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Sorry Google, YouTube Captions Aren’t for the Deaf. They’re for Your Robots.

Google, who owns YouTube, rolled out auto-captioning for English language videos yesterday.  All videos with a clear English audio track will have automatically-generated captions. At the press conference a deaf engineer did the product demo and students from the California School for the Deaf in Fremont came on stage.  Google is painting this development as a service to the hearing impaired.

But that’s not Google’s true motivator. Changing audio into text lets Google spiders index the content of YouTube videos. The spiders don’t understand audio so they can’t index videos for search.  But with YouTube audio available in text form, a huge and invisible chunk of the web is opened up to Google’s search technology.

This will be a watershed for Google.  It is a good time to buy Google stock.  The company will make a lot of money selling advertising on these newly-indexed videos. Here’s what to expect:

Better Search Results within YouTube

Now Google’s army of spiders can crawl, index, and return YouTube videos just like regular web pages.  The quality of YouTube search results will rise. With better results comes better ad matching.  The YouTube search results page should have yellow “Sponsored Links” in the near future – just like normal Google searches do.

More Google Ads on YouTube

Matching relevant ads to YouTube videos was hard because the content was a mystery.

Now that’s changed, so we should see more relevant text ads on video pages themselves. For advertisers this is huge.  Many companies don’t buy ads on user-generated content sites for fear of appearing beside offensive material.  But now they can at least filter out any videos with offensive language.

More YouTube Videos in Normal Search Results

Finally, YouTube videos will show up much more often in regular search results. Google will apply its PageRank algorithm and keyword relevancy tests to videos just like HTML pages and feel more comfortable returning them.

They sometimes pull videos into regular search results now.  We will see many more. There is no way Google’s main motivator was to help the estimated 0.3% of functionally deaf Americans watch online video. But it is a feel-good story.

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