Existence because of those that that System in place Is there any way I I get online to see If I can find how many Servers they have to be able to do this Billions and billions of hours I I found And I'm sure I never quite trust these Numbers but I found that there was Something like 36 locations around the World What are your numbers and do you have Any idea how many servers they've had to Buy to service this institution I think I mean it's YouTube is so

Intertwined with Google on the sort of Back-end technology that I think it's Hard for us to to say Um As far as I understand it's not like Google will Google has Um you know data centers across the World dozens of them and and I think Some of their systems are uh it's not Like you don't have one piece of Machinery that's designed just to Compress YouTube video footage and Another piece of Machinery that's Designed to to work on its search engine Right it's sort of all part of the same Um Overarching technology and system Um so I think to answer your question I Think YouTube would have a lot more Server but if it wasn't part of Google Google is the world's most effective Technology company at sort of squeezing Out Um efficiency from their from their Machines and their operate like they Have for a long time but you know YouTube was bleeding money because it's It's more expensive to to you know that Basically hosts this free video and so Much of it Um and so for it was basically Google's Successful advertising business was Subsidizing the YouTube machine like YouTube service so I don't have a good

Answer for you as far as the exact Number who do you credit for figuring Out the advertising part of all this Um I I think so there was a CEO so Susan Majeski was certainly Um has done has helped YouTube's Business grow not necessarily from zero But from close to zero to to what it is Today and she also navigated you know For uh almost a year in 2017 you saw the Biggest advertisers on the platform Boycotting the service over over extreme Associations and she is Um if you're a shareholder in Google You're very happy with her ability to Get advertisers to come back and to Build a pretty sustainable business from That Um I think there's credit before or There was a chief executive named solar Commander and his Deputy shashir Malhotra were the two that most people At the company sort of credit for taking It from from uh An unprofitable business into something In shape for for uh profitability I want to ask you about the individuals Who started it but first uh about you Give us your background where what's Part of the country did you come from Originally Where did you go to school and what were Your first jobs

Oh wow I wasn't prepared to answer that Uh I'm from Columbus Ohio Um I went to school nearby at the College of Worcester which is the Northeastern Ohio Uh I Believe YouTube was started when I Was Sophomore or Junior in high school or College rather And I can't I was trying to remember Like the first time I remember Encountering a video Video Um And and my first uh I my first job was Actually delivering the local newspaper In Columbus The Columbus Dispatch uh Maybe that started my interest in Journalism Um I have been covering Google uh Primarily since since 2015. but you went On that you went on from Worcester to The University of Chicago what did you Study there oh yeah I studied the public Policy Um and and have it I still have an Interest in the intersection of business And policy when did you decide you Wanted to be in this writing business And covering news Um good question I think I decided Around the financial crisis and then I Had to figure out how to make a living Doing that

Um It was yeah around the financial crisis Was a moment where I I thought that this You know being able to I was really Inspired by explanatory journalism that Could unpack something like as complex As the housing crash Um and I thought that was a really Interesting To something I wanted to do Professionally and I ended up chasing That sort of I spent my formative years As a journalist working in India And that's actually how I started Writing about the technology industry For how long were you in India uh for About two years And you live where today Uh I'm the Bay Area uh and it happened There uh for for seven years and uh With a publication called recode and Then Bloomberg uh writing about Google Uh the parent company alphabet Um and and during that time YouTube Became just a bigger and bigger part of Of the YouTube Google sorry Google's Business and this much more Much more prominent and complicated part Of their like political And societal issues who would not talk To you for this book Uh Susan wojcicki one Um I did not get an interview with Susan Who's the chief executive

Um Uh I don't have a good answer for you Why that is I've written some I I think Fair but but critical stories about the The company for Bloomberg uh including About some of the decisions that she Made and its impact on on Um sort of not listening to advice about Their their systems and their metrics Um I've got a clip of her she's a Harvard graduate during this time with Google and with YouTube she's had five Children And you can tell doesn't her husband Work for Google Her husband as well as I know still Works for Google yet just want everybody To hear her voice and she's talking About something that I will ask you to Follow up on let's listen to Susan Wojcicki as soon as the war broke out we Realized this was an incredibly Important time for us to get it right With regard to our responsibility and You know we made a number of really Really tough decisions one of them Involved how we handled Russian State-sponsored media we had lots of Requests from various governments but Looking at our politi our policy Framework we also decided to suspend That media globally we also extended our Policies with regard to how we handle Verified violent events the reason we

Are still serving in Russia and we Believe that that is important is that We're able to to deliver Independent News into Russia and so the average Citizen in Russia can access for free The same information that you can access Here from from Davos which we believe is Really important to be able to help Citizens know what's going on and have Perspectives from the outside world What else can you tell us about her Background and how she got to where she Is Yeah I mean so um Is she is uh that The child of two exceptional parents uh You know her father was a professor at Stanford her mother has been has taught Journalism actually for a long time in In Palo Alto Um her one sister is a fairly Accomplished doctor her another sister Her sister Anne uh started at around 23 And me the genetics company Um And so Ann was for for a while married To Sergey Brin who was one of the Co-founders at Google Um this is I think by way of setting up Like it is many people at Google talk to Me about how Um you know Susan majicki is an Accomplished executive she is competent As a manager she clearly like is

Successful at the digital advertising World I think it's really important to Understand that she is close Um has this familial closeness to the Google Founders Um and so I I you know another group of People another people that didn't speak To me with the Google Founders and Larry Page and Sergey Brin have not spoken to A journalist I think in seven years Um so I didn't you know I wasn't too Offended but um they are they're still They're they're no longer they're no Longer involved day to day with the Company but they're still the majority Shareholders of alphabet which is Google's parent company and there's so They're still the owners of this Incredibly important uh company and that They've they've been long time decision Makers there They became fabulously successful and Wealthy before they were 30. Um and have a close tight-knit group of People that they trust and are loyal to Them they like turn to council and Susan Waches is there and I think that's a Major explanation like at the time Larry Page was CEO of Google when he appointed Susan wojcicki to run YouTube and from Everyone I've spoken to who was around That time it was in in part to keep her There at the company and he wanted to Put someone that he trusted in that role

Susan would Just jet skis garage And the three people that started you YouTube how did that come together and How is it that they rented two thousand Square feet in her garage oh yeah so These are the founders of Google that Rented space in her garage Um right I'm sorry I'm confused yeah I'm Definitely confused with all these names But go ahead that's good Um yeah they they uh it was through of Sergey Brin married her sister had a Connection there and and so that was you Know Google's history was both Google And YouTube started in garages Um and and you know the the saying in Silicon Valley is that even if you're Very successful like Google you're Always worried about the next startup Starting in a garage and and I think in Many ways you know YouTube was Um Google had a competing service called Google video that Susan wojiski was Involved with running at the time in 2005. it was not doing well compared to YouTube YouTube was taking off and had It was a lot of young people it was Really popular at the time it was sort Of it's hard for us to imagine but this Was a time when Myspace was very popular So Myspace and YouTube were the kind of Hottest things in Tech Um YouTube was also a very popular

Search destination so people were going To youtube.com to search for things like How-to videos or just like entertainment Instructions this to Google was a threat And oftentimes in history of Silicon Valley it is you either try to squash Your competition or you buy them and so Google decided to buy them so what Garage did the three founders of YouTube Work out of that was so Chad Hurley was The one of the founders and the first Chief Executive uh it was his garage the Three founders had met and had uh you Know Finance commercial and financial Success from PayPal Their first company uh and Chad Hurley Was an early designer at PayPal Um and they were all the three of them Were sort of kicking around an idea for A new business in his garage uh when They they came up with YouTube Who else came out of PayPal besides Peter Thiel Uh famously uh Elon Musk Um who's now in back in social media Um with with Twitter I mean PayPal is Um we talk about the term PayPal Mafia Um uh Reed Hoffman who is the founder of LinkedIn the founder of Yelp Um it it has it spawned this generation Of the night to be clear like men Um it was the PayPal and a lot of these Companies are like mostly dominated Males have like few few uh space for for

Female leaders go back to Chad Hurley Jawed Karem and Stephen Chen the three Founders of YouTube how did they come Together what was their age at the time Uh I believe Chad was the oldest at 28. Um And I think the other two were 27. Um They had they met it at PayPal Um this was a time when It was you know what we called Web 2.0 Um sort of beginning of this not just Where the internet was not just a Passive experience that people would go On and say like read from a New York Times or a blog or sorry not just read From the New York Times or or watch Um footage from from mainstream media But they could actually create their own So Myspace was one Facebook was started Just months before Flickr was a photo sharing app service That was started and the ad there were At the time there was a recognition that On video was moving to the internet uh But it was two things were not very Clear one was just how to do that Technologically it was kind of hard at The time to like process and upload Video smoothly and then there was a lot Of they wasn't clear about what the Business model was but there was enough Um momentum and interest in The amateur video kind of landing and

Making video sharing easy and that's What YouTube clicked onto right they Were the first company to make it uh Very accessible and easy to use that was A major part of their success where are They now what are they doing the three Enjoying their their wealth Um how much CMA How much did they make oh uh this was Came out in the vicom lawsuit that's the Only reason we knew them I think from That I believe Um Chat so Chad Hurley and Steve Chen Stayed around for the acquisition John Wood Kareem who's the third founder left Pretty early on before Google acquired Them I think he made close to 60 million And and I think these are payouts not Just one lump sum I think Chad and Steve Are is close to 300 million Um is my understanding Um enough to you know for many people Have a comfortable existence for the Rest of their lives Um uh chat they're evolved uh Jonathan Steve kind of started another video Company Um they've all been I think they're all Three of them are working as investors And mentors Um Steve Chen worked for Google Ventures Which was Google's Venture Capital arm Um they they you know the thing about

All three of them are uh they are Certainly talented uh and Um and and some like kind of created This this uh you know very important Institution but none of them at least People I talked to none of them had like These major egos right um and they're Not well known they're not as well known As Mark Zuckerberg obviously or or Jack Dorsey and they haven't really been at The front of center of Silicon Valley And and maybe that's part of their their Personality um And then and perhaps they like just they Whether they just didn't find something Else after YouTube that was kind of a One-hit wonder or uh they prefer to to Play like the investor role Who give us some idea of who's made a Tremendous amount of money after uh Putting uh video on YouTube Besides I assume is there any figure on Uh PewDiePie's uh how much money he's Made There's been some estimates I mean in my Reporting I got some internal figures Um that was over uh I think a seven year span and it was I Believe close to 30 million Or above 30 million Um And you know so like PewDiePie has Certainly like made a successful Um business you know they're they're I

Think they're they're you you sell that Clip there are certainly people that Argue like uh it's very strange and Bewildering that that someone like him Could have such a successful career The the flip side of that is the Audience that he demands like the number Of people that watch his videos Um it's kind of disproportionate to say That the the salaries that uh the movie Star can pull down Um and so Mr Beast has another one Mr Beast has certainly had a successful Career for a long time the most uh the Richest YouTuber was a a child named Ryan Kaji Um who I believe is now 10 years old Um And he went from posting like just Videos of his family to creating a you Know a Production Studio that is worth Over 30 million a year I got on this morning and looked at Ryan Kaji Um do you know any more about him and Family and where they're located and why He uh struck a positive note with Everybody Um you know they I believe they they may have just Recently moved I think they were in Houston and maybe moved to Hawaii but um They look like many Successful YouTubers

Um don't love to broadcast where they Live I think it's understandable Especially young kids Um you know there are many strange People out there right and and so they Want to keep as much as they can Uh private life so I say that you know These are people that Ryan Kachi has Been on YouTube since he was three years Old and so it's it's this weird Dissonance between his parents saying That they want to respect his privacy And the fact that they've basically like More than two-thirds of his life has Been lived on camera Um he's part of a now many dozens of Very successful child Um children on YouTube someone he became Famous uh with toy unboxing which is a Genre that came up about a decade ago Which is kind of exactly what it sounds Like right he will the videos are often Maybe 15 to 20 minutes long and most of Them are filled with him you know Unboxing or playing with toys Um he's kind of graduated from that and And part of it's his age part of it is Like the YouTube algorithm is starting To reward those types of videos less Because of some scrutiny that the Company has faced Um I mean most people I talk to Who have spent time around him and his Family his parents are young they're

Younger than me Um Say that they're a well-adjusted Uh family and you know there was a I Talked to one for the book I talked to One of his managers or it kind of works With him in his parents company And you know the criticism is uh sort of Familiar to everyone What is it like to what how what life Will this child have after they've been So famous so young there's so many Examples of Hollywood of that going Wrong Um and we we've all seen the examples of Stage parents and and how that can have Just like terrible pressures on the Child's life the the response that the Manager told me was that Ryan's never Had to audition once in his life right That he unlike in Hollywood there are This is what YouTube uh Prides itself on There's there's no casting director There's no producer there's no director Telling uh someone or child that they're Not good enough right there is just they They post a video online it takes off or It doesn't I cut this sentence from you and your Book older Americans probably visited YouTube rarely certainly didn't rely on It for news I'm an older American I get On YouTube all the time I find an Enormous amount of History

How does that fit in all this and how Much is that watch and I assume I'm in The minority but there's I don't care What war you want to find out about or Or what person in history there's Something on YouTube like that and I Wonder how much Uh business there is from that uh that Viewpoint Yeah I I uh you know the great thing About YouTube is I can always be Disproven whatever I make blanket claims So uh but I I think I mean for certainly Your regular there's there is archival Um there's enough archival footage about Kind of any topic imaginable Um and I also like I'm a big jazz fan And so you can go back and watch all These videos of jazz musicians playing And sort of magical that they're there I Don't know from a business perspective I Think it's probably a maybe a rounding Error compared to like video games and Beauty and kids these like much bigger Topics on YouTube but it's it's still Um it's still important I I think in That with that sentence and that context There was relative to Facebook uh which Is the sort of YouTube is often Um Facebook they were started around the Same time they faced many of the same Criticisms uh however Facebook has I Think you've probably may agree based a Lot more criticisms around its role in

Society around misinformation around Sort of destructive uh Social pattern and the type and that Part of that is because Facebook is much More prominent where uh contemporary Where we see People having arguments and read like a Lot of new like actual media Contemporary like news comes on Facebook People go to Facebook for that not in The same way people certainly can watch CNN on YouTube Um and watch it a major breaking news Events but Facebook and Twitter have Been much more dominant as far as Um News consumption and then a lot they're Like a lot more much more associated With the problems of echo Chambers and Filter Bubbles and all the sort of Contemporary problems of social media And to be honest part of that is because Donald Trump did not use YouTube as much As he used Twitter and Facebook back to Uh what Susan woditsky said about being In Russia I'm a little confused I I gather that YouTube took off RT radio Russia Today But YouTube is still in Russia And here's the odd thing if you go on Google And ask for Russia Today the entire Channel comes up So you can watch it on Google but you

Can't watch it on YouTube in their own I Mean their Google owns YouTube and YouTube is not allowed to be in China Where Google has done a lot of business So fill in the blanks on all that Um sure Russia I mean Russia is an Ongoing fascinating story as far as like So so Facebook is is no longer operating In Russia Netflix is no longer operating There YouTube is Um The expired like the major sort of media Platform Us Media platform still Operating in Russia and you saw Susan Wojcicki's you heard her explanation Um for that from from the Google Perspective they have pooled their Advertising business there so Um they're no longer making and Advertising but they kicked up their Video platform I I have a couple Theories sort of in for my reporting and Understanding part part of that is YouTube is immensely popular in Russia There is a Facebook competitor in Russia Uh that has a bigger like sizable market Share there's really there's a video Service there's no real comparable video Service Um and Russia both you have Russia Today And Sputnik these channels that have Um become until they were banned by YouTube become very popular uh in and Outside of Russia you also have the

Opposition party uh has several popular Channels and and so I think YouTube is Accurate to say that they are They have been hosting Um uh videos and media that are critical Of the state and and and that role they Play in other countries too Um Where it goes from I mean it'll be Really interesting to see where it goes From there I think that for a while it Was uh unclear how much of that was Google's decision versus how much of it Is the Russian government's decision Like it's for YouTube to remain Operating there and how long they can Continue to I think there have been Several reports about Uh Russian the Kremlin requesting that YouTube takedown videos and Um For China just briefly so Google pulled Most of its services including search And advertising from China mainland China in 2010. YouTube never operated in China I have some reporting in my book That they had plans to Um but they never have Um and and by now there are so many Um competitors to to YouTube including The the Chinese version of tick tock Doing that I I don't even if YouTube Went into China I doubt it would have Much of a foothold how many people work

For YouTube That is a good question I can't give you A definitive answer Um go ahead Over my guess is it's um north of 10 000. and are they located any of them Located around the world Uh yes uh YouTube like Google has Offices uh all around the world Um In primarily their their head and their Headquarters and then in Europe Um YouTube is YouTube's biggest Market By users by viewers is India Um and they certainly have a lot of People in investing a lot more in Southeast Asia In your book on page 121 you say Starting in 2009 TV viewership began to slip falling for A quarter or two and then dropping off a Cliff what caused that and would you I Assume what you mean by TV viewership Over-the-air television Yeah we sort of like traditional linear Television Um I think there were a couple factors One is one is YouTube uh and the other Is Netflix like this was around the time That Netflix was really starting to take Off Um and I think that that YouTube and Sort of the streamers Netflix and now Amazon Prime and Disney and all these

Sort of subscription streaming services Combined with YouTube Tick Tock Um are or continue to eat into like the Share of time that people spend on on Television what's the difference between YouTube and tick tock Uh well there's the there's the parent Side so Tick Tock is owned by a Chinese Company called bite dance Um then there's the product site which Is Tick Tock is Um I think Tech talk sort of so it's a Short form video it's it's largely like Under a minute Um it is it is meant to be sort of it's An app that is based on you know you Flip through with your with your thumb And you go through as many videos as Possible right and you can kind of loop Them some of them play in a loop if you Want or you flip on to the next one Um YouTube has traditionally been you Know you watch a video and then even on The mobile app you have to kind of Scroll down to click on the next one it Would Um right in YouTube since uh has Responded to Tick Tock by introducing a Feature they call shorts which is Basically a tick tock copycat and so it Is YouTube short YouTube videos that are Vertical like Tick Tock as opposed to The sort of the the more of the

Traditional like horizontal screen Um and you can flip through them just The same way as tick tock what was the Hardest part uh for you in writing this Book and researching So Google Um like many tech companies has strict Non-disclosure agreements for employees Uh they you know they're Um they're not they're not as secretive As Apple Uh or or Amazon Um but they are Their relationship with they tell their Employees not to speak to journalists Um and so often what happens is you kind Of get the corporate story That that is told through a particular Lens and a narrative and so I did my Best to talk to I talked to over 100 Current and former employees I think the Hardest part was getting people who Currently were at YouTube to you know Tell the real honest truth about about The company its operations Have you gotten any feedback from YouTube since the book came out Uh They haven't denied anything Um there's been no officials so so I I'm Pretty confident in my reporting Um you know they I gave them ample Chance to to come out and comment uh Which was all included in in the book

Um I think there's certain parts of it they Don't love but but I like the feedback So far has been that it's uh honest and Fair a couple of Statistics we'll wind This up male to female what's the ratio Of of uh who views Uh this is not public as far as I Understand in my reporting it excuse Pretty heavily and I don't know how the I don't have a percentage for you but it Skews heavily towards mail How about the the big what's the biggest Number I mean I've seen a ton of numbers Online and in your book like a billion Hours of content is watched across the World every day Uh 122 million active users daily these Are figures I've gotten in different Places most YouTubers fall in the age Group of 15 to 35. help me out on all That Yeah I think the most the num the number That always this I still struggle to Wrap my head around is uh 500 hours of Video are uploaded every minute Um so that is like every 60 SEC new Video footage uh 500 hours and this this Is this that is a couple years stale so At this point it's probably more than 500 hours so that's just the amount of Sheer video footage that is added to YouTube uh every single minute and Consistently and and that just gives you

A sense about the the scale and the Operational complexity of something that We've never seen before one last couple Questions on chapter nine called nerd Fighters uh you say not far away in Downtown Los Angeles Freddie Wong the Guitar Hero star began his YouTube Glory Days in an apartment with three other Aspiring filmmakers who is Freddie Wong And what's that story Uh Freddie Wong was one of the earliest YouTubers in in I I mean I have this Tremendous amount of respect for him as A as a creative person and like he was Part of this generation that was This was you know YouTube early on Started paying its creators but from the Onset there was no Financial reward or Guarantee uh and so many people like Like Freddy he was in college when YouTube came around and uh and made These like really inventive short films That he started to upload on YouTube Um he had no this was this was not a Guarantee right he wasn't doing it for Money he wasn't doing it to be an Influencer he wasn't even I I think he Was doing it to to create a Um To pursue a creative act to put Something creative into the world to Like experiment with the canvas and I Told that story because I think that He's part of a generation and a type of

YouTuber that too often that the company Ignored The title of your book is like comma Comment comma subscribe How did you get to that point were you Named it who named it Uh my agent came up with that one I Can't take credit It is I mean it's it's a it's a great Title it's it's familiar enough to Anyone who's watched enough YouTube that It is the Mantra of of a lot of YouTubers that you know it is these sort Of Um It's what they expected it's a current It's a currency of social media right Yeah you and I are going on YouTube We're not paying for anything uh and so It's the expectation here is in like the Demand that in order to achieve success On YouTube in order to achieve fame you Need to get people to to like you need To get people to engage you need to get People to subscribe it's this sort of Constant I think it's almost desperation And need that the company set up Um and I you know it's almost I met it Kind of it's resembles Um like it's sort of endorphins it sort Of resembles a drug right it's it's Something that that um Social media has been compared to Tobacco and I think there's there's uh

Some definite truth to that comparison The subtitle of like comment and Subscribe there is inside YouTube's Chaotic rise to World Domination Our Guest has been Mark Bergen we thank you Sir Thanks for having me I really appreciate It Thanks for listening to the book notes Plus podcast please rate and review book Notes plus and don't forget to follow so You never miss an episode Questions or comments we would love to Hear from you you can email us at Podcasts at C hyphenspan.org [Music]