If you haven’t seen this TEDSalon London talk from last month on the future of news it is well worth your time. In it Markham Nolan of Storyful shares why he thinks YouTube may soon overtake traditional news sources and how this represents a dramatic shift in the dynamics of news media. In his view YouTube, which adding 72 hours of video every minute, is becoming the most important platform of “documentary evidence about humankind in existence”.
He makes a good case for it, particularly as he talks about the war in Syria and how, as traditional news organisations struggle to get footage because of the risks involved, YouTube has become invaluable.
He says that three moments changed how he viewed YouTube in 2012. First was the Democratic convention in the US that he watched unadulterated, without commentary, on YouTube’s dedicated page to the conventions.
“I made an innate choice that YouTube would be my first stop. I didn’t even consider Fox or CNN – YouTube was naturally the first place I went to watch the elections. I didn’t reach for the remote, I grabbed the iPad. That was a big shift,” says Markham.
“News channels couldn’t devote the adequate time to it and would skip in and out, but Red Bull’s YouTube channel streamed the entire thing. The last minutes of the ascent were mesmerising,” he says.
His third moment was the war in Syria and the ongoing documentation of that fighting. In the case of Syria there is arguably an entire war there documented via “the clenched, phone-holding fists of citizens, soldiers and activists” and uploaded onto YouTube.
In November the UN said that one particular event could, if validated, be considered a war crime. The evidence, which lay largely on YouTube, showed anti government fighters kicking and summarily executing a group of frightened captive soldiers and throwing their bodies off of a bridge.
The bridge was claimed by some sources not to exist, others said it wasn’t where the video claimed, but Nolan using internet tools and his team tracked it down to verify the story was in fact exactly what it appeared to be.
Here is Nolan’s Ted speech: