The YouTube Phenomenon

By: Isaac

With the advent of new technology and social networking in the 21st century, the Website YouTube has created its own niche with its own interpretation of the personalized media network (1). It is not only used as a source of free entertainment, but an outlet as well for aspiring artists, bloggers, politicians, filmmakers etc. to gain influence and receive feedback from a global community.

YouTube is still a relatively new site, created in 2005 for video sharing purposes. From the beginning no subscription was needed to view these videos, but upon subscribing for free a user is enabled to share their own videos, comment and contribute to the consensus of other videos.

Whereas in media theory historically the concept of the masses has brought about negative connotations and undifferentiated groups of people (2), YouTube seems to have individualized the masses to a certain extent. Although after being created in 2005 the site has been bought out by Google, the media being uploaded to the site is not all simply a reflection of mass media. While media corporations such as CBS, BBC, VEVO, and others use Youtube as an outlet to spread their programming to this mass online community, a large portion of the videos remain self made.

This is where I believe sites like YouTube help enable the breaking away of mass society stereotype of being intertwined in bland common interest. On such a site where there is constant feedback through comments, likes and dislikes, subscribers etc, the YouTube community has the ability to sift through what peeks their individual interests.

A great example being the music aspect shared on YouTube. Seemingly every genre is represented on YouTube, where even a group with the most cult following can receive much attention and gain new listeners.  Indie bands such as the Decembrists, Death Cab for Cutie, the Shins, or whom ever else can forge their own community of listeners through this outlet as well as promote their music through their videos to increase their fan base or influence. Videos which would get far less exposure if any on major cable music channels. For better or worse even more mainstream artists such as Justin Bieber or Wiz Khalifa, received record deals and gained fan exposure through self made videos and songs uploaded to YouTube. Regardless of how you may feel about such artists, their ability to create their own brand and self promote themselves through this social medium is fascinating and impressive in itself. It has brought about limitless entrepreneurial opportunity for aspiring artists of any kind.

Besides these aspects, YouTube seems to serve as a great outlet for accessing learning tutorials, historical videos, speeches, and whatever else. It is commonplace now for teachers or professors to draw off YouTube for clips that can supplement class discussion. It is also surprisingly enough, now a venue for political debate. Through the CNN-YouTube presidential debates of 2008, candidates Barack Obama and John McCain responded to questions submitted by normal American people via YouTube. In fact, the first Democratic debate was introduced by a Portland man simply known as Chris, who challenged the candidates to actually “answer the questions” rather than “beating around the bush” (3). This a sentiment that many have likely shared on debates in the past, as many feel that questions are not always clearly answered. Perhaps through this introduction and the custom questions that followed, the debate was more personalized and open.

If we are indeed the “the recipients, as well as the authors” in most cases of technology as stated in the Media in Everyday Life article, YouTube seems to serve as a forum for all such things. Speaking of media working in conjunction with one another, and “linked and converged technologies”, YouTube seems to be that “personalized media network” (4).  Through networking amongst this mass community, it is that much easier to share experience, knowledge, and art. Of course not all content should be deemed beneficial, but it’s a much more personalized experience doing custom searches for things of personal interest, rather than channel surfing through mass media which is deemed to be beneficial to audiences largely through corporate influence.

1.         Ed. Media in Everyday Life. 224. Print.

2.         Ed. Media in Everyday Life. 225. Print.

3.         “CNN-YouTube Presidential Debates.” Wikipedia. MediaWiki, 14 June 2011. Web. 16 Oct. 2011. <;.

4.          Ed. Media in Everyday Life. 224. Print.

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