While it's not yet viewed at the much higher rates of traditional television news reports, YouTube is providing video news content that's being watched by a growing segment of users.
Since its online debut in early 2005, YouTube continues
to grow as a news outlet for people who are expanding the ways in which they
consume news coverage, according to a new study from the Pew Research
Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
And as that happens, YouTube is creating "a new
kind of visual journalism" that is sometimes blurring the line between
content created by official news organizations, "citizen journalists"
or others, according to Pew. Ultimately, while this means that more people are
being exposed to news of world events, it's also raising questions about
whether those video reports are always receiving the proper attribution and
context that they should have, according to the study.
"What this first and foremost offers is another platform, another path,
where people can get news and information in a different way from network or
cable news," said Amy Mitchell, the deputy director of the Pew Excellence
in Journalism project. But because YouTube.com doesn't create any of the
content on the Website, the video news submissions are posted without any
editing or review by YouTube.The site does offer suggested guidelines for
attribution for the videos, but it is advisory and not mandatory.
A key result of this, according to 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."
That needs to continue to evolve, said Mitchell. "Attribution still needs
to be better."
The new study, "YouTube and
News: A New Kind of Visual News," examined 15 months' worth of the most
popular news videos from January 2011 through March 2012, according to Pew.
Most of the news videos or 59 percent were from commercial news
networks, while another 39 percent were from people who found themselves at the
scene of a news event and could record it on video. Interestingly, sometimes
the coverage was a mix of the two.
"Some of those professional news videos, moreover, clearly contained
footage captured by citizens, though it was not explicitly attributed as
such," according to the study. "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," according to the report." The three most
popular storylines over the 15-month period were non-U.S. events (70 percent of
YouTube's audience is international). The Japanese earthquake and tsunami was
No. 1 (and accounted for 5 percent of all the 260 most-watched videos),
followed by elections in Russia (5 percent) and unrest in the Middle East (4
increased use of YouTube as a news source is not uncommon since the development
of the Internet, Mitchell said.
"When new media appears, people use
them to add to their news sources," said Mitchell. "This has happened
before. They turn to local television for one kind of news, to local newspapers
for another kind and to sites like YouTube for other news. It's broadening the
way people get news, but it doesnt mean they are giving up one for
Since much of
what viewers see on YouTube is from network news departments, its the same
content but just in a different forum.
the 15 months of the study, the 20 most-viewed,
news-related videos on YouTube.com featured coverage of the massive
earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan in March of 2011.
The videos, which included surveillance video at Sendai
airport that graphically showed the arrival of the tsunami, were viewed
more than 96 million times in the seven days immediately following the
"The news media worldwide provided extensive
coverage of the disaster and its aftermath, but millions of people also turned
to the Web to learn about the event on the video-sharing Website YouTube,"
the study reported. Interest was high because the powerful quake and tsunami
killed more than 18,000 people, caused more than $180 billion in damage and
affected global imports, exports and markets.
the same time, though, while YouTube's role in reporting news to a widening
segment of the population continues to expand, network news broadcasts on television
are still seen by more people, the study said. "While
those top 20 tsunami videos were viewed 96 million times worldwide the week of
the disaster, for instance, more people almost certainly watched on local and
national television around the globe," the report concluded. "Twenty-two
million people on average watch the evening news on the three broadcast
channels each night in the United States alone, and larger numbers watch local
Greenhow, an assistant professor in the College of Education at Michigan
State University, said the use of YouTube as a new news source and as a news
outlet for a growing segment of the population especially young people who are
large users of YouTube can be a good thing.
"One of the things I think about is
how to educate young people for this new world and this new world
marketplace," Greenhow said. "One
of the things we struggle with is how to educate young people to be good digital
citizens such as legally using information online and copyright issues. We
are at an exciting and challenging time. Young people who never had a voice
before now can have one."
agrees, however, that better attribution is needed for online video on sites
like YouTube. "In terms of [always having] responsible news producers [on
YouTube], I dont think we're there yet. But I'm really encouraged by opening