New on YouTube: Citizen journalism and civic action

As many social networks as exist, YouTube still has the greatest potential for driving action for the simple reason that video is a powerful medium for communication – and short videos are even more so.

By offering a platform where people could host and share their videos easily, YouTube has had no small role in advancing the citizen journalism; if blogs gave everyone a printing press, YouTube has given everyone a TV news station.  YouTube is taking its role in this media re-alignment seriously, too, by creating a Reporters’ Center – a resource page with various videos to help people produce better news stories.

While some corners of the media landscape like to harp on bloggers and internet news as “unofficial” and “unprofessional”, this offers a real solution to those somewhat apt criticisms.  While there will always be muckrakers and yellow journalists in any media, these resources will help increase the amount of well-researched coverage through channels that news consumers are increasingly turning to.

Another new development from YouTube – that actually interests me a bit more personally – are the “call to action overlays” that launch today.  If you’re a YouTube advertiser, you can now run a link on your video that points viewers to another website.

Virally popular commercials – like the McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish commercial from this past Lent – can now link directly to the products they hawk.  But more importantly, political videos can do more  than simply raise awareness and frame issues.  Imaging the now-infamous “macaca video” with a link directing you to a page where you could contact then-Senator George Allen’s office.  (Of course, mass emails to Allen’s office may not be the most effective way to contact the Senator, but it would build a heck of a nice email list.)  Having videos that directly inspire action will make YouTube an advocacy tool for campaigns that may have, previously, only looked at it as a messaging tool.

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