YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki is stepping down, after overseeing the video hosting site’s growth into an entertainment juggernaut over nearly a decade.
Wojcicki, who joined Google in 1999 as its 16th employee, said in a memo she had “decided to step back from my role as the head of YouTube and start a new chapter focused on my family, health and personal projects I’m passionate about”.
She will be replaced with YouTube’s current head of product, Neal Mohan.
Google bought YouTube for $1.65bn in 2006. In 2022, the video site’s advertising platform generated $29.2bn, representing about 10 per cent of Google parent Alphabet’s revenue.
Wojcicki, 54, has been a long-term fixture at the company, having rented out her garage to Google’s two founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, in 1998.
Her exit marks another significant departure for a prominent female 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’re so grateful for all she’s done over the last 25 years.”
In her memo to staff, sent on Thursday morning, Wojcicki said she would assist with the leadership transition at YouTube before assuming an advisory role in which she can “offer counsel and guidance across 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 has been regarded as the biggest competitive disruption in the sector in well over a decade.
During Wojcicki’s time at the helm of YouTube she ushered in a targeted video advertising model, while nurturing the “creator economy” from its inception to its huge influence today.
At times, these achievements brought controversy. In 2017, YouTube encountered a significant boycott from advertisers when ads were routinely appearing alongside content posted by religious extremists.
Wojcicki also navigated the unpredictable nature of YouTube’s biggest stars, such as user PewDiePie, who was temporarily dropped by the platform over anti-Semitic remarks within the Swedish creator’s videos.
Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which have reinstated Donald Trump’s accounts after suspending the former president in the wake of the January 6 2021 attack on the US Capitol, YouTube has not yet given a clear indication on its policy regarding his return to the platform in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election.
There has also been scrutiny on the platform’s recommendation engine, which suggests new clips for users to watch based on their habits and the collective behaviour of other similar accounts.
While being responsible for massive spikes in engagement — and therefore advertising exposure — the mechanism has also been blamed for playing a radicalising role, particularly in teenagers, because of the so-called “rabbit hole” effect.
As the streaming wars ramped up, Wojcicki looked to build a subscription model with exclusive content and other perks such as no advertising. In December, YouTube entered a $14bn deal with the US National Football League to broadcast some games over the next seven years.
Responding to the explosive growth of Gen Z-favourite TikTok, YouTube launched Shorts, a short-form, portrait-oriented mode with similar functionality to its Chinese-owned rival.
In a statement, Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Alphabet, said Wojcicki’s “vision and passion have helped YouTube grow into an incredible platform that empowers creators everywhere”.
“Susan has built an exceptional team and has in Neal a successor who is ready to hit the ground running and lead YouTube through its next decade of success,” he added.
Mohan has been on 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 a “terrific leader for YouTube”.
“He has a wonderful sense for our product, our business, our creator and user communities and our employees,” she wrote.
Mohan also sits on the board of 23andMe, the genetics analysis company founded by Wojcicki’s sister, Anne.
YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki to step down Republished from Source https://www.ft.com/content/f711eef6-c133-495a-9b81-9e463d9fc710 via https://www.ft.com/companies/technology?format=rss