YouTube Users Turn to Established and Indie News Channels

In light of the fact that 26 percent of Americans say they get news on YouTube, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey in January of 12,638 U.S. adults who consumed news on YouTube, asking about their experiences. The Pew study analyzed the news channels consumers watched and the content of videos on these channels, relying on a subset of videos published in December 2019. The study found a news environment on YouTube in which established news organizations and indie news channels “thrive side by side.”

The Pew Research Center study notes that, consequently, established news organizations no longer have full control over the news Americans watch.” Further, the study found that, “most YouTube news consumers say they at least sometimes turn to news organizations as well as independent channels for news on the platform, and identical shares (23 percent each) often turn to each type of source.” It defines independent channels as those that “do not have a clear affiliation with any external entity.”

Of the 377 most popular YouTube news channels, 49 percent are “a mix of established news organizations and 42 percent are independent channels, with 9 percent associated “with other types of organizations.” YouTube news viewers report that they “are about as likely to say they are primarily looking for opinions and commentary on the website (51 percent) as they are to say they are mostly seeking information and facts (i.e., ‘straight’ reporting; 48 percent).”

Although the viewers “recognize that the platform is not without problems,” few of them are very concerned.

The “vast majority” of YouTube news channels “do not clearly state a political ideology on their channel page” even if the content does express “an ideological slant.” Twelve percent of the news channels “explicitly include language about their ideology in the channel description,” with 8 percent identifying as right-leaning and 4 percent as left-leaning.

Independent news channels are more likely to “describe themselves in partisan terms and are more likely to say they lean right.” Independent channels are also more likely (71 percent) to raise money via their channels than news organizations (14 percent).

Fifty-one percent of the videos cited news media as their sources of information, with 42 percent citing “a prominent Republican or Democrat, including Trump, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, or members of Congress.” News organization channels, at 49 percent, were more likely to cite politicians than independent channels, at 25 percent. News organizations cited news media at 45 percent versus independent media’s 68 percent.

TechCrunch reports that Pew’s “analysis of nearly 3,000 videos by the 100 most viewed YouTube channels in December 2019 found that 21 percent of videos from independent channels mentioned a conspiracy theory, compared with just 2 percent of those from established news organizations.” Fourteen percent of videos from independent news channels referred to QAnon, compared to 2 percent of those from news organizations.

Related:
YouTube 2020: Why Politics Have Exploded on the Video Platform, NBC News, 9/16/20
The Biden Campaign Wants to Take Back YouTube, The Verge, 9/28/20