YouTube is growing in prominence as a source of news videos as well as raw footage of news events shot by ordinary people, according to a 15-month study of the video website conducted by Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ).
According to the PEJ study, released July 16, there were 96 million views of the 20 most watched news videos on YouTube in the week following the earthquake in Japan.
The Pew study also found that 39 percent of the most watched news videos on YouTube were produced by citizens who happened to be witnesses to breaking news. Fifty-one percent were produced by news organizations, some of which featured footage shot by citizens in their reports but not explicitly attributed as such. Newsmakers were responsible for 5 percent of the most watched videos, and 5 percent had no clear identification of their producers, the study found.
"News has found a place on this video-sharing platform and in ways that are opening up the flow of information and forging new areas of cooperation and dialog between citizens and news outlets," said PEJ deputy director Amy Mitchell.
The study found that citizens post much of the video stories originally produced by news outlets. Of the professional news organization-produced news videos posted on YouTube, 39 percent were uploaded by YouTube users. Sixty-one percent were uploaded by the news organizations responsible for producing the stories.
It also found YouTube news viewers gravitated toward videos depicting natural disasters or political upheaval, particularly those with intense visuals. Over the period studied, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami ranked first in popularity, followed by elections in Russian and Middle East unrest.
According to the findings, the balance tipped in favor of news videos with edited footage (58 percent) when it came to popularity versus raw video (42 percent). It also found that the top news videos are not personality driven. No single person was featured in even 5 percent of the most popular videos, and 65 percent didn't feature any individual.
The study also concluded that clear, ethical protocols regarding attribution remain undeveloped for YouTube postings and users many have no way of knowing the source of news videos.
For the study, PEJ examined 15 months of the most popular news videos on YouTube from January 2011 to March 2012.