Beyonce, Bieber and… The Young Turks? Cenk Uygur’s liberal online video network is set to become the first news outlet to score a billion views on YouTube this week. For Uygur, that’s proof that online video isn’t just a novelty anymore, but a primary source of information for a whole generation. “They grew up on YouTube. That is their TV,” he told me during an interview last week.
Uygur has been doing political commentary online since 2005, but also brought his brand to traditional media, appearing first on MSNBC and then Current. Asked about the secret for hitting a billion views, he told me it’s partially because other media organizations have long underestimated YouTube and online video in general. “We have been really lucky that this field has been left alone to us for so long,” he said.
The Young Turks were one of the news organizations tapped by Google for YouTube’s original content push, which included sizeable advances to bring more professionally produced content to the site. Traditional news organizations like Reuters struggled to find an audience for content funded by these kinds of advances on the site, but Uygur told me that the collaboration with YouTube was a full success for his company. “We were the first channel to get refunded,” he said.
In the coming months, he plans to continue that growth story by adding additional shows, but he also hinted at further TV collaborations, including production work for TV networks and additional platforms for his existing shows.
So what’s Uygur’s advice for news organizations that have a hard time with online video? “There is one trick: It’s to be authentic,” he told me. Having an authentic voice is the only way to speak to a generation that has grown up with YouTube, he argued, adding: “To them, TV now equals fake. And online equals real.”