YouTube has gained a reputation for hosting mindless video content. But new research from Pew Research centre’s Project for Excellence in Journalism shows that about a third of the time, a news story is the topic viewers are most interested in seeing.
Looking at YouTube’s internal data, Pew found that in four months of 2011, a news topic was the subject most viewers were looking for. The most searched topics included a fatal motorcycle accident, the Japanese Earthquake and the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
The power of a news story to take over YouTube was demonstrated in the week after the March 2011 earthquake in Japan, when all of the top 20 news-related videos dealt with the natural disaster for a combined 96 million views.
According to Pew, the research shows that although entertainment videos continue to dominate the YouTube landscape, a single news story can instantly rule the site:
News events are inherently more ephemeral than other kinds of information, but at any given moment news can outpace even the biggest entertainment videos.
The power of YouTube as a news source has a great impact on traditional televised broadcast journalism as well. It allows ordinary citizens across the world to publish videos without the influence of overarching news corporation and sponsor-minded producers.
In fact, 42 per cent of the most viewed news videos were raw footage that had been completely unedited. In addition, the Pew centre found that unlike corporate news, YouTube news stories were not personality-oriented, with 65 per cent of the most popular news videos not featuring anyone at all.
As YouTube and other video sites continue to grow, the sites become a more viable medium as the news outlet of the future. Pew found that in 2011, over a quarter of Americans who use the Internet went on YouTube or a site like it everyday.
YouTube has become such a news-centric hub that it has started to make some governments nervous. China, Iran and Libya, for example, have all at one time banned YouTube for fear of the information that was being made available through its videos.
Despite all of this, televised news still greatly surpasses online news videos in terms of views.
Pew says that YouTube’s place as an international news source is significant because unlike televised broadcasts and cable news shows it allows viewers to “determine the news agenda for themselves.”
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