YouTube is an unstoppable beast, thanks to a wardrobe malfunction and a 9-year-old toy critic

YouTube is hotter than ever and shows no signs of slowing down. Without Janet Jackson, it may have never existed.


April 29, 2021

Photo: Olly Curtis/Future via Getty Images

This is gonna hurt your ears: YouTube was founded closer to the 1980s than today.

While you chew on that, we’ll shift gears to something more uplifting: the company’s earnings report.

YouTube’s doing the financial equivalent of ‘going viral’

Per Google parent company Alphabet, YouTube’s Q1 results include some eye-popping digits:

  • Q1 ad revenue is $6B, up from $4B YoY
  • YouTube could see $29-$30B in 2021 revenue (Netflix is expecting $29.7B)

A recent Pew Research Center report pegged YouTube as the most popular and fastest growing social media platform, reaching 81% of US adults in 2021 — up from 73% in 2019.

YouTube is making Netflix’s life more difficult

Media analyst Rich Greenfield noted that YouTube users now watch 1B hours of video per day, while Netflix viewers watch a measly 400m.

Plus — close your ears, Reed Hastings — while YouTube’s growth is accelerating, Netflix’s is expected to slow from 24% in Q1 to 19% in Q2.

And YouTube almost never happened…

YouTube’s founders originally planned — then pivoted away from — a video dating site called “Tune In Hook Up.” Today’s YouTube was partially ideated after a co-founder had trouble finding footage of Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction.

The 1st YouTube video — posted April 23, 2005 — is an 18-second clip of co-founder Jawed Karim talking about elephant trunks at the San Diego Zoo.

Fast forward to today, and there’s a 9-year-old YouTube creator making $30m for toy reviews and generating $200m+ in annual retail sales.

Yes, you read that correctly. A 9-year-old.

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