YouTube has undoubtedly been the unmitigated internet success stories of the past decade; to the extent that many industry experts are predicting it might even overtake traditional television as the primary platform from which we consume the lion’s share of our entertainment, education and information. In fact, amongst 18-24 year olds its estimated that is already the case, with the average young adult American estimated to spend approximately 46 minutes a day watching YouTube and only 9 minutes a day watching television!
Taken out of context these figures are of course rather incendiary, but the fact is that television is going nowhere (not yet anyway), in fact the two mediums actually complement each other very well and are generally used for completely different experiences. The reason YouTube is so popular amongst younger viewers is simply because young people have shorter attention spans, attention spans that are perfectly catered for by the quick clips offered by YouTube.
Here we’ll be examining exactly how YouTube and Television offer different experiences that each deserve a place in your living room.
Though it was only started in 2005 (and didn’t gain mainstream traction until a year later when Google bought it out), YouTube has quickly become a cornerstone of our shared popular culture. Think about the entire zeitgeist defining videos which would never have found an audience without it? Granted without YouTube we might have been spared the horrors of Justin Bieber, but we also would never have learned how to dance ‘Gangnam Style’, Rick Astley would be nothing but a forgotten one-hit wonder and the ‘Dramatic Chipmunk’… well… how could any of us ever have lived without it?
It’s easy to dismiss YouTube as a time sink. A portal through which to waste away office hours or to distract us, all too fleetingly from our own frustrating, complicated existences. But YouTube has done far more for good than it has bad. For example, YouTube is a perfect platform for amateur filmmakers to ply their wares, get their work out there without funding and gain an audience without having to go through the indignity of rejection. This could potentially lead to a career in filmmaking. As long as a video falls within their guidelines, YouTube will accept absolutely anything into its system and its the users themselves who decide whether a clip is a ‘hit’ or not. This means it is a far more democratic platform than traditional TV, which relies primarily on advertisers and government funding (in the case of the BBC). This means that YouTube is full of videos that you would never see on television (unless you’re watching ‘RudeTube’ of course) and the sheer selection on offer means that all manner of oddly specific ‘niches’ are catered for.
The rise in popularity of mobile devices also happened perfectly in parallel with the rise of YouTube and mobile video sharing in general, meaning that all modern mobile devices now function as potential gateways into the wealth of entertainment that YouTube has to offer. Users can even use a YouTube downloader to ‘rip’ their favourite YouTube clips to their phones, tablets, games consoles or set-top boxes and watch a YouTube clip ‘on the big screen’. Conversely, many modern digital TV boxes (Virgin Media, Sky+ etc.) include YouTube ‘apps’ that allow users to watch their favourite YouTube clips from the comfort of their living room sofas.
Television has been the glue that’s held families together for decades and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere just yet.
The turn of the century saw the introduction of ‘DVR’ boxes and mainstream digital television, with the entirety of the UK’s analogue service switching off for good a few years ago. Digital TV might not have the sheer flexibility and selection of YouTube but if you believe in the “quality over quantity” adage, the more amateur offerings found on YouTube would never make their way on to network television. There’s also the undeniable fact that television is so much easier to operate for the computer illiterate than YouTube, which (especially in its ‘app based’ iterations) is still finding its feet in terms of its interface.
Statistics reveal (and are backed up in the info graphic below) that the most viewed television channel in the United States (CBS) has more than double the viewership of the most viewed channel on YouTube. Obviously these figures don’t tell the whole story because many YouTube viewers are completely unaware of the fact there even are ‘channels’, but it does show that traditional TV still draws in an audience, despite what the naysayers may say.
Whether or not the popularity of traditional television is on the wane is a debate that will continue to rage long into the 21st Century but for now, there’s enough evidence to suggest that TV and YouTube can coexist comfortably.
Clint Hazard uses his Television to watch YouTube and his computer to watch television. He likes to think he’s something of a trend setter.