Top social media innovation of the decade
In December 2009, Mashable, a blog focused on social media news and Web 2.0, crowned YouTube as the top social media innovation of the decade. Although the site didn’t debut until 2005, the folks at Mashable think YouTube can withstand the test of time even after the rapid rise in popularity of other social media services like Facebook and Twitter.
Labeling the site a “perfect storm” of Flash advances, increasing bandwidth and social networking sites, YouTube became one of the most trafficked sites on the Web after 18 months. “YouTube’s biggest threat right now is in fact the old media companies, who are putting content online under their own brands. YouTube’s ‘professional’ content selection remains relatively weak, but that’s likely to change, and as soon as 2010,” Mashable bloggers wrote.
Can YouTube revolutionize citizen journalism?
This is the question asked by Julia Boorstin, a CNBC correspondent, in her November 2009 blog post. She discusses YouTube Direct, which allows news sites to embed the upload function of YouTube, letting users easily submit their own videos. YouTube Direct’s partner content sites, such as The Huffington Post and The San Francisco Chronicle, get access to more content, video clips and player customization.
She calls YouTube an ally to news organizations but wonders how many professional journalists will lose work or even jobs: “The people, who really lose out, are professional journalists,” Boorstin writes. “Citizen journalism is a fine supplement to professional coverage, but as a professional journalist I can’t help but point out that it’s no replacement.”
How can professional journalists remain at the top of their game?
A September 2009 blog post by Mashable’s Leah Betancourt outlines the journalist’s guide to YouTube. She writes that 20 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. That fact seems almost mind boggling to think about.
She divides the news videos on the site into three categories: current news rebroadcasts; original video and news; and archive of older video content. Traffic to YouTube’s News and Politics category has grown to more than 650 percent over the last two years, according to Betancourt.
“We internally track the most interesting videos in the News and Politics space,” said Steve Grove, head of News and Politics at YouTube. “It’s kind of our editorial voice.”
Locally, YouTube’s News Near You section of its News page displays current video clips to users based on their IP address. Stacey Woelfel, chairman of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, said News Near You could be successful depending on how YouTube defines “news.”
“Will it really be news, or will it be videobloggers spewing opinion? That’s not news,” he said. “Also, just how many mainstream news organizations participate will also dictate quality. I can’t see it as an ultimately complete source of local news, but I can see it as a nice supplement.”
Including user-submitted content and archiving older videos are other ways news organizations can effectively use YouTube.
Example of YouTube used by journalists
I’ll be the first to admit that I spend more time watching popular but pointless viral videos on YouTube than actual news videos. But YouTube has rightly made its mark in providing breaking news stories and videos to users in what was once considered an unconventional way.
While it’s hard to choose just one example of YouTube being utilized in journalism, I think one of the more interesting examples is from 2007 when CNN teamed up with YouTube for the Republican and Democratic Primary debates. Users submitted videos asking questions or uploaded video responses to other people’s questions.
Candidates were asked selected YouTube-submitted questions. Questions ranged from anything to who was their favorite teacher in school to how do they address being “black enough” or “woman enough.”
Not only did the participants probably feel like journalists for a day, but I’m sure they also felt like they were a part of a little piece of history.