YouTube since its launch in 2005 has been recognized as the leading video sharing website. It allows users to upload personally made videos as well as allows users access to watch any video of their choosing. The site has become a sanctuary for those passionate about video making and those passionate about viewing content. YouTube has allowed for the interaction between both the creators and the viewers to share similar passions. Janet Wasko and Mary Erickson in The Political Economy of YouTube evaluate the political economy of the website by presenting the company’s history and ownership structure while also looking at the power relations that are instilled in the structure and operation of YouTube. YouTube appears to have changed the relationship between the producer and the consumer. Anyone can produce a video and anyone can view a video. What happens when corporate organizations get involved on YouTube and utilize their media model as a way to attract consumers and make a large profit?
YouTube is recognized for essentially reshaping the entire media landscape. It has entirely transformed itself into a democratizing movement where the consumer becomes the producer. However this is an economic façade. Corporate organizations still maintain power in comparison to the individual creators. YouTube is a profit goldmine where lots of money can be made in advertising at the expense of the user. “Revenue generated through advertising would be split fifty-fifty between YouTube and its partner companies” (379). In this case has the relationship between the producer and consumer really changed all that much? YouTube actually makes it easier for corporate organizations to target users with advertising. Think about it. By watching a popular video on YouTube you are being targeted. The video especially by being a popular video has an ad that in some way relates to something you watched.
Corporate organizations specifically micro-target users through the videos that they watch. Each video is
categorized based on search history. Popular videos tend to be those most advertised. “YouTube editors choose to spotlight videos, which follow themes to highlight some of the best videos produced by both YouTube users and corporate content partners” (382). The ad can often be aligned with what the majority of users are interested in. YouTube creates easy advertising as it allows corporate organizations to easily attract the interests of users through the videos that they watch. “Advertisers would pay twenty dollars for every one thousand views of a video, which, for videos that attract tens of millions of viewers, it’s more lucrative for content partners” (382). Economically corporate organizations and YouTube itself make a profit through a hierarchy. The corporations are at the top and the everyday users are at the bottom. YouTube does allow users to utilize its site by having the ability to create their own content and viewers have the ability to watch it, however the corporate organizations’ content take precedence over everyday users. Next time you watch a video on YouTube pay close attention to how you as a consumer are being micro-targeted.
Erickson, Mary and Janet Wasko. “The Political Economy of YouTube.” The YouTube Reader. Ed. Pelle Snickards and Patricia Vondereau. Stockholm: National Library of Sweden, 2009. 372-385. Print