Google's YouTube eyes local news outlets
Google has been busy in the news business, this time going after local news outlets with a video aggregation platform. Google-owned YouTube's project with citizen video journalists in San Francisco could serve as a template for local news outlets to aggregate video content.
But the details aren't yet clear about whether Google's latest efforts to distribute videos will be worthwhile for newspapers and local publishers. As we've noted before, Google is heavily going after the local market ― and it's a force publishers could fear and/or embrace. The news also comes the same week we learned of Google's plans for a paid content system for the news business, to launch by the end of the year.
While the latest announcement isn't official, here's what we know so far: YouTube is using San Francisco as a test site for its video project and is soliciting help from local journalists and bloggers. An e-mail chain between YouTube and a San Francisco blogger revealed that in July and August YouTube said it "is going local in San Francisco to encourage citizen videographers ― anyone with a video-capable phone or camera, really ― to help cover San Francisco's news, issues and events and we want local news sites to join us."
CNET reported that Google's project is a new iteration of the YouTube Direct platform, which launched last fall and enables news organizations to employ a network of citizen video journalists. The YouTube rep goes on to explain the gist of the initiatives:
"Google's hope is that broader use of YouTube videos could substantially boost a news organization's long-term ability to engage an audience. Amateur-produced video is perhaps the most powerful new tool of the Internet era in journalism, making the whole world a potential witness to dramas, tragedies, achievements almost anywhere. The idea behind the various YouTube projects is that the same newspapers that once commanded an audience with printed reports of local news, sports, crime, and weather could re-create their central role by becoming a clearinghouse for video reports."
Google's goals might sound nice, but the fine print, such as how news organizations can use this to monetize, hasn't been explained. CNET said that Google plans to use the San Francisco version as a showcase to attract more local news partners. While some big media sites ― such as NPR, the Huffington Post and ABC ― have implemented YouTube Direct, local news outlets haven't caught on. Perhaps Google is trying to find a way to make a citizen video platform work on a more local scale, using a more hands-on approach in hopes that publishers will adopt it. For instance, according to the e-mails, YouTube is "mobilizing 150 citizen journalists throughout the city with smartphones."
Local news publishers have been fumbling around citizen journalism to try to figure out the best way to lasso it. If Google rolls this out the right way and makes it as easy as possible to implement, it could be a huge help. Or it could just be another step toward the news business working for Google. What do you think: Are all of these Google efforts going to help or hurt local publishers?