Google & YouTube’s New Hierarchy: 7 Implications

Editor’s note: If you miss the hyperlinks in this post, you’re missing 95% of the humor.

As you may well know, Google’s CEO Larry Page promoted seven executives recently, and effectively eliminated the power of a “product manager” Lord and an operating committee that was previously “hands on” in the critical businesses of the Internet mega-giant. It’s a smart choice: in the name of speed an innovation, Page pushed down/out responsibilities to trusted confidants. Of course like any change, it has positive and negative implications that I’ll now analyze like a sad commentator/pundit digesting a freshly delivered political speech.

Salar Kamangar is the head of YouTube (see his video), and depending on your source he’s either the 9th or 13th employee in Google. The other chief engineers are: Andy Rubin (mobile), Sundar Pichai (Chrome and OS), Alan Eustace (engineering/research), Jeff Huber (commerce and local), Vic Gundotra (social ventures), Susan Wojcicki (the token “ad” lady).

Up until here, I’ve been fairly accurate (except for the Salar clip– here’s the real one, and he’s Persian not Indian, you racist). But From here out, I’m totally speculating if not embellishing.

YouTube Chief Engineer: Salar "Little Superstar" Kamanger

But dangit I’m an “expert” who wrote a “book.” Plus I’ve got loads of previous blog predictions that, in hindsight, are astonishingly accurate (and I’ve not groomed any posts, or changed them… sure maybe I’ve stopped referencing the ones that predicted would dominate, but that’s called “optimist Alzheimer’s”). For instance- remember when I anticipated how Google’s sales team would integrate with YouTube’s? Yeah currently YouTube “display” experts are pollinated across industry teams, and spread based on the industry’s spend: entertainment higher than something like pharmaceuticals). And I think I was fairly accurate about Google squandering YouTube’s potential.

Anyway I’ve got me some predictions based on my personal experience facing the joys and perils of working for centralized and highly decentralized companies, as well as startups that grew to endups, and startups acquired by bureaucracy-o-matic-machines.

So (insert drum roll) please scan (or read) my seven predictions for what this change means to YouTube — mind you, these are just the seven that are related to (or might be implied by) the Google reorganization. My other predictions would make this post too long for my ADHD WVFF back row peeps who have already begun to wish there were ads on this blog… or animated koi fish like my hairloss blog.

1) YouTube More Tied to Core Business: YouTube has an “insider” with P&L responsibility on YouTube. I’ve never met Salar Kamangar (although if/when it happens I can only hope he recalls me as the guy who likened him to “little superstar”). But at Google people drop their “hire” number sequence like Kerry dropped “Purple Heart” wins. Or like former McKinsey or Harvard people referencing their alma mater.

2) A More Autonomous YouTube is a Better YouTube: If Salar “little superstar” Kamangar is a good leader, he’ll recognize that he needs a more diverse workforce.

3) A Sad Interim Effect: Google is an engineer company that hires people on GPAs and obscure interview questions like “how many beach balls could fit into the radius of a square building moving from Baltimore to Washington at 25 MPH.” The sad fact is that Kamanger’s breeding will cause him to keep engineers close, sales people at a safe distance, and label everyone else “specialist.” I’m not kidding on that last point. In my non-scientific research, I’ve found a 73% increase in people who weeks ago had no title and are now called “specialist.” At most companies, there are four layers: C-suite, VPs/directors, managers, and the unwashed masses. Google appears to be dissing anyone that doesn’t manage people with the lame title “specialist,” which is not going to help them externally.

4) YouTube Right Hand Meets Its Left Hand: YouTube has largely functioned in silos, and treating it like a separate business unit means Kamangar and his team can facilitate better coordination of scarce resources located in San Bruno and NYC. That’s good news for smart people who have often been marginalized (or left).

5) Opposite Effect: Decentralized Premium: Sure YouTube’s right brain and left brain (west coast and wrong coast) may connect its corpus callosum. But Google’s move to decentralization may come at a modest price. I tend to like the autonomy and responsibility that comes with decentralized companies. However that comes at a premium. The best example is large agency holding companies, which are loosely assembled small agencies that share in infrastructure and a logo… and that’s about it. This keeps companies customer centric, nimble, fast and engaging… but it also can be difficult when some “go to market” approaches require an aligned front. We can expect Kamanger to assign people within YouTube to liaison with each of the sister Google companies, but occasionally we’ll see chinks in the armor. For instance Android may be more inclined to do what’s in Android’s best interest even at the peril of YouTube adoption. I would predict this threat to be minimal based on the interoperability and consistency of Google’s offerings. Sure there are bastard children (poor Vic will have to make social matter), but Google’s singular hiring profile may make it easier to keep the ducks in a row. When in doubt, shut up and let the engineers do their work… you silly specialist.

6) YouTube As More Than a Platform: This move could accelerate YouTube’s transition from a media platform to a content programmer. See my recent post on the various phases of YouTube’s evolution. You should go read that fabulous post. I’ll admit I wrote it on a lark and could have proofed it better. But I recall it being interesting.

7) Poor, Poor Salespeople: This isn’t good news for the second-class citizens at YouTube we call “sales people” (they’re “specialists” ranked just above “marketers” by the engineering elite). Poor Susan has to run sales at a product/innovation centered-organization. Sure it depends on revenue and customers, but that’s not exactly a priority for Google. Hey it’s working so far, so who am I to fault them? I’m just saying that a customer-centric “go to market” can be a bit easier in a centralized organization that actually values a sales & marketing function. But if the going gets really tough, the tough can get going… to AOL. You’ve got mail.

Okay you didn’t read this did you? At least you gotta dig the freaky fortune teller guy, right? Right? Ah heck maybe it will make the rounds among the unwashed YouTube “specialists”… or not.