Can YouTube Really Democratize the Media Industry?

YouTube has been studied as a catalyst in many areas, from politics to advertising to social change. As a media sharing platform, the website has had a considerable amount of public recognition and popularity. “YouTube it” is a phrase rising in popularity just like the similar expression of “Google it!” With the rise of a company, comes increased influence in the economy. How can a media-sharing platform have any control on the economy? In an article by Janet Wasko and Mary Erickson called “The Political Economy of YouTube” the effects of YouTube on the economy of the media industry are discussed. The authors ask whether the website democratizes the media industry insofar as production and distribution or whether YouTube’s influence comes from their ability to advertise and appeal to target audiences.

In terms of advertising, YouTube is a perfect place to see micro-targeting at it’s best. YouTube videos can easily be classified, and based on search history or simply a single video, the advertisement can be directly in line with the majority of the viewers. I think it’s fair to say that the demographic watching the newest Britney Spears video will probably respond better to an advertisement about a clothing sale then 2 for 1 power tools (that could also be a very erroneous assumption). Basically: YouTube = easy advertising dollars.

Is it possible, though, that through YouTube, we could actually see a shift in the industry? YouTube has made sharing media much easier, on one side decreasing the value of an mp3 or purchased copy of a song. YouTube also allows anyone to publish content – such as song covers, funny animal clips or lyric videos. By allowing anyone to publish content, is the media sharing platform actually decreasing the value of professionally developed records? Artists and producers have caught on – they now release new tracks and music videos on YouTube, essentially because they know they have an audience there. Here’s where the advertisement comes in. Speaking of that new Britney song – every time you play it on YouTube, you must watch a 28-second ad for her new perfume. Now that’s strategic marketing at it’s best. But in response to the value of original media being decreased by it’s reproduction, I guess I’ll have to deal with it.

What I’m saying is, that YouTube has changed the landscape of the media industry and advertising – democratizing both sides. Advertising is easier to target than ever before, and so is publishing content, regardless if either should actually be allowed.

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