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YouTube News Challenges Traditional Outlets

by Faith Eischen, published


According to one of Gallup’s most recent polls, only 21% of Americans are confident in the televised news they watch, and only 25% feel confident reading newspapers. Both of these statistics mark an all-time low of trust in the news. With such little trust in the traditional news forums, could news junkies turn to YouTube news for their information?

Since YouTube’s inception in 2005, today, the social media site’s reach is vast and continues to increase. Studies prove that “YouTube is now the third most visited destination online, only Google and Facebook.” YouTube reported from its own statistical analyses that every minute, 72 hours worth of videos are uploaded to the site. YouTube receives over 4 billion video views a day.

With this type of Internet traffic, YouTube’s capability of providing breaking news on an international scale, fast, is enormous.

According to YouTube’s internal data:

In 2011, news events were the most searched term on YouTube four months out of 12: 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."

The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism took inventory of 15 months’ worth of YouTube’s most viewed news videos. Certain findings concluded that the sites news videos appeal to a grassroots-news movement.

The study found:

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. 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%).

These results imply raw footage and unfiltered international news filmed by average citizens, like much of YouTube’s news videos, attract more viewers. Referencing Gallup’s poll results, if Americans do not trust the news, it only makes sense that they would turn to news sources that are unedited, happening now, and thus seemingly real and trustworthy.

One example of the crowd sourced appeal of Youtube for breaking news, is the controversy surrounding Mexico’s 2012 presidential elections. Although President Enrique Pena Nieto won the election, rumors circulated worldwide of whether voter fraud had anything to do with his victory.

An anonymous Mexican citizen filming one of the PRI party’s campaign meetings caught on camera a PRI campaign official instructing other campaign workers that if they fail to meet the “10 person quota” then they will not receive their payment. The clip serves as hard evidence of fraud committed by the currently elected President’s PRI Party. Once the campaign official realized the anonymous citizen was filming the meeting, the amateur videographer was told to stop filming, asked to leave, and actually had his camera shoved from his face.

As soon as the video hit YouTube, other users quickly began to share it, and other news outlets picked up the clip to include in their own news shows reports.

Other news media corporations have acknowledged YouTube’s growing success by partaking or avoiding the nascent news trend. News outlets such as The Associated Press, The New York Times, Russia Today, and ABC News have all created YouTube channels to further publicize their content via another social media forum. Their participation with the site has proven to be successful, marked by the increasing number of subscribers the news outlets' channels receive.

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