YouTube boss Susan Wojcicki resigns

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki is stepping down after nearly a decade overseeing the video-hosting site’s growth into an entertainment juggernaut.

Wojcicki, who joined Google in 1999 as its 16th employee, said in a memo that she “has decided to step down from my role as the head of YouTube and to start a new chapter focused on my family, my health and my personal projects that are close to my heart”.

She will be replaced by YouTube’s current head of product, Neal Mohan.

Google bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion. In 2022, the video site’s advertising platform generated $29.2 billion, about 10 percent of Google parent Alphabet’s revenue.

Wojcicki, 54, has been a long-time fixture at the company, having rented out her garage to Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1998.

Her exit marks another significant departure for a prominent woman executive in Silicon Valley following the resignation of Meta’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg last year.

“Susan has a unique place in Google history and has made the most incredible contribution to products used by people everywhere,” Page and Brin said in a statement. “We are so grateful for everything she has done over the past 25 years.”

In her memo to employees, sent out Thursday morning, Wojcicki said she would help with the leadership transition at YouTube before taking on an advisory role where she can “offer advice and guidance to Google and the portfolio of Alphabet companies.” .

Google faces a looming threat to its search dominance from Microsoft, whose integration of generative AI technology into its rival search engine is seen as the biggest competitive disruption in the industry in well over a decade.

During Wojcicki’s time at the helm of YouTube, she introduced a targeted video advertising model while nurturing the “creator economy” from its inception to its tremendous influence today.

At times these achievements have led to controversy. In 2017, YouTube faced a significant boycott from advertisers when ads routinely appeared alongside content posted by religious extremists.

Wojcicki also navigated with the unpredictability of YouTube’s biggest stars, like user PewDiePie, who was temporarily banned from the platform for anti-Semitic remarks in the Swedish creator’s videos.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which restored Donald Trump’s accounts after suspending the former president following the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, YouTube has yet to provide clear guidance on his policies regarding his return to given the platform in advance – until the presidential election in 2024.

It also scrutinized the platform’s recommendation engine, which suggests new clips for users to watch based on their habits and the collective behavior of other similar accounts.

While the mechanism is responsible for massive increases in engagement — and therefore ad exposure — it’s also been accused of playing a radicalizing role, particularly among teenagers, due to the so-called “rabbit hole” effect.

As the streaming wars increased, Wojcicki tried to build a subscription model with exclusive content and other perks like no ads. In December, YouTube struck a $14 billion deal with the US National Football League to broadcast some games over the next seven years.

In response to the explosive growth of Gen Z favorite TikTok, YouTube has introduced Shorts, a short-form, portrait-focused mode with similar functionality to its Chinese-owned rival.

In a statement, Sundar Pichai, Alphabet’s chief executive officer, said Wojcicki’s “vision and passion have helped YouTube grow into an incredible platform that empowers developers everywhere.”

“Susan has built an exceptional team and in Neal a successor who is ready to go full steam ahead and lead YouTube through the next successful decade,” he added.

Mohan has been part of Wojcicki’s leadership team at YouTube since 2015 and currently holds the role of Chief Product Officer. He previously worked as Head of Strategy at DoubleClick, the advertising platform acquired by Google in 2007.

In her memo, Wojcicki said Mohan would be an “excellent leader for YouTube.”

“He has a wonderful understanding of our product, our business, our developer and user communities, and our employees,” she wrote.

Mohan also sits on the board of directors of 23andMe, the genetic analysis company founded by Wojcicki’s sister Anne.

Video: Recycling the World’s Hard Drive Waste | FT rethink YouTube boss Susan Wojcicki resigns

Adam Bradshaw

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