Google Inc., File, Associated Press
FILE - This file image of a screen grab provided by Google Inc. on Dec. 1, 2011 shows the YouTube website. A new study finds that YouTube is emerging as a major platform for news, one to which viewers increasingly turn for eyewitness videos in times of major events and natural disasters.

YouTube is fast becoming a relevant global news source, a new study from the Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism reveals.

“(The Pew Research Center) found that while viewership for TV news still easily outpaces those consuming news on YouTube, the video-sharing site is a growing digital environment where professional journalism mingles with citizen content,” the Associated Press reported.

Pew’s “YouTube & News” study harvested 15 months of data by analyzing the top five videos in YouTube’s “news & politics” channel for each week during the 15-month period between January 2011 and March 2012.

“The data reveal that a complex, symbiotic relationship has developed between citizens and news organizations on YouTube, a relationship that comes close to the continuous journalistic ‘dialogue’ many observers predicted would become the new journalism online,” the Pew Research Center revealed. “Citizens are creating their own videos about news and posting them. They are also actively sharing news videos produced by journalism professionals. And news organizations are taking advantage of citizen content and incorporating it into their journalism. Consumers, in turn, seem to be embracing the interplay in what they watch and share, creating a new kind of television news.”

The breakdown of where those 260 popular “news & politics” videos originated:

  • 51 percent: news organizations
  • 39 percent: citizens
  • 5 percent: corporate and political groups
  • 5 percent: unidentified sources

A wide breadth of news organizations contributed to that 51-percent figure.

“The Pew report found the top producer of news videos was Russia Today, a relatively new news organization backed by the Russian government, which mostly posts eyewitness videos describing an event but has been known to engage in conspiracy theories,” Mackenzie Carpenter wrote for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “But not every news organization is embracing YouTube, the Pew report noted.

“Some, like CNN, have posted more than 30,000 videos on YouTube since the site emerged in 2006. Fox News, on the other hand, has posted only 128 — even though viewers, on their own, posted large numbers of Fox News videos, and not always in a positive light, the report said.”

Indeed, many of the videos originating from news organizations were not actually posted by the news organizations themselves: “Fully 39 percent of the news pieces originally produced by a news organization were posted by users,” the Pew Research Center reported. “The rest of the most popular news videos of the last 15 months, 61 percent, were posted by the same news organizations that produced the reports.”

Some additional facts and figures emerging from the new Pew study:

  • 70 percent of YouTube traffic comes from outside the U.S.
  • “The three most popular storylines worldwide over the 15-month period were non-U.S. events. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami was No. 1 (and accounted for 5 percent of all the 260 videos), followed by elections in Russia (5 percent) and unrest in the Middle East (4 percent).”
  • 58 percent of the videos had been edited, while 42 percent consisted entirely of raw footage.
  • “No one individual was featured in even 5 percent of the most popular videos studied here — and fully 65 percent did not feature any individual at all.”