You Tube is emerging as a popular way of accessing news, according to a report published yesterday by The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

To get a better view at the numbers, the researchers combed through roughly 260 videos that were the most popular news videos on YouTube, in the period between January 2011 and March 2012. They did this by identifying and tracking the 5 most-viewed videos each week in the “News & Politics” channel of YouTube. The researchers analyzed the nature of the video, the topics that were viewed frequently, and other details such as the producers and owners of the videos. The researchers unearthed 'a complex, symbiotic relationship' that has grown between citizens and news organizations on the website. It was found that internet users have begun creating their own videos based on news and posting them. Users actively shared news videos produced by journalism professionals. News organizations too were found to be utilizing citizen content and adding it to their own. 'Consumers, in turn, seem to be embracing the interplay in what they watch and share, creating a new kind of television news', the report states.

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Emerging as the destination for news

In a nutshell, some of the most important findings of the study are: 

The report found that the most popular news videos on the site were those depicting natural disasters or political upheavals with 'intense visuals'. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami videos, emerged as the videos accounting for 5 percent of the 260 most popular videos, followed by the Russian elections, that also amassed 5 percent, with the Middle East unrest taking up 4 percent. The report also found that despite news in general being more temporary than most other kinds of information, it had the potential to grab more eyeballs than the biggest entertainment videos. Citizens were found to be playing a 'substantial role in supplying and producing footage' and they also accounted for posting a lot of videos that earlier used to be produced by news outlets exclusively.

Through the course of their research, it was found that the most popular news videos were essentially a blend of edited and raw footage. Interestingly, the research revealed that stand-alone personalities did not emerge as the main driver of the top news videos. It was also found that 'Unlike in traditional TV news, the lengths of the most popular news videos on YouTube vary greatly.'

To add a better perspective to the findings of their research, the researchers cited the instance of the catastrophic tragedy that befell Japan, early last year – a destructive earthquake, followed by a mightier tsunami that swept away all signs of sane existence. The report found that following the extensive coverage of the disaster by the news media, globally, several millions used YouTube to get more details on the disaster. It added that in the seven days that followed the disaster (March 11-18), the 20 most viewed news-related videos on YouTube singularly focused on the disaster, and were viewed more than a staggering 96 million times. 

It was found that a new form of visual journalism was born out of these videos depicting the tragedy. Reportedly, citizen eyewitnesses trapped, provided most disaster footage, and some citizens even posted those videos themselves. It turns out that the most viewed video of all was the one that was shot by what seems to be a fixed closed-circuit surveillance camera at the Sendai airport.

The report further adds – “So far, the approach from news organizations has been a blend of participation and resistance. 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, put on YouTube many of the same stories that appear on their television channel.”

To read the entire report, click here.

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