YouTube: How it changed the social and media landscape
YouTube: a revolutionary video media platform that enables content to be distributed to an audience all across the world. It is a place where home videos are found, audio recordings are made, an incredible source of entertainment. Production by non-commercial enterprises (i.e. amateur home videos) is not new. However, exposing it to an audience that is larger than some of history’s biggest box office movies should be unthinkable. Yet it is being done, and by the most ‘ordinary’ of people. Some of the most viewed videos, channels with the highest subscribers are from people known as ‘vloggers’ (video bloggers). These vloggers have followings that are larger than some of today’s most well known celebrities. Prominent vlogger, Jenna Marbles, currently sits at 13 million subscribers while in contrast, Justin Bieber at 10 million. So, how are these vloggers able to acquire such a large audience? The answer is ‘connectivity’. YouTube is the medium that has revolutionized our daily lives. It is where our desires are being fulfilled, and whereby businesses capitalize on it.
Prior to YouTube, many of us lacked the opportunities to share and engage topics that we were interested in. The shows we watched and wanted to share were often limited to the friends and family who would bother listening to us. However, YouTube has become the perfect place to spark discussion and engage with (sometimes) like-minded people. There are two main ways to generate discussion on YouTube. One is through a ‘video response’, by which the video you make is now tagged to the original video. The second way is through the comment section. Together, these methods are known as a ‘cool medium’ (Durant, 2009), where the technology allows for a high participation rate from the audience. Through these mechanisms, provide a cascade effect for more videos, more comments – fanning the flames, so to speak. With all of this creates an incredibly large, interconnected web of social interactions.
Due to this connectivity, YouTube has forever changed the corporate media landscape. Traditionally, broadcasting is in the domain of the large powerful conglomerates (i.e. Time Warner, Disney, Fox) that pay billions of dollars to be on your television (Christensen, 2007). Unfortunately for them, YouTube sensations are now stealing the time from their audience. Instead of turning on Game of Thrones, you may choose to watch a short skit from your favourite YouTuber. Video production no longer needs to be a $100 million studio budget. Instead, a creative vlogger can take his or her camera, gather a few friends, and create something just as entertaining for a fraction of the cost.
There is no doubt that YouTube has challenged the fundamentals of the media industry. It was once known as an expensive industry run by professionals, beyond the scope of the ‘every day citizen’ (Christensen, 2007). Today, it is astonishing to see how YouTube celebrities are able to capture the hearts of many. Through YouTube’s clever design and development, they have achieved what little corporations were able to do before. YouTube has changed how we consume content. It has become the place for us to voice our opinions, spark conversations, where before we could only rely on our friends and family, who for all we know, might’ve wanted to ignore us.
Christensen C. (2007). Youtube: The Evolution of Media? Screen Education 45: 36-40
Durant A, Lambrou M. (2009). Language and media. New York: Routledge.