How YouTube revolutionized the way we access entertainment

There can be no underestimating the impact of YouTube on the entertainment industry. Both private individuals and large production companies have used YouTube to grow audiences. Independent content creators have built grassroots followings numbering in the thousands at very little cost or effort, while mass retail and radio promotion proved problematic.

Concurrently, old media celebrities moved into the website at the invitation of a YouTube management that witnessed early content creators accruing substantial followings, and perceived audience sizes potentially larger than that attainable by television.

While YouTube’s revenue-sharing “Partner Program” made it possible to earn a substantial living as a video producer—its top five hundred partners each earning more than $100,000 annually and its ten highest-earning channels grossing from $2.5 million to $12 million—in 2012 CMU business editor characterized YouTube as “a free-to-use… promotional platform for the music labels”.

In 2013 Forbes’ Katheryn Thayer asserted that digital-era artists’ work must not only be of high quality, but must elicit reactions on the YouTube platform and social media. Videos of the 2.5% of artists categorized as “mega”, “mainstream” and “mid-sized” received 90.3% of the relevant views on YouTube and Vevo in that year. By early 2013 Billboard had announced that it was factoring YouTube streaming data into calculation of the Billboard Hot 100 and related genre charts.

Observing that face-to-face communication of the type that online videos convey has been “fine-tuned by millions of years of evolution”, TED curator Chris Anderson referred to several YouTube contributors and asserted that “what Gutenberg did for writing, online video can now do for face-to-face communication”. Anderson asserted that it’s not far-fetched to say that online video will dramatically accelerate scientific advance, and that video contributors may be about to launch “the biggest learning cycle in human history.”

In education, for example, the Khan Academy grew from YouTube video tutoring sessions for founder Salman Khan’s cousin into what Forbes’ Michael Noer called “the largest school in the world”, with technology poised to disrupt how people learn. YouTube was awarded a 2008 George Foster Peabody Award, the website being described as a Speakers’ Corner that “both embodies and promotes democracy.”