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YouTube CEO on Facebook's video ambitions: 'They should get back to baby pictures'

  • When pressed on stage about Facebook's increasing video ambitions, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki quipped that Facebook should "get back to baby pictures."
  • As Facebook has been beefing up its video offering in what looks like a more direct assault on YouTube, Wojcicki says that she's staying focused on her own business, not what the competition is doing
Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube
Harriet Taylor | CNBC
Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube

Facebook should ditch its video ambitions and "get back to baby pictures and sharing," YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki quipped on stage Tuesday night.

Wojcicki fielded a question on increasing competition from Facebook during Recode's Code Media conference outside Los Angeles.

The social network has been beefing up its video offering in what sources have described to CNBC as a more direct assault on YouTube. Facebook has talked to advertisers about expanding its "Watch" video product to more individual creators and rolling out an advertising system similar to YouTube's where all parties get a split of the revenue.

When Recode co-founder Kara Swisher asked Wojcicki on stage about whether she worries about increased competition from Facebook, the YouTube CEO returned a very diplomatic answer:

"I mean you always have to take your competitors seriously, but you don't win by looking backwards and looking around," she said, adding that she didn't know anything about Facebook's plans beyond what was reported in the media.

But, when pressed, she conceded:

"I mean, I think they should focus on what they're focused on," she said. "I think they should get back to baby pictures and sharing."

Although Wojcicki spoke partially in jest, she likely would sleep easier if Facebook's looming video threat faded out. In the wake of controversy about inappropriate content on the service, YouTube recently announced changes to its advertising program that make it harder for small creators to make money from the platform, which gives Facebook an avenue for appealing to them. Meanwhile, both platforms have been vying for major content wins, like National Football League streaming.

"We should all compete for content," Wojcicki said. "I build our business and I focus on what we need to do, and I know that we have a lot of things to do ... And we're going to keep doing them because that's the way that we're going to get strong."

You can watch Wojcicki's interview in its entirety here (start at ~30:30 for the question on Facebook) and read the relevant excerpt below:

Swisher: Are you worried about [Facebook] as a video platform, in a competitive way?

Wojcicki: I mean you always have to take your competitors seriously, but you don't win by looking backwards and looking around. You win by looking forward, and looking at your customers and figuring out what do they want, how can I be better at what we do? And I look at YouTube and I look at the opportunity and we have a really wonderful ecosystem and so the priorities that we have this year are building trust among our advertisers and our creators, tightening our policies, building more engagement, increasing the creator ecosystem that we have with educational content… We have this amazing platform and we want to invest it that. And so, I don't know what Facebook is going to do…

Swisher: What do you think they're doing?

Wojcicki: I don't know!

Swisher: Oh c'mon. C'mon.

Wojcicki: I don't know what they're doing. I mean you read the press. I read your articles about what they're doing! And I read the analyst reports…


Swisher: What would you be worried about if they did?

Wojcicki: Well I'm not sure I would tell you because then they would read it and then maybe do it… But I mean…

Swisher: Make something up!

Wojcicki: I mean, I think they should focus on what they're focused on. I think they should get back to baby pictures and sharing.

Swisher: Aaaand that's the quote of the night, thank you.

Wojcicki: No, I mean look, I'm not an expert about Facebook. They're experts in it and they should do what's best for their business. And look, we should all compete for content. I build our business and I focus on what we need to do, and I know that we have a lot of things to do. You can always remind me of all the things that we need to do and we're going to keep doing them because that's the way that we're going to get stronger.