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Review: YouTube — The platform for a new kind of visual journalism

By Anthony Carranza     Jul 17, 2012 in Technology
The online video communications platform, YouTube, has transformed the news business with a new kind of visual journalism.
The video-sharing website has come a long way since its purchase by Google back in 2006. In a study conducted by the Pew Research Center for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) that spans over 15 months, the element of news was one of the major drivers of attention on the website for viewers.
The uprising of this widely viewed video content channel forced news organizations to revamp its approach, and update the old ways of the news business. Furthermore, package content that is tailored to fit new digital platforms such as YouTube.
The earthquake that struck the coast off northeastern Japan triggered one of the most devastating tsunami’s that killed over 18,000 people with an estimated $180 billion in damage. This unprecedented and catastrophic natural disaster set forth a new kind of visual journalism never seeing before, and because of how many times videos were viewed.
“News has found a place on this video-sharing platform and in ways that are opening up the flow of information and forging new areas of cooperation and dialogue between citizens and news outlets,” said PEJ Deputy Director Amy Mitchell.
The week that followed the tremor-the content uploaded from news organization to ordinary citizens-would turn this visual social media platform as the go to source for video breaking news. The element of news is quickly climbing the ranks via this new communication channel. About a third (39 percent) of citizens produced some of the most viewed content while news organizations generated (51 percent) footage.
Who posts to top YouTube videos.
Who posts to top YouTube videos.
Pew Research Center
The sharing of news on these cutting-edge platforms is revolutionizing the distribution of it. However, the reliability of the source and the integrity is the question raised because of the problems with attribution.
According to the study, “While YouTube has guidelines about attribution, they are not consistently followed by those using the site. One of the study’s conclusions is that clear ethical protocols about attribution have not developed and users may at times have no clear way of knowing the source.”
The world has become increasingly more connected, and the access to new media technologies spreads with the growth of and adoption of digital devices are adopted by consumers in general. Other findings and conclusions provided by the PEJ that are the following:
• The most popular news videos tended to depict natural disasters or political upheaval-usually featuring intense visuals. With a majority of YouTube traffic (70%) outside the U.S., the three most popular storylines worldwide over the 15-month period were non-U.S. events. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami was No. 1 (and accounted for 5% of all the 260 videos), followed by elections in Russia (5%) and unrest in the Middle East (4%).
• News events are inherently more ephemeral than other kinds of information, but at any given moment news can outpace even the biggest entertainment videos. In 2011, news events were the most searched term on YouTube four months out of 12, according to YouTube's internal data: the Japanese Earthquake, the killing of Osama bin Laden, a fatal motorcycle accident, and news of a homeless man who spoke with what those producing the video called a "god-given gift of voice." Yet over time certain entertainment videos can have a cumulative appeal that will give them higher viewership.
• Citizens play a substantial role in supplying and producing footage. More than a third of the most watched videos (39%) were clearly identified as coming from citizens. Another 51% bore the logo of a news organization, though some of that footage, too, appeared to have been originally shot by users rather than journalists. (5% came from corporate and political groups, and the origin of another 5% was not identified.)
• Citizens are also responsible for posting a good deal of the videos originally produced by news outlets. Fully 39% of the news pieces originally produced by a news organization were posted by users. (The rest of the most popular news videos of the last 15 months, 61%, were posted by the same news organizations that produced the reports.) As with other social media, this has multiple implications for news outlets. Audiences on YouTube are reshaping the news agenda, but they are also offering more exposure to the content of traditional news outlets.
• The most popular news videos are a mix of edited and raw footage. Some pundits of the digital revolution predicted that the public, free to choose, would prefer to see video that was unmediated by the press. The most viewed news videos on YouTube, however, come in various forms. More than half of the most-viewed videos, 58%, involved footage that had been edited, but a sizable percentage, 42%, was raw footage. This mix of raw and edited video, moreover, held true across content coming from news organizations and that produced by citizens. Of videos produced by news organizations, 65% were edited, but so were 39% of what came from citizens.
Pew Research Center s Internet & American life.
Pew Research Center's Internet & American life.
Pew Research Center for Excellence in Jornalism
• Personalities are not a main driver of the top news videos. No one individual was featured in even 5% of the most popular videos studied here-and fully 65% did not feature any individual at all. Within the small segment of popular videos that are focused on people, President Barack Obama was the most popular figure (featured in 4% of the top videos worldwide). These ranged from speeches posted in their entirety to satirical ads produced by his political opponents.
• Unlike in traditional TV news, the lengths of the most popular news videos on YouTube vary greatly. The median length of the most popular news videos was 2 minutes and 1 second, which is longer than the median length of a story package on local TV news (41 seconds) but shorter than the median length on national network evening newscasts (2 minutes and 23 seconds). But the variation in the length of the YouTube videos stands out even more. While traditional news tends to follow strict formulas for length, the most popular news videos on YouTube were fairly evenly distributed-from under a minute (29%), one to two minutes (21%), two to five minutes (33%) and longer than five (18%).[4]
After seven short years, YouTube is the third most visited website behind Google-a subsidiary of it-followed by the front runner in social media Facebook. The news industry has been scrambling to find a business model to continue financing its operations since the decline of advertising revenues. It seems there is something to learn from these three former PayPal employees, and it’s the fast-paced evolution of technology nowadays.
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