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YouTube: Politics, Policies and New Ways Talking About the Issues

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YouTube, a brand owned by Google-parent Alphabet, is the world’s leading platform for online video hosting and broadcasting. But just what role does it play on pressing issues that matter most to viewers around the world?

During a visit to the VideoPPL conference in Moscow, YouTube vice president for content partnership program Kelly Merryman shared some details regarding coverage of US presidential campaign.

Some one billion people view content on the platform every month, and some ten million of those consistently upload video content. YouTube differs from traditional media, including radio, TV or news websites, as its content is primarily user-created.

"Publishers, creators, news agencies are all using YouTube to share their view, their coverage of the election," Merryman told RIA Novosti. "For example, in both the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention this summer we had creators that worked there, actually covering the conventions; we had many of our news publisher partners — CNN, NYT, Bloomberg, Buzzfeed."

Managing the content is challenging. There are rules that prohibit uploading extremist or sexually-explicit content, for instance, but there is little political moderation.

The subjects of political or commercial competition tend not to produce most of the content related to their product or brand. Instead, users, thought to be mostly independent — though there are many exceptions in which promotional companies craft clever marketing campaigns disguised to appear home-grown — upload content that references a politician or a product, of their own free will.

When asked which of the two most popular US presidential candidates is more active on YouTube, Merryman said it's hard to tell.

"The way the US elections work, in addition to their own campaign groups, there are hundreds of other campaign groups that support both candidates," she said. "Any of us can set up a channel and have a conversation to talk about the candidate or both of the candidates. There are so many voices talking about both candidates it's really hard to [analyze the whole picture]."

During the presidential nomination conventions, YouTube provided some cutting-edge hardware which enabled, for example, a live 360-degree video stream for both Republican and Democratic National conventions. A 360-degree video feed allows a viewer to rotate the image around the room, creating a sense of immersion.

"We actually brought our new mobile, live capabilities — and some VRX too — to conventions, so we actually enabled our partners to tell different stories, more engaging stories with the tools and the capabilities that we brought," Merryman said.

There has been a significant shift in how politicians, especially those born before 1960, view YouTube. According to Merryman, YouTube's primary audience is millennials, those aged 18-34, who largely prefer internet sources to traditional media, including television and newspapers. Instead of George W. Bush's infamous "the, uh, internets" reaction, politicians are now clearly aware of the opportunities and the potential downside that the platform provides, according to Merryman.

"YouTube is viewed as a great way to reach the millennial audience of 18 to 34, so because of that we are a serious platform that you want to spend your time on to reach that audience," Merryman said. "President Obama does his State of the Union every year and he livestreams it on YouTube. ‘White House' actually is the White House channel that they manage. And I think that is a testament of [YouTube's] importance. "

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Tags:
media content, video, Politics, interview, VideoPPL, YouTube, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Kelly Merryman, Russia, United States
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  • michael
    is that one billion individual visitors? How many view political bs as compared with watch music videos as one example? Either way, their influence is not pervasive - that's only their aim.
  • Mystic-One
    Sure Youtube is great for political discussion only if you speak and think the way the government wants you too. Everything else gets deleted EVEN if there a large proportion of people that agree with you it will get deleted. Free Speech my arse! Political discourse a joke!

    Look who owns and runs it! It is only to be expected.
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