Could Google’s AI push cause a rift with YouTube creators?


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Wasting time on YouTube could soon be a thing of the past. 

Instead of sitting through lengthy instructional YouTube videos, Android users will soon be able to ask Google’s AI questions about individual clips, and receive answers in seconds. The feature, which the company plans to make available in the coming months, could be a boon to consumers, but also have significant consequences for YouTube creators as well as the company’s own bottom line.

Android VP Dave Burke demonstrated these new capabilities during Tuesday’s keynote presentation for Google’s I/O developer conference. To do so, Burke pulled up an instructional video about pickleball on his phone. Instead of watching the entire video to learn about the sport, he simply asked Android’s built-in Gemini AI assistant a question about a specific pickleball rule. Within a few seconds, Gemini answered the question based on knowledge deducted from the video.

“You can use it on billions of videos,” Burke said, adding that Gemini uses YouTube captions and other unspecified signals to generate these kinds of answers. 

Watching the video would have undoubtedly taken Burke longer. However, it also would have offered the creator an opportunity to participate in ad revenue, and potentially grow their audience on the platform. “When you’re watching a 10-minute video, you’re being served a pre-roll [ad],” says podcaster and YouTube content creator Jason Howell. “You’re being served a mid-roll [ad]. All of these are opportunities for Google and the creator to make some money.”

Google released the Gemini Android app in February, and only recently began more closely integrating Gemini into Android itself. The company has yet to fully replace its existing Google Assistant with the new AI assistant. That’s why Howell isn’t all too concerned that Gemini will depress advertising revenue he generates with YouTube in the near future. “The material impact in the short term isn’t going to be too huge,” he says, while also cautioning that this could change. “There would be an immediate impact if everybody suddenly started summarizing all their videos instead of actually watching.”

It’s not just creators that could be impacted by viewers skipping video viewing for AI summaries. YouTube generated $8.1 billion in revenue for Google in Q1 of 2024 alone; the video service was responsible for 10 percent of all of Google’s revenue during that quarter. 

YouTube is also becoming a hugely valuable resource as tech companies race to train their AI models on ever-expanding corpuses of knowledge. Last month, The New York Times reported that Google competitor OpenAI secretly transcribed more than one million hours of YouTube videos to train its GTP AI models. YouTube spokespeople told the paper at the time that such a move would violate the site’s terms of service.

Now, it appears that Google is willing to use YouTube to power its own AI ambitions—even if that depresses income for YouTube and its creators. This makes Howell wonder: “Is it worth the sacrifice on Google’s part?”

At the same time, Google is also pitching AI as a boon for YouTubers and other content creators. This week, the company also previewed generative AI features for creators, including a new video generation tool called Veo that it is starting to make available to select creators.

Google’s Veo mirrors work that OpenAI has done with its generative video engine Sora. Both hint at a future in which YouTube creators can simply instruct an AI engine to generate synthetic footage for a fraction of the cost of a professional shoot. In a video shown on stage at Google I/O Tuesday, actor and director Donald Glover argued that Veo allowed professionals like him to iterate faster, while also removing barriers of entry for newcomers. “Everybody is going to become a director, and everybody should be a director,” Glover quipped.

And Google continues to push YouTube as being a driving force of the entertainment industry. Earlier this week, YouTube CEO Neal Mohan argued that major YouTube creators like MrBeast should be eligible for Emmy awards. “Creators are defining a new era of entertainment,” Mohan wrote in a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter. “They deserve the same acclaim as other creative professionals.”

However, Howell thinks that those very star creators with huge audiences on YouTube could see a significant revenue impact from AI summaries. “The people who really make a lot of money off of [YouTube], I can’t imagine them being too happy about this feature,” he says.

Unless, that is, Google eventually figures out a way to compensate them for the AI use of their works. However, the company didn’t hint at any such plans this week; YouTube spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story. 

Howell believes that Google and other AI companies won’t be able to stay mum on these issues forever. “We aren’t hearing anything about compensation right now,” he says. “I’d be surprised if we don’t hear about that eventually, because people will start making noise about it.”


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