YouTube is often discussed negatively by the mainstream media, which often distances itself from the platform. This article discusses why this is the case, and explores the question of how YouTube might fit into the future of media.
In Britain, public trust in printed and television media is at an all-time low. The mainstream press has come under criticism for a variety of legitimate reasons, from the phone hacking scandal to coverage the Hillsborough disaster. Due the availability of the internet, young people have more power over who (and what) they want to listen to than the generations before them did. As a result of these two factors, social media has overtaken TV as the main source of news for young people age between 18 and 24.
For people in this age group across the world, YouTube was one of the most popular news sources (second only to Facebook). However, if you ask an older person their opinions on YouTube, it is very rarely positive. YouTube and youtubers are often portrayed negatively in the media. But what the mainstream press has to say about Youtubers is largely irrelevant; as their young fans will still subscribe, and their ads will still generate millions in revenue.
This criticism of YouTube is not always unwarranted, and in recent years the platform has seen a range of high-profile scandals such as Logan Paul’s insensitive video series in Japan, ads appearing on terrorist content and bad actors putting inappropriate content inside clips from children’s shows. However, for young people, people on social media and YouTube are much more relatable than the people in the mainstream media, who do not always reflect the diversity of British society. This means that traditional media often holds itself to different standards than youtubers do. Young people often consider Youtubers to be “like friends”, due to the more intimate feel of the vlogging format. Therefore, a youtubers audience are more likely to forgive both missteps and general poor behaviour by their favourite youtuber than they are by other public figures, such as journalists.
While negative things do exist on YouTube, it is also true that journalists within the mainstream media never seem to cover YouTube in a positive way. This is even though the platform is used by millions for education and social commentaries, as well as for entertainment. This is because, despite YouTube being a powerful force with large numbers of users, people who read and produce the mainstream media are often older, and don’t have a complex understanding of YouTube (although that is slowly changing). If an audience doesn’t understand a thing, it normally only wants to hear about if it is threatening or scary, and isn’t interested in nuanced takes on the platform in question. Furthermore, the rate of change on platforms like YouTube is something that the printed media simply can’t keep up with, as mini trends are incubated, disseminated and killed off in mere days. Therefore, the mainstream media are fearful of online communities, and are often eager to maintain a distance from them, deriding them as being less significant than traditional media.
Despite the reluctance of the mainstream media to accept YouTube as a legitimate news source, the platform continues to grow in power. In many cases, these YouTubers even have bigger audiences than mainstream media shows. Therefore, it must be included in discussions of the future of the mainstream media, and we must engage with both the negative and the positive aspects of the platform.