Wednesday, May 21, 2008

YouTube's Citizen News channel puts the final piece into the user-generated news puzzle

The amateur video news space is about to get rather interesting. Yesterday YouTube announced the creation of a Citizen News channel, complete with a newly-created news manager position (announced in spectacularly cheesy fashion in the video that concludes this entry) and the horrendous graphic design that YouTube is famous for.

While non-professional video reports are certainly nothing new, they haven't caught on with the same level of popularity that blogging has. Part of that is that the technology is just now catching up--until recently, it's been a lot easier to write than it has been to shoot, edit, and upload your video--but the other part is that there hasn't been a central repository for these types of reports. Because video isn't easily searchable (yet), if you were doing video news reports and hosting them on your own server, they were essentially invisible to the Internet.

Currently, your best bet for finding relevant video isn't Google (despite their much-touted Universal Search algorithms). It's YouTube. For example, here's two searches for video on the Zimbabwe elections:

The Google search feels like searching for a needle in a haystack, while the YouTube search clearly gives you some stuff you'll want to look at (considering that Google owns YouTube, it's a bit of a headscratcher why it isn't better integrated, but that's a different post).

So if you're looking for video, you're probably going to end up on YouTube, not Google. That's because, for better or worse, YouTube has become the central repository that video has been waiting for. This is, of course, nothing new. YouTube has been the defacto source for video on the web for years now and it's dominance is only getting larger.

But finding actual user-generated reporting on YouTube (or anywhere else on the web, for that matter) has been difficult up until now. Having a single channel for all these reports (which, of course, are embedded elsewhere on the web as well), simplifies the hunt for relevant content significantly. It also creates an object lesson for even more creators to follow suit. Which, if the entire history of YouTube is any indication, they will by the millions. And then things get interesting.