YouTube is getting a new product boss from Google, which is getting a new display advertising boss. And both moves appear designed to strengthen Google's incumbent video and display ad businesses against new challengers (cough, Facebook).
Neal Mohan, Google senior VP-video and display advertising, is moving to Google-owned YouTube as head of product development, according to people close to the matter. He will report to YouTube chief Susan Wojcicki, the longtime Google ad boss whom he had worked under before she took the reins at YouTube in February 2014.
Keeping things further in the family, Google has already tapped a familiar face to serve as Mr. Mohan's replacement: Google Analytics head Paul Muret. The 10-year Google vet joined the search giant in 2005 after it bought his company Urchin Software, which became Google Analytics. But Mr. Muret isn't leaving the Google Analytics team; instead, the VP-engineering will be adding oversight of Google's display ad business to his duties and will continue to report to Google ad boss Sridhar Ramaswamy, the people said.
A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on the moves.
Neither Mr. Mohan's nor Mr. Muret's appointments are as odd as they may seem. Mr. Mohan can help YouTube build its business, strengthening its ties with advertisers and value to creators in order to fend off emerging rivals like Facebook and Twitter, both of which are courting its advertisers and creators. And Mr. Muret can help Google keep pace with Facebook, whose ad business has become centered around being able to measure what exactly brands are getting for their bucks.
In addition to running development of YouTube's business products, including ads and its new subscription service YouTube Red, Mr. Mohan will oversee the video service's consumer products. While not a new position -- it's been vacant since YouTube's previous product boss Shishir Mehrotra left in April 2014 -- Mr. Mohan's role of overseeing both consumer-facing and money-making product development is new at YouTube, the people said. Previously, the service had split the responsibilities among different executives, even though Google's various other businesses typically have one all-encompassing product boss.
It's unclear what consumer product chops Mr. Mohan brings to YouTube, though the same could have been said of Ms. Wojcicki, who's overseen a slew of consumer product launches during her 21 months at the helm. Other than an early job as an Accenture analyst and a summer internship at Microsoft, he's only worked for DoubleClick and Google on the ad side of things, according to his LinkedIn profile. But it could be that Mr. Mohan's time building Google's display ad business is what he brings to the consumer and business sides of YouTube.
If YouTube wants to build a profitable business in proportion with its billion-plus-user footprint, it needs to give advertisers reasons to spend more money on its ads and/or it needs to give people reasons to pay to watch YouTube videos (probably both). Which means YouTube needs videos for those people to watch, but not the home movies that people usually associate with YouTube. Those are cheap, if not free. It needs videos from mainstream media companies to bait TV advertisers, and it needs videos from YouTube stars to hook subscribers. Those are expensive. If YouTube wants more of those videos -- and its Google Preferred ad-buying program and original series push suggest that it does -- then it needs to find a way to get more money for those video creators. So like Facebook's move in 2012 to make mobile a primary consideration early into any product's development, YouTube appears to be making a similar move by putting in charge of consumer products an exec with a history of working on profit-building products who can ensure that revenue isn't an afterthought in the development process and that there's more collaboration among YouTube's various product teams.
Besides, YouTube's consumer products team appears to have been doing fine without a companywide product chief. This year alone it has released the YouTube Kids, YouTube Gaming and YouTube Music mobile apps; redesigned its flagship mobile app and mobile site; added support for 360-degree and vertical videos; and built an ad-free, subscription-based version of its service that lets people download videos to watch without an internet connection or play audio-only versions of them in the background.