YouTube Chiefs Talk Logan Paul, Diversity Goals and Adjusting Guidelines for Content Partners

YouTube is raising the curtain on its largest slate of original programming to date this year. But the focus of questioning Saturday at the Television Critics Association press tour was all about the Logan Paul flap and how the Internet giant plans to mitigate content concerns raised by the unfiltered nature of traditional YouTube content.

Paul stirred outrage by posting a video of the dead body of a suicide victim in Japan and appearing to joke about it. YouTube yanked Paul’s channels from its YouTube Preferred advertising package and dropped Paul as a featured player in its YouTube Red comedy “Foursome.”

“We believe he’s made missteps,” said Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s chief business officer, who spoke alongside YouTube global content head Susanne Daniels. “He’s expressed remorse very quickly and is learning from the experience.”

Kyncl wouldn’t entirely close the door on YouTube working with Paul in the future. For now, projects that were in the works with Paul are “on hold indefinitely,” Kyncl said. “The most important thing to focus on is that actions should speak louder than words,” he said. “Logan has the opportunity to prove that.”

Daniels laid out YouTube’s originals strategy of “fishing where the fish are” in terms of developing shows that involve talent and genres that are already popular on YouTube’s massive platform.

“A priority for me is finding diverse new female voices and championing them,” Daniels said. She noted that there has been a major effort to ensure that gender diversity among the directors of YouTube series. The upcoming “Youth and Consequences” dramedy hired women to direct all eight episodes. In all, about 70% of YouTube’s upcoming series episodes are helmed by women.

“You have to make it a conscious effort to do it,” Daniels said. It requires making sure that all partners on a project  “singularly agree this is a goal and pursue it.” Added Kyncl: “Diversity is a key tenet of our company on every single level.”

Kyncl was pressed on how YouTube is grappling with the unruliness of its construct, in which content partners upload programming with the touch of a button. He emphasized that YouTube is in the process of adjusting its “community guidelines” for content partners that are more deeply in business with the platform but he would not elaborate on what those changes will bring.

Kyncl said YouTube does have an existing infrastructure of “partner managers” who work with YouTube stars and seek to nurture their talent and advise on content concerns. At the same time, a big part of YouTube’s appeal is the DIY nature of programming that is often built around offering viewers a raw look at the lives and activities of personalities like Paul, who commands more than 15 million followers.

“It’s a very active two-way street,” Kyncl said. “We continue to try to improve those relationships to make sure the eco-system is safe, inclusive and diverse. .. When we see (problems) we move to correct them.”

As YouTube has become more of a mainstream player in television advertising and subscription businesses, scrutiny has increased on the content and conduct of prominent personalities like Paul and PewDiePie, who also sparked outrage last year for his use of a racial slur.

Kyncl acknowledged that there is a balancing act in terms of “how much to control the content that creators are putting out,” he said. “What needs to happen is that we have the right community guidelines and the right incentives for the behavior that would allow (stars) to self-select into the right status.”

(Pictured: Susanne Daniels, Robert Kyncl)

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