Google wants to be the Beeb

Youtube redesign
YouTube wants you to spend much more time watching video

Do you like YouTube's new look? You'd better get used to it, because Google reckons you'll be looking at it a lot.

The new YouTube isn't just there to provide crappy clip shows with videos of skateboarding cats, or to fuel Twitter mobs with selectively edited footage of Jeremy Clarkson; it's a proper broadcaster, with proper channels - and just like a proper broadcaster, it's obsessed with viewer input.

In YouTube's case that means integration with Google+ and Facebook, so you can see what clips your friends, colleagues or random Google+ stalkers have been sharing. If that gets too much or makes you despair at the taste of your friends, ticking "show uploads only" gets rid of the noise.

I'm not sure about the new design - like Google Reader's recent refresh, it's best described as "minging", although the old design wasn't exactly lovely either - but that's personal preference and I'm sure I'll get used to it.

What's more interesting to me is YouTube's new focus. Is Google about to throw a giant video baby out with the bathwater?

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Google's attitude to money is rather like my dog's attitude to steak: if you so much as whisper the word "billion", Google's there in a flash. And there are many billions in TV: according to the Wall Street Journal, the US TV advertising market is worth some $70 billion per year. That's what the YouTube revamp is all about.

On average, YouTube users spend about fifteen minutes a day using the site. Google would like that figure to increase dramatically, because of course the more time you spend on the site the more ads Google can show you.

That's why Google is pushing its channels, why there are players for pretty much every device (an Xbox player is imminent), and why Google is spending money on what the WSJ describes as "low-cost content designed exclusively for the web". Google wants YouTube to be the Sky of internet TV.

It's a huge gamble, because YouTube is moving away from the quick-fire video fix model that made it so successful.

Even if Google's right that the future of TV comes through an ethernet cable instead of co-ax - and that's far from certain; people tend to change their TVs much less often than they upgrade their computing kit - that doesn't necessarily mean people will embrace YouTube for long-form video.

It'll be a particularly hard sell if that video is primarily "low-cost content": if you've got Freeview, cable or satellite TV you've already got dozens of channels offering just that.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.