The impact of YouTube on journalism

By Fabien Grenon

Do you know YouTube? Of course, every Internet users over the world know YouTube. It’s the most important website of video sharing.  Consumers may think of YouTube mainly as a place for watching laughing babies, funny cats or music videos. But for some time yet it has become a big news outlet as well, posing new challenges to media organisations. What are these new challenges? What is the real impact of YouTube on journalism? Here I will try to answer these questions. 

Since its inception in 2006, YouTube has become increasingly popular. Today, it’s the third most visited website in the all web after Google and Facebook. The statistics show that YouTube also has become such an extraordinary resource for media organisations and journalists in their everyday work.

YouTube as a new source of information:

There are plenty of definitions of what is a social media. In my opinion, Wikipedia give a good explanation on the question. The online Encylopedia notably says:

a social media is an interactive platform via which individuals and communities create and share user-generated content. 

According to this definition, YouTube is clearly a social media as Facebook or Twitter. As on any social media, anyone can participate. So, you can easily create an account on YouTube to spread videos. I’m on YouTube, Barack Obama is on YouTube, RTSCNN news and ABC news are on YouTube… It’s a major place where citizens, politicians, journalists and specialists can share videos and interact with each other. Therefore, YouTube can represent sometimes a good source of information. Let’s see an example.

  • The example of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami :

There are many examples which made YouTube really important for journalists. But one of the last major examples may be the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011. A lot of videos were made during and after the tragedy. Few hours afterwards, first eyewitness videos appeared on YouTube.  The most popular videos notably came from surveillance cameras or citizens’ mobile phones.

A survey from Pew Research Center launched on the subject shows that 39 % of these videos were from citizen, while 51 % were from news organizations. But some of the news organizations videos appeared to have been originally shot by citizens rather than journalists. Those videos posted on YouTube were used as a main source of information. For example, we notice that’s the case of ABC TV News of March 11, 2011.

It’s not necessary to watch all the video to notice that the most of the sequences of the tragedy were shot by citizens during the natural disaster. ABC news used this video shot by citizens to show what was going on in Japan, because they just didn’t have any other images. Is it the only reason ? Not really : by their authentic and spectacular nature, the videos posted by anonymous on the Internet contributes also to enhance the impact. Journalists and media organisations are clearly taking advantage of citizen content. YouTube is initiating a change in journalism as a source to offer a new kind of visual journalism, as the Pew Research center’s survey revealed it.

Youtube as a new channel of information:

YouTube is such a fantastic tool for journalists or media organizations. With over 800 million unique users of YouTube each month, in 43 countries and in 60 languages, the platform of videos sharing can attract a lot of people, more than any television, radio or newspaper over the world. So media organizations have decided to use YouTube not only as a source but as a channel of information too. Let’s illustrate with examples.

  • The example of RTS

RTS (Swiss Radio Television) has its own channel on YouTube. In this case, the platform of videos sharing represents an opportunity to extend its programs. RTS has realized the power of YouTube to reach more people and to increase its audience. So RTS has integrated YouTube in its own website as an extension to watch more videos.

Then, when you go on the RTS YouTube channel, you can find programs that you missed or top stories. This YouTube channel is also a good opportunity to broadcast radio talk shows which are filmed, like the well-known and humorous ”120 secondes” on Couleur3. RTS realized the importance of multimedia and YouTube is a good place to combine audio and video content.

Therefore, the case of RTS shows that YouTube can be used as an extension to watch more videos or videos that you missed.

  • The example of YouTube Reporter’s Center:

 Citizens are becoming increasingly important in journalism notably thanks to social media as YouTube. Media organizations have realized this change. So a channel was created on YouTube in 2009 to teach citizens how to upload more and better videos. Its name is YouTube Reporter’s Center. The YouTube Reporters’ Center is a resource to help citizen journalists learn more about how to report the news, how to use efficiently their mobile phone, how to look like a real journalist. On the channel, some of the nation’s top journalists and news organizations share on  instructional videos with tips and advice for better reporting.

Therefore, the case of YouTube Reporter’s Center shows that YouTube can be used as a channel to train citizen journalists.

The I Files is a new channel on YouTube produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and launched on 2nd August 2012. The I Files channel selects and showcases the best investigative videos from around the words. There are a lot of well-known contributors behind like The New York Times, ABC, BBC, Al-Jazeera for instance.  Behind this collaboration, all these media organizations want to show they realized journalism is changing. Nowadays, citizens are becoming increasingly important in investigative journalism. So, they use YouTube which is a major platform for citizen journalism to provide videos in a attempt to bring some much needed attention to the new form of investigative journalism.

Therefore, the case of The I Files show that YouTube can be used to draw attention to the importance of YouTube in journalism today.

Conclusion:

Journalism field is changing. All the examples I mentioned show that YouTube is becoming increasingly important in the new form of journalism. And there are still plenty of other examples that I could mention. Journalists and media organizations are trying to adapt to this new journalism. Today, YouTube can be used in different ways : as a new source of information and as a new channel of information. But what tomorrow will bring? YouTube was born 7 years ago, it is a very young platform that can still evolve and offer new resources for journalists and media organizations in the future.

What’s your opinion about the impact of YouTube on journalism? What do you think about the future of YouTube in journalism? I let you leave a comment…

And to see how I worked, how I organized my research, how I checked my sources, I let you go on my own blog => Fabien’s Blog

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