Is YouTube Real Media?
A news report recently revealed that a prominent video games journalist, Andrey “Trolden” Nolden, was invited by MMORPG giant Blizzard to go to BlizzCon in Anaheim, California, to cover the event. Nolden has a YouTube channel with over 230,000 subscribers and his videos regularly top one million views. However, when he visited the US embassy in the Czech Republic he was denied a visa, being told that “YouTube is not a real media” and that therefore Nolden is “not a real journalist”.
YouTube isn’t real media? I feel quite sure that they would disagree and it’s easy to see why. After all, YouTube provides over 6 billion hours of viewing each month to over one billion people. Over 100 hours of video are uploaded every single minute. In the US alone, YouTube has a greater market share than any cable provider (in the coveted 18-34 demographic). How that fails to qualify them as “real media” is difficult to understand.
In all fairness, the “not real media” argument may have been an excuse. Nolden is a Russian citizen, albeit one living and working in the Czech Republic. Check out the link above for more details on this.
So, petty politics or unfathomable ignorance? Either way, stating that YouTube doesn’t count as a real medium in this day and age is staggeringly short-sighted. The effect that YouTube has had on the media landscape is undeniable. It has changed the way that people consume media completely, forcing traditional media outlets to change the way they operate and creating a fertile ground for on-demand services. Media is no longer consumed as it is broadcast, but available when the viewer is ready for it. It has allowed individuals to create and share their own content without the backing of the corporate media, letting them reach a (virtually) global audience. This is unprecedented. Never before has such a huge audience been available to everyone, from the basement blogger to the news network giant.
It really is simple. Media is, according to my dictionary, “the means or channels of general communication, information or entertainment in society”. Seems pretty clear to me. As a means of communicating information and entertainment, YouTube is probably unparalleled. Let’s not forget the way that, in addition to allowing individuals to broadcast videos of their cats doing cute cat stuff, YouTube has allowed footage to be viewed that the mainstream media has either refused, or been unable, to carry, such as the Ferguson police response to the protests about the shooting of Michael Brown. This has resulted in both protesters and police using cameras to record every moment, in order to ensure that any criminal activity (on either side) is saved for posterity. The Arab Spring of 2013 couldn’t have happened (or at least, would have been seriously hampered) without social media, including YouTube. The Libyan, Syrian and Yemen governments all restricted access to social media in an attempt to close down social unrest. They understood the power that information has. They understood that YouTube is “real media”.
How is it, then, that the US government is so far behind? Or are they? Could this be a disgruntled attempt to exert control over media that is, currently, beyond their control? Are they scared of YouTube and other social media? Or are we now venturing into conspiracy theory territory?
Yeah, it’s probably not that complicated.
The fact remains that, regardless of the real reason behind Nolden’s visa rejection, the attitude of the US embassy is at least a decade behind the advances in the way that we, as a global society, view and disseminate information. Everyone, from the lonely blogger firing their thoughts out into cyberspace, the traditional media networks, to national governments and their agencies, has a voice in this new medium. We can all communicate with each other relatively freely. We can share videos with friends and strangers alike. Information can pass from person to person instantly, spreading and growing exponentially. Or it can vanish, swallowed up by the ocean of funny cat videos and homemade trailers for imaginary movies.
This is the question then: Is YouTube “real media”? Are those who make reports on YouTube “real journalists”? I know where I stand.
What do you think?