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YouTube’s Rise to Power Pt.4 – The Social and Political

The impact of YouTube is immense, spanning from politics to cat videos. The humble beginnings of the video hosting platform began with uploading “Me at the Zoo”. An explainer video of why elephants are so cool filmed and shared by the creators of the site. Since then, YouTube has expanded rapidly  and is now used to information share globally.

With the ability to reach one billion monthly users, almost anyone can upload and share their message with the world. Be it politicians, educators, celebrities, activists, terrorists, or someone who believes their cat is exceptional. Permeating nearly every level of society, YouTube’s impact is vast and has been analyzed in terms of political and social impact. Below is simply a snap shot.



Political Impact
Today,  journalists have been replaced by YouTube. Politicians, activists and extremists no longer need a middleman to communicate to the public. This has been both revolutionary and detrimental.

Politician’s have recognized the value of YouTube, which surpasses television and radio in terms of audience targeting. Instead of delivering a single message, YouTube can be used to target direct groupings of individuals, influencing their behaviour. For example, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign targeted certain videos to journalists, which shaped their reports. Audience targeting is a heavily valued asset of YouTube, from campaigns to political uprisings.


It is now possible for the masses to vocalize causes and areas of oppression like never before. Videos shows activists, victims, police, politicians, mothers, fathers, children coming together over a single cause. Citizens now have the ability to hold politicians, journalists and civil servants accountable. Arguably, YouTube has created a 6th estate of sorts, which is simultaniously revolutionary and an information overload. Causes and struggles that were once silenced are shared, but we are constantly hit with videos, images and information that may or may not be fact checked and can often be one sided. Dialogue is often achieved in the comments of videos where heated discussions take place.

Social Impact

YouTube’s social impact goes far beyond celebrity discovery and Bieber Fever. It has provided an infrastructure that is much more than a video hosting platform. With 1 billon users, YouTube has become the second largest search engine, can be navigated in 76 different languages (95% of the internet population) and has launched local versions in more than 70 countries. 80% of YouTube view’s are outside of the United States.

This large audience is part of the world’s largest information sharing network. Google has capitalized on this, purchasing YouTube for $1.6 billion in 2006. It is now worth $70 billion and is projected to reach a valuation of $90 billion. Google now holds the two largest search engines globally.

Content creation is in the hands of the masses. In today’s media landscape content has been commoditized and audience is the new currency. @brendangahan For the first time in history content creators have unfettered access to a mass audience without needing a cable or network deal.

This has changed the way we learn, absorb information and spend our time. If you want to learn about another culture, travel destination, or all the lyrics to Adele’s Hello (like you haven’t already), this all can be done on YouTube in a single viewing session. On average people are now spending 40 minutes on YouTube per viewing session. This statistic is for mobile devices only and does not include computers and other electronic devices.

Information is being dispensed by content creators everywhere at a rate never before imagined. Subsequently, information consumption is also at an all time high. If you believe this is detrimental to high quality information or revolutionary, the point is moot, as YouTube’s infrastructure has permanently changed information sharing.

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