Alvaro Paes de Barros
Head of YouTube Spaces, Americas
As Head of YouTube Spaces, Americas, Alvaro Paes de Barros handles oversight of all business elements for YouTube's largest studio worldwide. This includes production, education and community activities with the vast and varied creator communities in Los Angeles. He is also responsible for marketing and messaging internally and externally and ensuring the right balance of creators, brands and social events to ignite the local YouTube community, delivering on the Youtube Space motto: "Learn. Connect. Create."
What day-to-day operations have been most impacted at YouTube by COVID-19, and how have you creatively overcome those challenges?
The YouTube Spaces are physical manifestations of YouTube. We manage 3 owned and operate spaces in priority cities (Los Angeles, New York, and Rio de Janeiro), and +25 Pop Up Spaces in secondary markets (temporary and small in scale). Following the government authorities' mandate to shut down all nonessential businesses, and in conjunction with Google's internal crisis response resources, we closed all Spaces and canceled all Space Pop activations.
After investing energy in closing the Spaces and canceling events elegantly and efficiently, we had to make sure that the Spaces teams (more than 50 in the Americas, were safe at home and had the tools to work from home.
Has this new way of life/doing business resulted in any unexpected wins for YouTube Space?
We quickly discussed how to pivot our offering from in-person to virtual. Working with several internal partner teams, which keep a finger on the pulse of our creative community, we launched a range of virtual offerings. These offerings helped us scale our business model (very nonscalable), forced us to be scrappy, and to rethink our reach (region versus language).
YouTube has taken center stage in people's lives during COVID-19. How are people using this platform differently during this time?
The online viewership has increased, and most of the YouTube creators have experienced an increase in watch time and reach.
People are going to YouTube to improve their mood and find uplifting, helpful, and educational content.
Millions view Andrea Bocelli's Easter Sunday Livestream. Artists are using the platform to perform live concerts to their fans from their homes. Late-night shows relay on YouTube to stay connected with their audiences. And DIY channels are helping millions of people to learn new skills.
What is the most interesting YouTube channel that most people don't know about?
My favorite channel these days is John Krasinski's new YouTube channel, which highlights some good news around the world.
Which revenue stream will suffer the most as a result of the COVID-19 crisis?
Ad spending is being impacted amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But YouTube offers tools like Super Chat and channel memberships, as well as a merch shelf integration with Teespring, to diversify creator's monetization options. Product adoption of these alternative monetization tools would grow. It will help them maintain their YouTube business or drive engagement on their channel.
What role do you think YouTube and its content creators have in connecting the world during a crisis like the one we are currently living, and how is that different than business as usual for your content creators?
YouTube gives people a voice and shows it to the world.
YouTube core values comprise of the four freedoms: "freedom of expression, freedom of information, freedom of opportunity, freedom to belong. The pandemic reinforced the importance of these values and will stay with us after it is over.
Do you expect that any changes you've made to your way of doing business due to COVID-19 will remain in your company's normal practices moving forward?
I am - very - curious to see how our virtual offerings will resonate with our users (creators, artists, brands, and key opinion formers). And how these new offerings, combined with modern production technologies (ex: virtual sets) and smaller-scale but impactful in-person experiences, would impact how we do things. But the 'why' we do things remain the same!
What will be the lasting impact of COVID-19 on YouTube — your most optimistic answer and most pessimistic?
My most optimistic view is that it will make us less greedy.
My most negative view is that it will make us more divided and increase the lack of social discourse.
What has COVID-19 made you appreciate?
I appreciate the work of teachers and school staff, and how much of their work did go unnoticed on our busy lives.
How do you navigate the question of when and how to re-open your office?
At the Spaces, we have a decision-making framework, response time, communication, and Standard Operation Procedures (SOP) for the controlled closure and opening of YT-Spaces and the rescheduling of Pop-ups based on trigger signals. These trigger signals follow the prevailing government authorities and Google's internal crisis response guidance.
I am not surprised if we have to go back and forth (open and close again) before resuming our operations. Also, I am expecting that it will take time for us to operate in a similar (not equal) level then we used to work. So we will have to adapt a lot, improvise, but more importantly, have a mindset that allows us to learn and evolve.
What effect do you think COVID-19 will have on opportunities for near term college graduates, has it changed your views of this generation? What advice do you have for young people?
It accelerated the changes in how people consume news and entertainment, how we produce content, and how brands reach their customers. It is a fascinating time to work in the media/entertainment industry and participate in these changes. The industry is more democratic than ever. A lot will be disrupted, but a lot of value will be created.