November 20, 2009

YouTube’s role in citizen journalism

Olivia Ma on YouTube as a news channel from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaDuring the recent annual conference of the Online News Association in San Francisco, I had a chance to sit down (literally on the floor) with Olivia Ma, news manager in YouTube’s News & Politics team.

YouTube is in the news again this week with the rollout of YouTube Direct, a tool to make it easy for YouTube users to submit clips that news media companies can choose to highlight. NPR, Politico, The Huffington Post and The San Francisco Chronicle are among the early participants. Scroll down to see the video explaining the program and YouTube’s announcement. (YouTube Direct was still in development when I interviewed Olivia.)

Olivia (@oliviama on Twtter — follow her!) talks about YouTube‘s astonishing growth, the birth of the YouTube Reporters Center — it’s a resource to help you learn how to report news, with instructional videos with tips and advice for better reporting from top journalists — and how YouTube has become a video platform for hundreds of US senators and congresspersons.

Watch, embed or download the video on Vimeo
Watch the low-res transcoded version on YouTube
Watch the video on Blip

Some highlights from our conversation:

• Every 60 seconds, 20 hours’ worth of video is being uploaded to YouTube, which is equivalent to 86,000 full-length Hollywood films being uploaded every week.

• As of this past spring, the US Senate and House of Representatitves now have hubs on YouTube. Some 98 senators nearly 400 of the 435 members of the House now have YouTube pages, as well as many government agencies. “It’s amazing to see how governments around the world are starting to use this as a way to engage with their constituents,” Olivia says.

• Olivia reminds us that, with millions of people now carrying around video-enabled cellphones, Flips and Kodak Zi8s, you don’t need fancy video recording equipment to capture newsworthy or interesting moments. “Just do it,” she says. “If you’ve got the means, just start shooting video and start putting it up on the Web.”

• Some companies are still nervous about having a presence on YouTube. But Google encourages businesses to come on board. Olivia notes that YouTube now has thousands of professional content partners, ranging from Hollywood studios and tech companies to news organizations. So there should no longer be a hesitancy among online news organizations about whether you’re allowed to post to YouTube. You are.

Thanks, Olivia, for the interesting insights and for being good sport by agreeing to sit on the hallway carpet as the conference was winding down.

While I admire YouTube for all it’s doing to enable citizen media, I’m less than happy right now because I’ve tried several times to get high-def versions of my videos (including this interview with Olivia) working on YouTube, without success. So I’ll put that down as a to-do list for early December: Figure out why my standard compression settings for high-def H.264 video aren’t good enough for YouTube.

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