Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism
examined 15 months’ worth of the most popular news videos on YouTube’s “news & politics” channel from January 2011 to March 2012.
The PEJ team began by tracking 295 news videos during the 15-month period. However, 35 videos were removed from YouTube before the research was completed, so a sample of 260 videos was used.
For each week, the researchers identified the five most weekly videos that received the most views and looked into:
• video type and length
• popular topics
• the producers
• who uploaded them
Popular videos topics were Japan's Earthquake and Tsunami, Russian Elections and Middle East Unrest.
The results of the research showed that citizens are uploading their own news video creations and are also avidly viewing and sharing videos produced by professionals. Almost 40% of the most watched videos were identified as from citizens.
It was also seen that news organizations are using ‘citizen content’ within their reports and that clear ethical standards have not been developed on how to correctly attribute the video content being uploaded and shared.
The researchers also noted that:
• News organizations sometimes post content filmed by citizen eyewitnesses without attribution.
• Citizens are posting copyrighted material without permission and the origin of some material cannot be identified.
All this can lead to falsified news reports with the viewers having no way of verifying what they are watching.
PEJ list the following as the key findings of their study:
• Popular news videos tend to depict natural disasters or political upheaval.
• News events are short-lived but they can outperform even the biggest entertainment videos.
• Citizens play a significant role in supplying and producing footage.
• Citizens are also responsible for posting a lot of the videos originally produced by news outlets.
• Personalities are not a main driver of the top news videos.
• Unlike in traditional TV news, the length of the most popular news videos on YouTube vary greatly.
Digital Journal contacted Amy Mitchell, Deputy Director of Pew Research Center's PEJ to find out more.
Why do you think people are turning to YouTube for News videos?
The YouTube platform offers a new form of video journalism. Individuals can bear witness to events in a new and powerful way. As with other social and web-based media it also allows people to watch these moments on their own agenda, and to share them with others.
Are you surprised at the type of news videos being viewed?
There is a wide variety of videos in the mix of most viewed across these 15 months. In some cases they are major international events that were also covered heavily in the mainstream media. But in other cases, they demonstrate the way that as in blogs and other social media more obscure events can quickly gather massive interest. One element that was rather consistent was the event be centered around events rather than people – which supports the idea of bearing witness to events. Fully 65% of the videos studied did not feature any one individual.
Are you surprised at the types of videos available, the quality etc.
One finding that stood out was the complex interplay between citizens and news organizations. All stages of the process—Capture, production, posting-- the data show both citizens and news organizations involved in different ways depending on the video and the news events. There is also a solid mix of raw footage and edited, with citizens and news organizations offering a mix of both.
Do you think adding a video enhances interest and pumps up views no matter what the news story?
It is unwise to make vast generalizations like that. Certainly certain events are more visually oriented than others and there are hundreds and thousands of videos that attract very few viewers. That said, more and more, producers of information are thinking about a multi-media approach, using all four methods of consuming information: visual, audio, text-based and graphical.
Do you think more people in the future would rather watch videos than news on TV
Again, I would prefer not to answer such general questions like that. Network news offers something different than videos on YouTube and there are still somewhere around 20 million people watching network evening news daily.
See the the full PEJ study and report: YouTube & News