Despite YouTube claiming 1.8 billion monthly active users, it can't rest on its laurels. Just a few weeks ago, Instagram announced IGTV, which will expand the app's video format to 60 minutes for its one billion users, and Facebook launched the Watch video platform nearly one year ago with premium original content for over 2 billion of its own customers around the globe.
Today, YouTube announced that it's committing $25 million to a range of initiatives designed to improve breaking news coverage, which will include links to articles for developing stories, education in media literacy, grants to help fund smaller news publications, and coordination with local news organizations to get their content up on YouTube quickly.
Speaking on the company blog, chief product officer Neal Mohan and chief business officer Robert Kyncl laid out a multi-pronged plan to make YouTube a better platform for breaking news coverage: a working group of news media experts; direct grants to help fund news organizations; and enhanced training in formats, audience development, day-to-day operations, and "sophisticated technical integrations."
The group of experts will include Vox Media, publisher of The Verge; Jovem Pan ("Young Panamerica"), a huge Brazil-based radio network; and India Today, a 24-hour news network launched in 2003. These selections indicate an intriguing push for an international video news presence, rather than defaulting to the usual suspects like CNN, Fox News, or The New York Times.
However, the heavy hitters of Western media will not be out of the loop, as the announcement highlighted a contribution from USA Today; the blog showed an example of an article preview from this paper appearing in a "Developing news" section that appears before the actual videos in question. The YouTube app will also now have a Breaking News section on the main page.
The company also announced local news enhancements for users with TV screens: "We've begun testing features that surface local news in the YouTube app for TV screens across 25 media markets around the United States, making it easy to access local news in the living room--our fastest growing screen."
With YouTube rapidly replacing conventional TV among millennials, integrating local news in this way may be the only way to get it in front of this sought-after demographic on a regular basis.
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The company characterizes all of this as the next step after the Google News Initiative that it began in March, where it outlined easier subscriptions for news apps, enhanced analytics data for publishers, and Outline, a tool for journalists to encrypt and secure coverage in the field.
And they're fighting fake news
Down toward the end of the announcement, Mohan and Kyncl mention that YouTube will also be rolling out links to relevant Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica entries for "a small number of well-established historical and scientific topics that have often been subject to misinformation, like the Moon Landing and the Oklahoma City Bombing." They believe that this will give users the "context to inform their judgments."
It's a far cry from the lengths that Facebook has gone to in its fight against fake news, but it's a start. YouTube is also collaborating with the Poynter Institute, Stanford, and others to "to bring awareness to digital literacy and help educate teens." You probably know some adults who could use a bit of this as well.
- YouTube's new approach to breaking news looks like a response to increasing competition from Facebook and Instagram, as well as a quality-of-life improvement for its users.
- It will be interesting to see how the right-wing media respond to YouTube's inclusion of Wikipedia articles next to factually questionable content.
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