YouTube is emerging as a powerful broadcaster in the time of the coronavirus pandemic, with its two billion users more than ever turning to the platform to consume news.
According to YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan, views on videos classified as news increased 75 percent year-on-year, and in an interview with Bloomberg TV, he attributed this to the global health crisis and people attempting to find out what is happening.
And what we see and learn on YouTube is tightly controlled: the giant surfaces content using algorithms and, effectively, human editors, while the goal is to establish how “authoritative” a news source is and promote it.
Just like Mohan didn’t disclose the exact number of views contained in that 75 percent increase, YouTube doesn’t share “authoritativeness ranking scores.”
When it comes to the coronavirus pandemic-related news, YouTube has introduced a set of stringent rules that it keeps updating, banning anything from content suspected of encouraging people not to stay indoors, to videos mentioning 5G networking technology in connection with the outbreak of the virus.
The company will also not allow videos downplaying the pandemic.
According to Mohan, thousands of videos have already been removed for violating the platform’s rules around the disease.
On top of that, YouTube visitors are being directed toward government sources, thanks to what’s described as an information panel, which has received over 10 billion views, he said.
However, the massive increase in views doesn’t mean more advertising dollars, as companies are spending less due to the crisis.
This is not good news particularly for smaller, independent creators. But independent YouTube news commentators already have the platform playing against them, as they don’t fit into the “authoritativeness” model.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki had no problem spelling it out when she said that while independent YouTubers are allowed to post news content, “we’re not going to recommend that when there’s a breaking news event.”
Instead, viewers are steered towards “companies that we know have a long tradition of delivering reliable news.”
This kind of treatment might eventually lead independent creators to seriously consider diversifying by joining one of the alternatives that have been springing up.
Although don’t hold your breath, as many creators still see YouTube as too powerful to ever consider an alternative.