education, and free expression/activism.One of Google's earliest YouTube employees is now leading a new charge at the company: Trying to figure out how to make YouTube a better service for social good - focusing on nonprofits,
YouTube has long worked with nonprofit-types to help them spread their causes and raise money. About 16,000 organizations are currently in its program for nonprofits, which gives them access to special YouTube features and support, Google says. And YouTube, the video service, is already a tremendous mouthpiece for activists.
But a new team, led by former YouTube product head Hunter Walk, is designed to integrate the notion of "doing good" into everything YouTube develops, from product features to support to broader vision. With the extra support, there's no reason YouTube shouldn't have 100,000 organizations in the program, Walk says.
This isn't the equivalent of "YouTube.org," Walk says, referring to Google's separate nonprofit arm. Instead, he's trying to "align vision and accelerate development of product, policy, and programs" around social good - within YouTube's everyday routine.
Sounds good, in theory. But how will it work practically? Some examples include:
- YouTube will continue to help nonprofits in the ways it already has, plus new resources, like a how-to "Playbook Guide: YouTube for Good," which it's releasing today. This 25-page guide covers topics including "Storytelling for Causes" and "Campaigning on a Shoestring."
- Internationalizing. Right now, YouTube's nonprofit program is only available in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia. But YouTube's impact is felt around the world -- it's arguably more important in places where it's a rare source of free, unfiltered information. (On a per-capita basis, Saudi Arabia is actually the biggest consumer of YouTube content, Walk says.) Google needs to figure out how to recognize nonprofit accreditation in other countries, give them the ability to collect money, etc.
- Help match nonprofits with people who can help them make videos -- film schools, digital agencies, whoever.
- Get features built into YouTube that serve the unique needs of nonprofits. For instance: How can a video view turn into someone doing something, whether it's giving money or time or trying to call for policy change?
- An "innovation week for good" sometime in the next few months, led by YouTube Europe engineering director Oliver Heckmann, during which YouTube employees can spend the week hacking on these types of projects.
Walk has already assembled a small team within YouTube -- 10 people -- to focus on driving the project. But much of the work will be led by several times that many people within their functional teams at YouTube, Walk says. Remember, the goal is to make this part of the way YouTube does business, not a special cause.
Will it work? It's easy to get cynical or skeptical about something like this.
Is this just Google trying to make itself look good as it draws more scrutiny from governments and the tech industry? Is it really fair to expect a public company to put the planet before its profits? Is this just a sneaky way to lock more groups into the YouTube and Google ecosystems?
Google is, of course, hardly the only tech company that puts time and money toward the greater good - Apple, for instance, is holding an event tomorrow in New York focused on education.
But the fact that such a prominent Google employee - Hunter Walk - is leading the effort, and is staking some of his reputation on the project, suggests YouTube is serious here.
And for a tool that can be such a powerful mouthpiece for organizations and societies who need a louder voice, that's a development worth supporting.