Rise of YouTube: Is Traditional Media Under Attack?

10 years and over a billion views, there’s no escaping the phenomenon known as YouTube. The site is the third most viewed website in the world after Google and Facebook with over 300 hours’ worth of content uploaded every minute. The site was bought by Google in 2006 and is now worth over $40 million. It has thus come to the point where people can kick start their careers right from it. But why is it so popular and what impact is it having on traditional TV viewing?

History of YouTube: Where did it all begin?

February 2005, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim started the website in San Bruno, California after becoming frustrated they couldn’t find footage of the 2004 tsunami and Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl the same year and thus YouTube was born.

Subsequently, the first ever video uploaded to the site was called, “Me at Zoo” featuring co-founder Jawed Karim. It is a 19 seconds clip of Karim stood in front of the camera, discussing about elephants at the zoo.

The rise and influence of YouTubers

With YouTube’s popularity and reach, comes another phenomenon known as YouTubers. They are a different version of a celebrity, one that is considered “ordinary” and “normal” but have millions of followers across all platforms and numerous brands and endorsements behind them.

One such YouTuber is PewdiePie (real name — Felix Kjellberg) he is the most popular and most subscribed YouTuber with 40 million subscribers. He made $7.4M last year alone and that revenue has surpassed this year. His videos are “Let’s Play” where he plays a range of games and does his reaction to them. With the popularity of his channel came his partnership with a range of gaming companies who also piggy backed on the success. He also does vlogs, has a book and a mobile game which became number 1 on iTunes and Andriod.

Zoe Sugg known as Zoella is another popular YouTuber. She launched her first channel in 2009 and now boasts of over 7.6 million subscribers across two channels.

She alongside another fellow YouTuber Tyler Oakley recently appeared on the cover of Seventeen magazine which shows the popularity and reach. She also released a book (Girl Online) which went to have record breaking figures and became one of the fastest selling books in 2014 and thus work starting on the second edition (Girl Online On Tour). YouTube has made her and her boyfriend (fellow YouTuber Alfie Deyes) into such stars that they have their own wax figures at Madame Tussards in London.

However, not everyone is aware or understand this new wave of celebrities that are becoming so popular now among teenagers. Here is a video explaining what a YouTube star is http://ti.me/1RWpic4 and how brands are also tapping into this revolution for their own gain.

There is an endless list of successful YouTubers from gamers, to beauty bloggers to haulers. Dan Howell (DanIsNotOnFire) and Phil Lester (AmazingPhil) have their own award winning show on BBC Radio 1 and are also released an audio book. Bethany Mota (beauty blogger) was a contestant on Dancing With The Stars, which shows they are more than YouTubers but actual celebrities.

Thus to keep up with this, TV programmes are now starting to feature YouTube stars to attract the younger demographic and to get a huge viewing figure like they did in the past pre-YouTube.


This is something no mainstream TV channel can match. There has been an significant amount of decline in TV viewing for one main reason only, people rather watch content online, with YouTube being one of the key sites and Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime among others.

Source: http://www.barb.co.uk/trendspotting/data/average-weekly-viewing?data_series[]=2005&button_submit=View+graph

The figures shown above are the average weekly viewing hours from 2005 and 2015. The drop in the viewing figures is evident as the viewing seem to vary in 2005 whereas in 2015 they drop and then very slowly rise. The reason for this decline in viewing is people now consume more content online as opposed to traditional TV viewing like they did 10 years ago.

YouTube generates a wider audience as it’s a global platform. It’s a huge marketing opportunity which TV has seen a decline in over the last ten years. All major news channels have their own YouTube channel (ABC News has more than 1.5 billion views on YouTube and 1.5 million subscribers) and they repackage the same content they show on TV to YouTube and it will gain hundreds of views instantly.

Reality shows such as X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing also post the best bits from the shows on YouTube which is shared Twitter and Facebook and can subsequently prompt people to watch the shows if they are not already doing so and to connect with the show.

Furthermore, people’s viewing habits have changed, instead of watching content on TV they rather watch it online at their own leisure as it has more diversity. They do not have to watch a certain time to watch their favourite show and can access any genre of content anywhere. This is one of the major flaws with TV viewing as schedules come into place and people do not have the same excitement to watch TV as they did in the past. Moreover, the younger generation simply does not watch TV and do not engage with it like the older generation does.

Therefore, the generation gap comes into place, as we are a digital generation we prefer watching content online as opposed to sitting in front of a TV as it feels less time consuming and is part of our everyday life. We can also easily share content we like and start a conversation just by the click of one button which makes it so much convenient than TV.

YouTube and Politicians: A new campaign

Politicians are now also using YouTube as an platform to promote their campaigns. This was the first time it had been done in British politics (Obama did it back in 2012) and it proved to be very successful especially for the Tories. The 2015 Election Debate was live-streamed on YouTube and it appeared on the top of the home page as a banner. The figures were huge and people were able to leave comments and share their political views with others.

This new technique of promoting has started a change in the way the campaigns are getting promoted and the change in the attitude of the audience now. It can have maximum amount of impact and are more likely to reach a wide number of people that might not necessarily be watching TV.

The Tories started up their own YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/webcameronuk/featured as a new strategy to connect with the audience but disabled the comments section. It proved to be very effective for them to gain more coverage as it has a huge number of subscribes. However, it was last updated seven months ago which shows the whole purpose of it was to promote the campaign and target the digital generation.

But when it comes to Politics, traditional TV will always have an impact and influence it had in the past. YouTube alongside other social networking sites are only just used as valuable sources for the politicians to make sure they get maximum coverage and are connecting with the public in a way that was not possible before the new millennium.

Source: the Conservatives YouTube channel


One would expect adverts not to be popular on YouTube because of the pre-roll five second skip-able clips shown before a video but advertising has become very popular on YouTube, more so than TV. Some brands are now using YouTubers to promote their product and to influence the followers no matter how big or small. This is because the audience is more likely to buy a product that has been used/promoted by their favourite YouTuber as opposed to an model or celebrity as it feels more authentic and less like an advert.

Furthermore, they are a marketing machine that are relatable to the younger generation and do not have that airbrushed PR frenzy that an A-Lister does. Hence, the product they have been paid to promote will be shown across all their social networking sites to garner views and often a hashtag will company it to engage with the audience.

One such advert is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5mHPo2yDG8 with 45 million views and counting. This is one of the most viewed adverts and audiences shared this advert simultaneously across Twitter and Facebook. Most people did not even care that it was an advert and it was 3 minutes long, they just enjoyed it. Furthermore, Evian have started making YouTube only adverts and John Lewis and Sainsbury have started making film like adverts as an extension to the 30 seconds that are shown on TV which have gone viral and helped promote their companies.

John Lewis’ Christmas 2012 advert became one of the most viewed adverts of that year.

But to make money, YouTubers must become a YouTube partner before they display adverts in their videos. The site itself earns over $5 billion annually in advertising revenues.

However, that does not mean traditional adverts does not still have an influence it once prided itself on. One of the most viewed adverts of all time is Evian’s “Rollerbabies.” This campaign existed before YouTube did but it gained a new life with the site as it surpassed 100 million views, something usually music videos do.

In addition, with the introduction of YouTube Red, viewers can now pay to watch videos without ads. The five-second ad that is shown before will stop on all current videos and viewers can stream music and get access additional exclusive content just for $9.99. Only time will tell how successful this new feature will be for them.

So, in order to make a successful advert on YouTube, some instructions should be followed. The infogram below shows how a YouTube ad is created and how it is simultaneous shared on the site and across other various social networking sites.

Source: http://time.com/4081657/youtube-red-ad-free/

Participatory Culture

Audiences are actively engaging in the videos they have watched by leaving comments and liking or disliking the video they have viewed. The related/suggested section that accompany the video is another reason why the site is so popular. As over 70 percent of the content shown on YouTube is user-generated content this adds another dimension as it increases the interaction as the audience will appreciate it more. Also, people are also more likely to talk more about the YouTube videos they have watched instead of TV programmes.

However, if you wanted to participate with a show on TV, you get charged for the text messages and/or the phone call whereas with YouTube you know it is free and can comment and share on the video as many times as you like without a cost.

The Future of YouTube and TV

With digital landscape progressing and changing every day, the future of both YouTube and TV comes into question. YouTube has introduced YouTube Red to rival Netflix and Hulu and YouTube Music to challenge the music industry to secure its ever growing popularity and to continue merging into the digital era.

However, as TV figures are continuing to decline and with content moving online rapidly with catch up TV and On Demand, the future of TV is still surprisingly stable as of now due to the older generation who prefer watching TV. It still has some sort of influence and impact on the audience as it did in the past and it will always play a pivotal role in mainstream media.

But maybe in the next 10 years everything will move online and there will not be a need for traditional TV anymore but as of now YouTube just adds a new life into the already existing mainstream media. TV will continue to hone into that success by posting their content on their websites and onto YouTube and try to find new ways to keep the digital audience interested in what they have to offer despite the lack of enthusiasm towards them. Therefore, both will continue to remain alongside each other as they are right now as they each have something different to offer to the audience and are a huge part of mainstream media.