YouTube is breeding a new kind of visual journalism, one in which citizens are sharing in content creation with news organizations. So says a study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Indeed, Pew reports that news is becoming a major attention-driver for YouTube. Over the 15 months studied, roughly a third of the most-searched terms each month on YouTube were news-related.
"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 Amy Mitchell, project director for the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Citizen Journalism Rising
Thirty-nine percent of the most-watched news videos on YouTube during that period were produced by citizens who often found themselves witnesses to breaking news. News organizations produced another 51 percent.
Some of those professional news videos, moreover, clearly contained footage captured by citizens, though it was not explicitly attributed as such. Another 5 percent of the most-watched videos came from newsmakers themselves, and 5 percent were not labeled in a way that made it possible to know the producer.
The most popular news videos tended to depict natural disasters or political upheaval -- usually featuring intense visuals. The three most-popular storylines over the 15-month period were non-U.S. events. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami was the most popular, accounting for 5 percent of all the 260 most-watched videos. The earthquake was followed by elections in Russia (5 percent) and unrest in the Middle East (4 percent).
According to the survey, the most popular news videos are a mix of edited and raw footage. Fifty-eight percent of the most-viewed videos involved footage that had been edited while 42 percent was raw footage. This mix of raw and edited video, moreover, held true across those coming from news organizations and those produced by citizens. Of videos produced by news organizations, 65 percent were edited, but so were 39 percent of what came from citizens.
Beyond Mobile Phones
Brad Shimmin, an analyst at Current Analysis, said the research showed we have entered a new era in communications, particularly how we generate and consume our news. The announcement reminded him of the Google Glass project, an augmented reality head-mounted display.
"The most interesting thing about Google Glass isn't just that it's a cool way of video chatting or recording how to cook a cake. This could make us all eyewitnesses of the world that we inhabit," Shimmin told us. "You can instantaneously live-stream or upload recordings, so anyone can be their own news outlet much more easily than we can even now with what our mobile phones and flip cameras."