YouTube’s Penetration Of News Delivery Business

Posted on 7/16/2012 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

We are rapidly moving toward a time when consumers will get more of their news via YouTube rather than from commercial television. On average 22 million people watch the evening news on the three U.S. broadcast channels each night. But, when there is a major event YouTube views regularly eclipse that number.
During Japan’s tsumani disaster in March 2011 the 20 most viewed news-related videos on YouTube that focused on the tragedy were viewed more than 96 million times. One of the big reasons why consumers turn to YouTube is that they can choose what they want to see when they want to see it rather than being limited to what professional sources are willing to deliver when they want to deliver it.

On the other hand there are big risks for those consumers who rely on YouTube for their information. The creators of much of the material cannot be identified. In such cases the reporting may be biased or even falsified. Because there are no ethical standards for user generated submissions there is no way to verify fact or objectivity.

The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) examined 15 months' (January 2011 through March 2012) worth of the most popular news videos on YouTube. They identified and tracked the five most-viewed videos each week that could be found on YouTube’s "news & politics" channel (260 different videos in all). Then they analyzed the nature of each video, the topics that were viewed most often, who produced them and who posted them. According to the company's internal data during 5 out of 15 months the most searched term of the month was a news related event.
They discovered that 70% or the traffic was from outside the U.S. The three most popular were the Japanese earthquake and tsunami (accounted for 5% of all the 260 videos), followed by elections in Russia (5%) and unrest in the Middle East (4%).

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 appeared to have been originally shot by users rather than journalists. Of the pieces produced by news organization almost two-fifths (39%) were posted by users, not the organization that produced the piece. (5% came from corporate and political groups, and the origin of another 5% was not identified.)
More than half of the most-viewed videos, 58%, involved footage that had been edited, but a sizable percentage, 42%, was raw footage. Of videos produced by news organizations, 65% were edited, but so were 39% of what came from citizens. Edited videos tended to be of greater interest.

News producers are using YouTube to source much of what they offer to the public, but there is also a concern that the public will become less and less dependent on professional sources of information. Many news outlets have developed their own YouTube channels and are avidly posting content. The Associated Press, for example, created its channel in 2006 and now boasts more than 250,000 followers and more than a billion views of its videos. (A user becomes a follower of a YouTube channel by hitting the ‘subscribe' button, which places updates from that channel on the user's homepage.) The New York Times' news channel has more than 78,000 followers while Russia Today has more than 280,000. Some news services, such as ABC News, post many of the same stories that appear on their television report on YouTube.

When news organizations post content they can benefit by attaching advertising to the content, however, if the audience grabs clips and posts them, there is usually little benefit for the news organization that produced the material.

In another survey Pew’s PEJ did in 2011 it was determined that 71% of U.S. adults have used sites like YouTube or Vimeo at some time and 28% or these individuals visit these sites daily.

More than 72 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute and 3 hours of that comes from mobile devices. YouTube is available on 350 million mobile devices and more than 10% of global views come from such devices.

The site gets over 4 billion video views a day and slightly under a third of those, 30%, come from the United States.
While traditional news tends to follow strict formulas for length, the most popular news videos on YouTube were fairly evenly distributed-from under a minute (29%), one to two minutes (21%), two to five minutes (33%) and longer than five (18%).

Talking heads are not a driver of YouTube news. Less than 5% of the most popular videos featured one individual and 65% featured no individual at all. President Barack Obama was the most popular figure ranging from speeches posted in their entirety to satirical ads produced by his political opponents.
While the focus of Pew’s PEJ study was on major news events it is worthwhile for photographers to search YouTube for their home town as well as subjects in which they have a major interest or personal expertise. They may discover opportunities where they might be able to use their photography skills to generate revenue. For example, when I searched Bethesda, Maryland I noticed that a number of realtors were doing poorly produced video house tours as a way to interest buyers in their properties. Despite the poor quality some of these videos have been viewed many times. Producing better videos for these realtors may be a business to look into.

Copyright © 2012 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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