User-generated content that morphed into eyewitness-footage of current events has become one of the most interesting transformations in the evolution of YouTube. Now Google wants to use that footage to help site visitors find the most relevant clips.
On Thursday Google launched a service named YouTube Newswire to provide the most current eyewitness footage uploaded to the site on events like the Ferguson protests, earthquakes in Napal, and Charlie Hebdo attacks. In the past decade, people have watched some of the biggest and most important news stories, sharing their encounters on the video site. The company estimates more than 5 million hours of news video is watched on YouTube daily.
Google said Newswire will feature global and regional feeds that serve the most relevant videos worldwide. The service launches in partnership with Storyful, a social news agency Google worked with since protests broke out in Tahrir Square in 2011. The curated feed of the most newsworthy eyewitness videos of the day will be verified by Storyful’s team of editors and embedded from the original sources. Aside from YouTube visitors searching for information, Google hopes Newswire will become a resource for journalists to use for important news stories.
Trusting news sources comes with experience, but Google thinks it can teach YouTube Newswire journalists to verify content and become impartial observers by forming a group it calls The First Draft Coalition, a group of social media journalists who will create educational resources on how to verify eyewitness media.
Google also partnered with WITNESS to support human rights issues through the analysis of citizen video. The WITNESS Media Lab, in collaboration with innovators in the technology, advocacy and journalism fields, will produce a series of in-depth projects that focus on human rights struggles as seen from the perspective of those who live, witness, and experience them. The first project from the WITNESS Media Lab will explore the impact of bystander video in bringing about justice in police brutality cases in the United States.
During the early days of the public Internet, I consulted for the the world's largest database for legal and public-records related information, helping them transition to the Web. I mentioned to one of their top leaders that, with more and more people moving online, their business was sure to increase. With decades of "online" experience, I assumed he'd see that more clearly than anyone else.
Instead, to my surprise, he disagreed. He explained in detail how -- not that "content was king" -- but that content owners were king, and that in the end, their distribution system, however effective and advanced, was ultimately extraneous, since the owners could set rates, control distribution, create new distribution systems, etc.
Since that time, I have watched with interest as various web firms and social media companies floundered and died over this fact. The irony is that they have free content being provided to them on a daily basis by (otherwise unorganized) content providers.
This means that the distribution systems/social media companies, themselves, have the access, power, and (could develop) the ability to repackage that content into more effective forms, e.g., round-up articles of public opinion, for instance.
Thus far, the larger web companies have largely failed to see that. I suppose that this article shows that a few are just now beginning to see what decades of experience told my client years ago: since content owners are king, the only way to secure your success long-term is to create content yourself, even if it is repackaging public content on your own social networks.