YouTube: a shaper of professional TV?

Author:Benigni, Glauco
Position::Social Networks

According to newspaper reports, YouTube--the world's largest online video community with content made by professionals and amateurs alike from every corner of the planet--has reached up to 350 million members. The user-generated content site began three years ago as a social network that provided Web-surfers with a new service: the opportunity to upload, watch and share video clips on a seemingly boundless database. Then, on October 9, 2006, Google Inc. announced it would acquire YouTube for $165 billion in a stock-for-stock transaction. The acquisition was the beginning of yet another era for YouTube. From that point on, the so-called "traditional media paradigm" changed from a threat to a reality and the future of video clip culture began. The "culture," or rather, "lifestyle," of the new "X," "Y" and "Z" generations could be easily shaped by 100,000 videos uploaded daily and watched anytime, anywhere. And those 100,000 videos, in a way, represent the "new world order" for viewers and television professionals alike.

That's why I chose to document the story of this phenomenon in a book called: YauTube: La Storia (The History). The book, in Italian, is published by RaiEri, a division of state broadcaster RAI. YouTube is not just a technical tool. It is also the most mature example of globalization--a phenomenon with financial, social, aesthetic, cultural, political and religious repercussions worldwide.

Thanks to user-generated content, YouTube is modifying traditional mass-media outlets, and sometimes even replacing them. It is changing advertising practices and generating conflicts between old media and new, digital-era media. It is influencing electoral campaigns even in long-standing democracies, and putting authoritarian regimes into a tizzy. And it is discovering new talents in all areas of human endeavours and rendering--for better or for worse--repressed collective emotions visible.

YouTube is also reformatting today's debates on subjects of great importance, including war and the environment. YouTube has taken the first real global picture of people intent on filming themselves and on showing everything (whether it be profound or insipid) to everybody.

It is still unclear whether YouTube is making or will make a profit, or whether it will turn its part of the Web into a new Hollywood. Meanwhile, it is being used extensively, even by Senator Barack Obama's camp and by the U.S. Defense Department, which allows the uploading of video...

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