The impact of YouTube on Journalism

Updated: Nov 1, 2021

Author: John Britto Parisutham

Published by: Global Science and Technology Forum, Singapore

Available at:

DOI: 10.5176/2301-3710_JMComm18.132



YouTube, as a video sharing site, has grown since 2005, its inception year, to the present from just a sharing of personal videos to broadcasting news channels. The CEO of YouTube informs that 7000 hours of news-related video are uploaded every day.

It is not a one-sided monologue as was in the traditional journalism, as in the case of the newspaper, radio or television but an interactive media where the viewers are not only passive receivers but also contribute to their might making it more democratic. Personalities no longer are the focus of journalism, the consumers have become partners. YouTube can help build the audience, grow with them and use their content. While talking about freedom of expression, the ethical standards and controls also have to be discussed. The citizen journalism is the talk of the town.

Keywords—YouTube - Traditional Journalism - New Journalism

I. Introduction

I published my first handwritten magazine when I was 16 years old, while I was still in my school, and continued to edit such in printing when I was in college and went to work. I started my own YouTube Channel when I was teaching at the University and continued to broadcast resources for children and teachers. When I did my masters in Journalism and Mass Communication, I did a research on the effects of social media on Journalism. Observing the impact of Journalism in the rise of Citizen Journalism, This paper tries to exactly measure the effect on the following grounds, looking at the opportunities and challenges that throw at present.

  1. Growing the audience

  2. Engaging with the audience

  3. Using audience content

  4. Ethics


YouTube, the video sharing site, was started in 2005. The notes that seven years after it was developed by three former employees of PayPal, the reach of YouTube is enormous. The site is now the third most visited destination online, behind only Google (which owns YouTube) and Facebook, based on data compiled by Netcraft, a British research service. According to the company’s own statistics, more than 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. The site gets over 4 billion video views a day. Bought by Google in 2006 for $1.65 billion in stock, YouTube has moved from being a repository of videos to becoming a force that is investing in content creation (if not doing the creation themselves). [5]


YouTube is changing its volume from the sea of videos to the ocean of videos. International Centre for Journalists, Washington, reports that every day on Every day on YouTube, 7000 hours of news-related video are uploaded. Through these videos, people have immediate and unfiltered information about what's happening on the ground … like when Hurricane Sandy hit last month and a YouTube user caught the explosion of an electricity substation on video. [3]


It is not only the volume but the nature of YouTube has to be taken into consideration. Pew Research Centre notes that The Web's leading video site is now the home of a new kind of interactive visual journalism, where "citizen witnesses" are reaching millions of people with the news of the day, [4] The center gives the example of Tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011. The report continues to note that In the week following the earthquake that caused the deadly wave, the 20 most watched news videos on YouTube received 96 million views, according to the report. Most of that footage came not from professionals but from users who were in the middle of the disaster that killed more than 18,000 people. [4]


A new relationship between the news broadcasters and the audience has been born. The relationship built when the traditional media was on the rise, that was one of giver-receiver no longer exists but has grown one of the partners in news-making and consuming. reveals that a complex, symbiotic relationship has developed between citizens and news organisations on YouTube, a relationship that comes close to the continuous journalistic “dialogue” many observers predicted would become the new journalism online. Citizens are creating their own videos about news and posting them. They are also actively sharing news videos produced by journalism professionals and the established news organisations are taking advantage of citizen content and incorporating it into their journalism. Consumers, in turn, seem to be embracing the interplay in what they watch and share, creating a new kind of television news. [5]


One can easily search and find out the exact requirement of news, using the search engine of YouTube from the oceanic volume of videos. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world after Google, which creates many opportunities for substantive engagement with new audiences. News organisations can create a bond with subscribers as viewers share and engage with their content.


The future is already here. The volume of news from the publishing houses will be taken over by the citizens in future.

Megan O’Neill(2010) posted on June 23rd, 2010 in Adweek that “YouTube announced their new News Feed plans, last week. They will be publishing citizen journalism clips on Citizen Tube, their news and politics blog and also Tweeting out new news related clips on Twitterat@citizentube. However, this summer YouTube will be significantly increasing their focus in this area and we should see CitizenTube becoming much larger. YouTube users who want to share their breaking news clips are invited to tweet them to YouTube at @citizentube and include as much background as possible. [6]


For a few centuries, print journalism held its head high and reigned the regime of journalism. All people had to depend on the news in the newspapers. Especially during the world wars, newspapers played its vital role in informing people and in a way their thinking and behavioural pattern. But when the radio and later television came to the picture, though it seemed to threaten, each has its own space.

Nesh Pillay (2015) posted on The Drum on 05th April 2015 that, “There was a time when radio threatened print journalism. Eventually, the two co-existed. Then, television emerged and that was considered a threat. Even that, eventually carved out its niche in journalism and found balance. Most recently, journalists have felt threatened by the rise of bloggers – people who could go online and write news, without a formal news outlet. Now, it’s clear that the value in blogging has been found by traditional media.” [2]


There is a saying that “Known names make news”. Personalities such as politicians and celebrities make the news. That has been the tradition. But no longer so. In YouTube, what matters is the content, if it comes from the big publishing house or an ordinary YouTuber.


The median length of the most popular news videos was 2 minutes and 1 second, which is longer than the median length of a story package on local TV news (41 seconds) but shorter than the median length on national network evening newscasts (2 minutes and 23 seconds). But the variation in the length of the YouTube videos stands out even more. 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%). [5]

Consumers Vs. Producers

Consumers have been the recipients. They just ‘inhale’ or ‘swallow’ whatever is given to them.

But YouTube is a place where consumers can determine the news agenda for themselves and watch the videos at their own convenience - a form of “on demand” video news. [5] That's how the consumers now have become producers or actively becoming participants.

Participation and Resistance

How do the big media corporations look at YouTubers and publishing news through YouTube channel?

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. 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. [5]

Other news organizations have chosen a more cautious approach, including taking steps to keep content off the platform. One method for this is through a service offered within YouTube’s Content ID software. Partners of this program can send any of their copyrighted material to YouTube and have it blocked if it gets posted. [5]


YouTube Journalism has shown a great scope and delivers a lot of opportunities. In this paper, we discuss the following:

  1. Growing audience

  2. Engaging audience

  3. Using audience

Growing audience

YouTube Journalism helps the news organizations grow their volume of audiences. The internet technology helps to take your video to all corners of the world, shrinking the world not only a global village but a global home.

The USC Annenberg Norman Lear Centre in one of its posts of ‘Media Impact Project’ writes in the article ‘Why YouTube works for journalists’ that fifty-one percent of U.S. adults watch YouTube videos, and one-fifth of those users watch news videos specifically. That’s ten percent of the adult population that uses YouTube for news. [1]

People today go to their houses and seldom open their television sets but rather open their laptops and search for news, especially on YouTube. So it's better for the news organisations to reach out the audience where they are. This is how you can grow your audience.

The article aforementioned continues to state that, ‘the stats get even more impressive for target demographics that are a bit younger. Nine out of ten 18-to-29-year-olds watch online videos, and almost half of those say 48 percent, watch online news videos, Pew Research Centre r e p o r t s . T h a t ’s 2 4 . 5 m i l l i o n Millennials. As a news organisation looks to attract new audiences, YouTube is a great place to start. [1]

Engaging audience

The news organisations and YouTubers can engage with their audience by asking them to subscribe their channels. They could ask them to like the news video to see how much they value the content of the video. It represents the satisfaction level of the viewers . The viewers also can comment on the video giving their reactions, feedback, and opinions. They can also ask questions for which the channel could answer by way of text or through another video. There is another very important thing that could happen. Yes!. The viewers can share in their website, in their YouTube channel or in any other social media, in order that it reaches many other people. The viewers also can add videos to the playlists that have been created by the channel. This opens the way for bringing in the content by the viewers themselves.

The news organisations can give breaking news in order to get more search traffic. The live stream function helps the channel to broadcast live video. YouTube helps news organisations to drive traffic back to an associated website.

So the gap between the producer and the consumer or viewer grows smaller and smaller.

I think it’s fair to say that there’s a blurring of lines and that those spaces in between what we think of as a traditional journalist, and of an independent person publishing stuff on Youtube will get a bit vaguer,” says Dieter Bohn, executive editor of The Verge. [2]

Using audience

The contents of the audience, the materials prepared by the people other than the news corporations can be very well used within copyright legalities. YouTube can be seen as a storage of videos of many kinds. Let's take an example of a recent event that took place in Tuticorin of TamilNadu where police have said to have shot on the people who marched towards the District Collector’s office to give petition against an alleged anti-people project built in their vicinity. Thousands of videos of proofs of happening on the site poured in YouTube by various channels, just shot by ordinary people. The news agencies also have used the non-professional videos as pieces of evidence for their claims.

Amnesty International has built a toolkit called the Citizen Evidence Lab to help journalists authenticate YouTube videos. A YouTube channel allows a publisher to guide a viewer through the primary evidence of a story by play listing citizens’ videos or on-the-ground reporting. Interstitials, which are short video segments that act as connective tissue between each video, allow the news organisation to contextualise each clip and add substantive reporting to the playlist. [1]

CNN has officially embraced citizen journalism since 2006 with CNN iReport, which encourages users around the world to share news, opinions, images, and video on a wide range of topics. The second annual iReport Awards this month honoured an iReporter's eyewitness footage of the 2011 Indiana State Fair stage collapse, among other video clips. [4]

More than one-third (39%) of the top videos were clearly citizen-generated and another 51% -- making a whopping 90% of all videos studied -- came from news organisations but included some user-created content [5]

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 organisation, though some of that footage, too, appeared to have been originally shot by users rather than journalists. (5% came from corporate and political groups, and the origin of another 5% was not identified.) [5]

V. CHALLENGES OF YOUTUBE JOURNALISM As true to every technology, Youtube Journalism too has its own challenges. The following are the most vital ones among many.

  1. Ethics

  2. Trash

  3. Freedom


Anyone can instantly publish a video on YouTube. Anyone can tweet or retweet and when he or she thinks so. Anyone can write a blog, give a link or embed a video on their website. There are guidelines by YouTube as such, but only to surpass, for example, the copyright issues. Every channel owner wants to get more subscribers and so would publish any contents for that matter which might be useful for the humanity or not.

At the same time, clear ethical standards have not developed on how to attribute the video content moving through the synergistic sharing loop. Even though YouTube offers guidelines on how to attribute content, it’s clear that not everyone follows them, and certain scenarios fall outside those covered by the guidelines. News organizations sometimes post content that was apparently captured by citizen eyewitnesses without any clear attribution as to the original producer. Citizens are posting copyrighted material without permission. And the creator of some material cannot be identified. All this creates the potential for news to be manufactured, or even falsified, without giving audiences much ability to know who produced it or how to verify it. [4]


Since 2005, from the inception of YouTube, the volume of videos posted, as discussed earlier, is vast and growing minute by minute. If one has a smartphone with internet connection can very easily and instantly post anything for that matter on YouTube without any knowledge of the significance of the content and the future impact.

So, there is a collection of millions of videos of news without much truth in it, like a garbage pile. The unnecessary materials might give confusion for the audience to get the right knowledge and perspective of the fact.

The anonymity of the YouTuber is an issue. It gives people to publish any content for that matter and remain anonymous. It can cover the criminals and terrorists who want to persuade people towards their ideology and harm using it.


The governments have the control over the internet connectivity and gradually they understand the power raising of social media and citizen journalism and so create policies to curb any chances of using them for opposing them.

Clearly, there is a cold war between the corporations that own the social media and the governments that face the social media and would like to control it.

Raziye Akkoc writes in ‘The Telegraph’ dated 21st May 2018 that, “In the latest crackdown on social media in Turkey, the country banned access to Twitter and YouTube after images of a prosecutor held hostage by far-Left militants were published by media and users on Monday. The ban comes a year after the same networks were blocked in the run-up to local elections in March 2014.

Turkish media and Reuters said the ban was an order from the court after individuals had complained. Later the news agency reported a Turkish prosecutor sought the ban and that Ibrahim Kalin, a presidential spokesman, said the ban ordered by an Istanbul judge related to the picture of Mehmet Selim Kiraz.” [8]


The following are the findings of this paper. It is noted here under the following headings.

  1. Citizen Journalism

  2. Change of behaviours

  3. Interactive Audience

  4. Ethical standards

  5. Freedom of expression

Citizen Journalism

When more and more common people, the so-called once consumers now turned publishers have smartphones, computers, and cameras to produce videos with text and visuals put together creating new meaning, it means that citizens have started giving

their opinions and perspectives on people, events, and ideas. No longer only powerful corporate news agencies and organisations could monopolise journalism, providing people with perspectives, now everyone who has the facility could become a provider. This gives, definitely, a way to a clearer understanding of the world in which we live in. Will this have a change in the democratic set up of societies, in their political, economic, cultural and environmental setup? The answer lies in the future.

Change of behaviours

Having said that, one can easily come to a conclusion, that the new technology can be used by individual or groups to change the way of thinking of a particular individual or group. The journalists and news agencies could change their way of reporting, to shape it according to the ones flooding in the arena.

Interactive audience

As consumers are no longer only passive spectators but become active stakeholders, the news agencies, the so-called Television gurus, and the common people, once termed as consumers become partners in news making and consuming. The interaction between and among them creates a win-win situation.

Ethical standards

The reality is that no ethical standards are being followed, as we see lots of recycling of contents, where plagiarism is the flag of the hour, broadcasters base on the persuasion of viewers to hold power or motivation for fame or acquiring of money, or advancement of an ideology.

Freedom of Expression

Since YouTube is only a decade aged technology and growing fast, individuals, groups, corporations, agencies, and governments have not come to terms in creating common policies of controlling the technology. When giving freedom of expression, a control mechanism will be built, as one could notice the trend emerging.


This paper has tried to understand the technology of YouTube journalism as a video sharing site, in views of its volume, nature, bondage, and access.

In relation to the personalities, duration, consumers and the outlook of news agencies about the traditional journalism and YouTube journalism have been explained.

The opportunities YouTube could provide for journalism in the lights of have been reported. It can help one grow the volume of the audience and have greater bondage with them. They can also use the contents made by the consumers turned partners.

The disadvantage is that there are no ethical standards, generally, amidst the publishers because of the anonymity of the content providers. This brings a lot of trash content. The freedom of expression may be easily curbed because the internet and the other technologies belong to big corporations and could be easily controlled by powerful governments.

As the findings of the paper, it can be noticed that citizen journalism is on the rise, the audience can be active, the content can be used for change of behaviours of particular groups, the need for the code of conduct for the content providers and the push for the greater freedom of expression.

Finally, it can be concluded, as Radio came over the newspaper, Television came over the radio, YouTube is at its peak over others, while embracing all the others. Will there be something else overriding YouTube?



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