About This Study

Several people at the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism worked on the PEJ report "YouTube & the News: A New Kind of Visual Journalism." Deputy Director Amy Mitchell and Senior Researcher Paul Hitlin wrote the report. Researcher Sovini Tan collected and coded the content. Monica Anderson built the graphics. Dana Page handles the communications for the project. Tom Rosenstiel was the editor.


The data for this report were initially collected as part of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism’s ongoing New Media Index reports. That was supplemented with data supplied upon request by YouTube.

To track the audience for videos in real time, PEJ researchers monitored the most popular news videos on YouTube weekly, which became the basis for this expanded study. Each Friday at noon EST, a PEJ staff member captured the list of most viewed videos over the previous week on YouTube’s "news and politics" list. These videos were categorized as such on the YouTube site by those posting the videos. PEJ determined the top five most viewed videos of the week as listed on YouTube’s page at the time of capture. This list of the five most viewed videos allowed researchers to identify the audience for news as it was breaking and also to compare that with the cumulative audience for videos over 15 months.

The sample for this study was made up of videos appearing on the most viewed list from January 1, 2011, through March 30, 2012.

PEJ originally captured 295 news videos during this 15-month period. However, when going back to conduct the additional analysis for this study 35 videos had been  removed from the site for various reasons including copy right and accounts being shut down. Therefore, the universe for this analysis is 260 videos.

The percentages of videos throughout the report refer to the percent of videos that appeared among those 206 top five videos in any given week.

A detailed methodology for the New Media Index in its entirety is located here.

Coding Team & Variables

A team of two of PEJ’s experienced researchers worked to complete the coding for this study.

In addition to housekeeping variables (such as date, length and source), each story was coded for the following complex variables:

Big Story tracks the narrative storylines that were frequently covered throughout the sample period
Lead Newsmaker refers to the person who is the central focus of at least 50% of the story

Geographic Focus captures the geographic area to which the topic is relevant

Topic captures the general subject matter of the story
Qualities of Engagement captures the primary appeal of the video that draws a viewer to a particular video

Format captures whether a video was an edited collection of footage or raw video without editing

Three of these variables (big story, lead newsmaker and geographic focus) have been used as part of PEJ’s ongoing coding for the News Coverage Index. PEJ conducts regular intercoder testing of these variables, and the results of agreement for each are at acceptable levels of 84% or higher. (A detailed explanation of PEJ’s regular intercoder testing process can be found here.)

Additional intercoder testing was conducted for the three additional complex variables (topic, qualities of engagement and format). Each coder was given the same 28 randomly selected videos to make up the intercoder sample. The rates of agreement were as follows:

Topic: 96%

Qualities of Engagement: 93%

Format: 96%