Five Years Later, The YouTube Phenomenon As YouTube celebrates its five-year anniversary, Robert Siegel talks to Alex Pham, technology journalist for the Los Angeles Times, about its effect on the online world.
NPR logo

Five Years Later, The YouTube Phenomenon

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/126891009/126890131" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Five Years Later, The YouTube Phenomenon

Five Years Later, The YouTube Phenomenon

Five Years Later, The YouTube Phenomenon

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/126891009/126890131" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

As YouTube celebrates its five-year anniversary, Robert Siegel talks to Alex Pham, technology journalist for the Los Angeles Times, about its effect on the online world.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel with one of those time machine moments on All Tech Considered.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: Think back many years ago. Imagine we are in the primeval past, 2005. In that dark age we still inhabited a world without YouTube.

(Soundbite of YouTube video)

(Soundbite of song, "Bad Romance")

LADY GAGA (Musician): (Singing) Rah, rah, ah, ah, ah, roma, roma, ma, rah, rah, oh, la, la.

SIEGEL: On its fifth birthday today, YouTube attracts two billion views a day. And what do people view? Well, this is from the single most viewed YouTube video ever, more than 206 million people have watched Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance."

In second place, only 15 million or so views behind, an English toddler named Harry sticks a finger in his baby brother's mouth.

(Soundbite of YouTube video)

(Soundbite of yelling)

HARRY: Charlie, that really hurt.

SIEGEL: Over the past five years, YouTube videos have shown us how cool a presidential candidate can be.

(Soundbite of YouTube video)

President BARACK OBAMA: Yes, we can.

SIEGEL: How uncool a U.S. senator can be.

(Soundbite of YouTube video)

Senator GEORGE ALLEN (Republican, Virginia): This fella here over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is.

SIEGEL: How a baby panda sneezes.

(Soundbite of YouTube video)

(Soundbite of sneeze)

SIEGEL: And how a cat plays keyboard, sort of.

(Soundbite of YouTube video)

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: Well, joining me now to talk about the YouTube phenomenon on its fifth birthday is Alex Pham. She's a technology reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Welcome to the program, Alex.

Ms. ALEX PHAM (Technology Reporter, Los Angeles Times): Hi, Robert.

SIEGEL: And how would you assess the cultural impact of YouTube these five years?

Ms. PHAM: I think it's had three major impacts. The first is that it's democratized and made video social, so now anyone can upload and share video. The second is that it's changed our notion of what's acceptable and what's watchable. Before it was a the shortest was a 30-minute TV segment. Now 30 seconds is totally acceptable.

And the third way it's changed us is that it's altered the way major media companies in Hollywood has created and disseminated video. It's really turned the business upside down.

SIEGEL: With two billion views a day, it's a massive media phenomenon, is it a profitable media phenomenon?

Ms. PHAM: Well, that's something we don't really know for sure. Google purchased YouTube and it's folded into Google's earnings and they have not said whether or not YouTube has been profitable or not.

SIEGEL: YouTube was the brainchild of three former PayPal employees who wanted an easier way for people to upload and share their videos. Now, of course, they are a Google subsidiary. What is next, or do you think is next?

Ms. PHAM: Well, YouTube actually wants to be more like the boob tube. One metric in which YouTube falls short with television is the fact that most people watch YouTube on average of 15 minutes a day, whereas they keep the television on for five hours of the day. Obviously that's a huge gap. And it's a gap that YouTube really wants to close.

SIEGEL: But then again, how long does it take for a baby panda to sneeze?

(Soundbite of YouTube video)

(Soundbite of sneeze)

Ms. PHAM: Exactly so. YouTube has employed several different methods for trying to keep people around longer. The first is because it's a technology company, it's trying to use technology to keep people around longer. It's doing so by deploying a recommendation engine. The same thing that you get when you go on Amazon and it says because you purchased this, you might want to try that.

SIEGEL: It's going to say, 25,000 people you know have already viewed this video, maybe you'd like to watch it too?

Ms. PHAM: It could say that. It could say that you came here to watch this video on a panda. Perhaps you'd like to watch another cute video of otters holding hands? They're related.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: It's irresistible.

Ms. PHAM: Aw, shucks.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Alex.

Ms. PHAM: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Alex Pham is a technology reporter for the Los Angeles Times and she joined us from their studios.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.