By Jefferson Marshall
YouTube, once known for the place to find videos of cats playing the keyboard, little kids falling off their bikes or youths juju-ing on that beat, has become more than just a site for entertainment. It has become a large outlet for news and an even bigger tool for established journalists to broadcast their stories, while giving novice storytellers a chance to get their feet wet in the journalism industry.
In its 12-year history the video streaming site has evolved in unexpected ways. The very first video to be posted on YouTube was a video called “Me at the Zoo” uploaded April 23, 2005. It featured a guy standing in front of an elephant enclosure at his local zoo talking about how cool elephant trunks are. A year later, the site was bought by Google for $1.65-billion. By 2011 Canadians spent more time on YouTube than anyone else in the world.
Today, YouTube has become a media juggernaut. As of February 2017, YouTube was ranked the second most popular site by web traffic analysis company Alexa Internet. YouTube alone averages 400 hours of content uploaded every minute and one billion hours of content viewed each day.
“[YouTube] has become the modern-day library,” says TSN hockey panel host James Duthie. “I bet [the creators of YouTube] didn’t envision that it would become this, because it’s become an infinite resource of material.”
The News section on YouTube displays recent videos uploaded by different news outlets around the world including USA Today, Reuters and CBC. The section has almost 34-million subscribers, so viewers can get their news fix from a number of different outlets from one click of the mouse.
Above all else, the video hosting site has permanently left its mark on the world of journalism. It is now essential for every journalist to have their own account to keep their catalog updated.
For journalists to be able to upload their news pieces and material on their personal YouTube accounts without needing a news platform to distribute their content is a key for them.
“In the idea of establishing yourself, you want to go where the audience is and the audience is increasingly in social media platforms in places like YouTube,” says David Common, a CBC reporter and the host of CBC’s radio show World Report.
“We want to take the same kind of work we’ve done for a very long time: the idea of storytelling which can go back to days of cave drawings and just bring it back to where people want to consume it,” says Common who also has a personal YouTube account showcasing his catalogue of reports.
YouTube is useful for people who want to get their foot in the door of the industry early in their career.
Matthew Henriques is one of these inspiring journalists looking to get in the field as soon as he can. Not only does he distribute articles on his blog Canadia Hockey, but he also puts out content on his YouTube channel where he shares his opinions and insight on the realm of hockey. Despite having only 121 subscribers, he believes his videos give him the upper hand in comparison to other up – and – coming journalists in a very competitive industry.
“I feel like YouTube is such an important tool especially for a hockey YouTuber like me to get my name out there,” says Henriques who’s also currently a third-year communications student at York University.
“With the professional connections I’ve made too. It makes me say YouTube is great and my blog showcases my work as well. It just goes hand-in-hand.”
But beware the comments. As the number of YouTube viewers grows so too will the critics.
“You’ll always have people saying ‘you don’t know anything. What are you doing? This is a crappy video.’ You’ll also get people who are like ‘man I don’t know how you don’t have more subscribers right now these are great videos,’” Henriques says.
“But it’s still a great medium to present yourself and show off your ideas.”
Even North American media giants have felt the effects of the predominant rise of YouTube. News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch has stated in the past that it has become much more difficult to persuade public opinion with the presence of YouTube.
The site is not just being used by individual journalists; entire media outlets have joined in on the fun. Today, hundreds of news outlets around the globe have a YouTube partnership, meaning the channel receives money through the number of views and subscriptions they draw, while also collecting many perks like additional promotions from YouTube itself. TSN happens to be one of the many outlets that utilize their YouTube partnership.
“I think [news outlets] realized that people digest information much differently now. The days of people just getting their information solely from TSN or CNN are long gone,” says Duthie.
“There’s an entire of generation that would go to YouTube before they would go to the television and watch a specific channel and it’s a common business practice to try and reach the most people possible.”
With YouTube being a phenomenon on the World Wide Web it seems like nothing can extinguish its popularity. However, the same could have been said years ago about MySpace. So, will news outlets and their journalist have to look elsewhere to show off their content in a couple years?
“There’s no question that YouTube is among a very select number [of social media sites] in the top tier,” says Common. “But Facebook is very powerful and has its own live video which is competition to YouTube.”
For now, the site is thriving. YouTube alone averages one-billion active users a month which is one-third of all people on the internet. As its viewer number grown the power that media organizations will have with the site is unchartered.