An eternity ago (okay it was only four months ago, but that’s an eternity for streaming video), I attended one of the first certification sessions offered by YouTube. After the course, I took the exam, passed with flying colors, and can now joke about being certified in cat videos. The end.
Perhaps it was a little more involved than that.
YouTube began beta testing the certification program in late 2012. The idea is similar to Google’s other professional certifications for products like AdWords and DFP, and other certifications for things like agile methodology or database administration. A certification provides training and a standard framework and language around a key concept or area of expertise. This increases the competency level of the industry around that certification and allows for more efficient communication between professionals working in that specific space.
As one of the top ten networks on the platform, YouTube invited The Orchard to send three staffers for one of the initial rounds in Santa Monica this past March. Myself and my colleagues Sarah Caliendo and Gabriella Cantwell took off to a California that ended up being not so sunny that week. The certification training took place over the course of two days hosted at Tastemade Studios. Let me tell you, these guys were great hosts and added real charm to something that could end up being kinda corporate. The premier food network on YouTube provided breakfast, lunch, snacks, and cocktails (evening only!) which were fantastic.
On the first day, we arrived and walked into the session area. It was very cool being seated in the middle of one of their soundstages. In front was a green screen area, to the right a kitchen set, to the left a bakery set, and behind us a bar set. As I recall, there were about a dozen other companies there with us, including some of the largest networks, partners, media, and entertainment companies. The seating was novel, too, as each group from each company ended up getting split and working with people from other companies. Also funny in a couple of instances where competitors had to work on each other’s channels!
Over the course of the next two days, employees from various YouTube departments walked us through a ton of concepts key to success on YouTube and beyond. In fact a lot of the programming and audience development concepts aren’t all that specific to YouTube and come from the last 50 years of television and radio. We covered YouTube’s product roadmap, audience development strategy, best practices for networks such as ours, copyright and rights management, as well as ads and monetization. The training was peppered with breakout sessions to actually work on some of these concepts either in theory or on our own channels. With 30 – 40 people in the room, this got a bit noisy, but it was interesting to overhear everyone else working out concepts.
There was also ample opportunity to meet other professionals in the space. During both days, there were breaks and snack breaks where we chatted with people from across the industry. This was one aspect I really enjoyed, especially during the cocktail hour at the end of the first day. Of course I can’t turn down some good wine and conversation! Many companies in different industries compared notes and traded ideas on programming and advertising. As well, those of us in music were able to regale and confuse our new non-music friends about just how complex dealing with music content is on YouTube.
Certification officially closes out upon completion of the exam. This is taken online and runs through dozens of questions which you have two hours to answer once you begin. I found it a bit grueling, but also fun because the way most of the questions work forces you to think about the subject matter. Often there’s not a single right answer when it comes to YouTube and sometimes you have to forge your own.
Sarah and Gabriella also nailed the test and became certified. In addition, Gabriella represents an advanced certification in audio rights management. Since that time, we’ve also added certifications for Ben Markowitz, Mike Baldo and Oz Okter, which allowed us to become a YouTube Certified Partner. There are only currently about 40 companies across three regions certified like this and The Orchard is one of only a handful to have a worldwide presence. Soon we will be adding five more certifications and three more advanced audio certifications to the team. Then everyone can add a fancy badge to their signatures.
I’m looking forward to getting re-certified next March!