Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

YouTube Adds Personalized Channels to Lengthen Living Room Sessions

YouTube today is launching a personalization update to its Leanback viewing mode, which is meant to be played on televisions. The new “Personalized Channels”–which is honestly a feature I assumed Leanback already had, given the Google-owned site has been experimenting in this area for a while–will queue up videos for any keyword to play continuously.

Leanback users can give feedback on whether or not they like recommendations, and the channel will refine future suggestions automatically. It seems very similar to streaming music on Pandora. The idea is to offer users a never-ending stream of videos they like, so they’ll watch YouTube longer.

Leanback is not a platform-specific app, but rather a full-screen version of YouTube accessible through any browser. It’s intended for Web-connected televisions.

The “user base [of such devices] is small by YouTube standards,” said YouTube Group Product Manager Shiva Rajaraman, but he added that YouTube users who watch through Leanback already spend 30 minutes per session on average, two times longer than sessions on the Web.

Of course, 30 minutes happens to be the length of many traditional television programs.

Leanback at present doesn’t have much in the way of social features, and it doesn’t include specialized ad formats for the living room. It is also not the default YouTube option on Google TV. Rajaraman said all these things are likely to be added in the future. YouTube has recently been doing all sorts of launches around Leanback, including adding overlay and pre-roll advertisements, showing more premium videos from partners and providing a remote control app for Android.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik