YouTube Direct Launched to Bolster Citizen Journalism

YouTube has launched a new tool, called YouTube Direct, that aims to connect news organizations with citizen journalists producing web video.

Built on YouTube APIs, the tool will provide an easy way for news agencies to collect and broadcast clips that users submit for review. By adding a customizable upload button to their web pages, those organizations can solicit user-produced videos on a variety of subjects.

YouTube Direct provides another advantage for cash-strapped media companies: Because all videos are hosted on the YouTube site, participating companies don’t have to go through the trouble of building out the infrastructure required to ingest, encode, store and distribute videos that have been uploaded.

Already, YouTube has received interest from news organizations such as The Huffington Post, NPR, Politico, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post for the service.

NPR, for instance, is soliciting user videos that run from 30 seconds to 3 minutes in length for its crowdsourced WonderScope science series. To participate, users can submit videos directly through NPR’s web site, and those that make the cut will be added to the official NPR YouTube channel.

Meanwhile, Politico is asking its readers to submit clips (2 minutes or less) for Project Politico, a program that encourages debate based on a new question each day.  And the San Francisco Chronicle is using YouTube Direct to solicit videos of street performers throughout the city.

The new service will provide a counter to some existing citizen journalist tools, such as CNN’s iReport. The iReport program, which was initially launched in 2006, took off earlier this year as videos flooded into the news agency detailing the political protests in Iran.

YouTube says it’s not asking for any compensation from companies that use the service, but it is using YouTube Direct as a way to increase the number of videos that are uploaded to the site. The video site also suggests that the service has applications outside of newsgathering.

In a blog post, Steve Grove, YouTube’s head of news and politics, writes:

“Businesses can use YouTube Direct to solicit promotional videos, nonprofits can use the application to call-out for support videos around social campaigns and politicians can use the platform to ask for user-generated political commercials. The opportunities to use the tool are as broad as the media spectrum itself.”

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