Kevin Allocca: ‘Early YouTube was defined by the unintentional viral video. That’s changed a lot’

YouTube’s head of culture and trends on the evolution of viral videos, fake news – and the old-school joys of writing a book

Your YouTube colleague Robert Kyncl published Streampunks last year and now you have a book of your own. Why is everyone at YouTube writing books?
I’ve been thinking about this: why now? I guess it takes time and distance to reflect on the why of things. We have had almost 13 years of YouTube history; so much has changed in those years. There’s been enough time to say what the larger picture is.

What’s it been like taking an excursion from the overnight successes of viral video to the snail’s pace of nonfiction publishing?
That’s what I’ve really enjoyed about it actually, putting something in a physical format adds a level of deliberateness. Books are some of the oldest technology that we have, yet are thriving and still a major part of life.

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‘It’s a no-brainer’: are hydrogen cars the future?

Inventor Hugo Spowers has a dream: to replace today’s cars with his own hydrogen prototype. Is the world ready?

In the mid-1990s, Hugo Spowers ran a Formula Three racing team. At the time, motorsport was in the pocket of big tobacco. Every weekend, Formula One cars emblazoned with cigarette brands – Marlboro, Camel, Silk Cut – raced on TV in front of millions. “It was pretty clear it was killing people,” Spowers says. “Meanwhile, the industry was portraying a link between smoking and winners. It was ludicrous. But nobody was going against it.”

So when, in 1995, Spowers’ team introduced a car decorated with an anti-smoking campaign, it caused a commotion. At a party the night before the car was set to debut at the British Grand Prix, the chairman of the British Racing Drivers’ Club summoned Spowers, outraged. “He bellowed at me for a full five minutes, about how motorsport needed its sponsors, and ‘not pinkos like you’,” Spowers says now, chuckling. But Spowers was unmoved: he knew he was right. Furthermore, he believed it made financial sense: the relationship with tobacco was tainting the sport for businesses that didn’t want to be associated with smoking.

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