Posted on June 6, 2010
Online video still growing, gaining viewers
Just because comedy or humorous videos are the most popular among U.S. adults (source) does not mean journalists should wring their hands and despair about public tastes.
What’s more important, I think, is that among people who have broadband Internet access at home, 75 percent watch online videos (source). Moreover, when the Pew Internet researchers looked at all the people in their 2009 survey who do watch video online, they found that 89 percent have broadband.
Not a shock, you say? Fine. But what does it mean? Like the growth of radio, and then television, the growth of online video is fueled by access to technology. Television devices were not always as common as they are now; like television, broadband continues to expand.
Don’t ignore the history of home video viewing:
In the early days of the video business a number of tapes from non-mainstream producers became widely available, but these were largely pornography and low-grade slasher films. Even these disappeared as the Mom and Pop video stores were displaced by the clean corporate hegemony of Blockbuster Video and other chain distributors. (source)
People watch what is available to them, easy to get, and not overpriced.
People also tend to hop on the bandwagon of popular interest, the flavor of the week. CNN’s October 2009 interview with the family of the “balloon boy,” for example, “was viewed more than 2.5 million times that week” (source). These videos rise and fall rapidly — 91 percent of YouTube’s top videos don’t stay in the top ranks for more than one week. (See: Top 10 YouTube Videos of All Time.)
In analyzing the most viewed news-related videos on YouTube in 2009, the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that the “news agenda on YouTube rarely coincided with that of the mainstream press”:
In only eight of the 49 weeks studied was the top video about the same subject that also led the traditional media. Of those eight occasions, three of them involved footage of discussing the health care reform bill (often with contentious opposition), and two of them were videos about the protests in Iran. (source)
That tells us that people are seeking out stories that the mainstream media are not providing. I think that’s encouraging — it means the public does want news video, and is not only looking for a good laugh.
PEJ concluded that the top videos usually had “a visual and dynamic quality that makes people want to share them with other people.”
Share. With other people. That’s something we in journalism ought to be thinking about. Not to pander, but to evaluate our storytelling. When I hear a good story, I do want to share it.
Are most journalism videos good enough to share?
The percentage of U.S. Internet users who said they watch news video online did increase from 2007 to 2009 (from 37 to 43 percent) — even though that was a smaller increase than for other types on online videos (source). Comedy and humorous videos saw the biggest leap, from 31 to 50 (percentage of Internet users who said they had watched that type).
But note, sports video online went from 14 to 21 percent — less than half the viewers for news!
How many online news operations are putting the lion’s share of their video effort into producing sports videos?
Among the 18–29 age group, humorous/comedy video viewing far outstrips news video viewing — but note, 56 percent in that age group said they have watched news video online. (Only 34 percent have watched sports video online.) Note too that only 19 percent in this age group have uploaded video (source) — squashing the widely held misconception that all young Americans are technical wizards.
I saw a lot of evidence in the PEJ report about YouTube that people are hungry for news video. For example:
- “In January 2009, the most viewed clip was Obama’s inaugural address while the second video was raw footage of the US Airlines plane that safely landed in the Hudson River without incurring any significant injuries.”
- “More than a quarter (26%) of the top five most watched news videos in a given week were about things that happened overseas. Many of them were in foreign languages and were about issues that received virtually no attention in the American press or elsewhere in English-language social media.”
- “After international events, the next largest subject on YouTube was government with 20%. More than half of those (11%) involved President Obama or his administration in some capacity … [e.g.] his first interview with the Arab television station Al-Arabiya.”
- “One of the unique aspects of YouTube is the ability of users to view raw footage that is not edited or posted by a news organization. Many of the most viewed news videos on YouTube are of this nature. For example, for two consecutive weeks in September, the most viewed video was a first-person clip from a demonstration in Pittsburgh surrounding the G20 summit where an unidentified protestor is forced into a car by three men dressed in camouflage.”