WASHINGTON — YouTube, the Google-owned video sharing website, has become a major platform around the world for news, posing challenges to media organizations, a study said Monday.
The Pew Research Center report said that news related events were the most searched items on YouTube in five months of a 15-month period in 2011 and early 2012.
That means that news is rapidly becoming important on the site, which is popularly known for amateur videos of children and pets.
Certain events like the Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011 highlighted that point, the study found, with 96 million views of disaster-related news over a one-week period in March 2011.
The report found news viewership on YouTube is probably still outpaced by the audience for news on conventional television.
“But YouTube is a place where consumers can determine the news agenda for themselves and watch the videos at their own convenience — a form of ‘on demand’ video news,” the Pew report said.
“In the case of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, audience interest continued for weeks. The disaster remained among the top-viewed news subjects for three straight weeks. Based on the most viewed videos each week listed by YouTube, it also was the biggest news story on the site for 2011.”
Pew said that for the news industry, this shift to online news viewing represent “a significant opportunity and also a challenge.”
“News producers can use the site to grow their audience, find citizen-created videos, build their brand and generate revenue,” it said.
“At the same time, video-sharing sites are yet another platform they must understand — and to which they must adapt.”
The video sharing site is now the third most visited destination online, behind only Google, which owns YouTube, and Facebook.
According to the company’s own statistics, more than 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. The site gets over four billion video views a day.
In news on YouTube, so-called citizen reports represented 39 percent of videos. Some 51 percent bore the logo of a news organization, but some of that footage appeared to have been originally shot by users rather than journalists.
Five percent came from corporate and political groups, and the origin of another five percent was not identified.
“Citizens are creating their own videos about news and posting them,” the report said.
“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.”
Google bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion.
The Mountain View, California-based Internet search and advertising giant has not yet announced a profit for the video-sharing site despite its massive global popularity.
YouTube has been gradually adding professional content such as full-length television shows and movies to its vast trove of amateur video offerings in a bid to attract advertisers.