The Young Turks – Online Video Journalism the way it should be

The Young Turks (TYT) is a new media talk show that covers news, politics, pop culture and lifestyle. It started as a talk show on Sirus Satellite Radio in the US in 2002 and then with the launch of YouTube in 2005 it soon became a successful webcast with one of the largest and most viewed channels on YouTube.

The host is Cenk Uygur, a regular contributor to MSNBC and the Huffington Post. In an interview with the Guardian last year, he told them that he wants to start a real political revolution in the US. The Young Turks itself is apart of a media revolution that Uygur hopes will replace traditional television. It has on average over 13 million viewers a month, with the majority coming from the US, Canada and the UK.

Uygur conceived TYT because he believes that eventually online TV will overtake regular programming and that American’s have a deficiency of real public service journalism. “We’re looking for journalism in all the wrong places. What’s the last story anyone on television in America broke?”

Uygur decided to turn down a $250,000 radio-only deal and TYT became the first daily streaming online talk show. It earned 30,000 viewers in its first month; by February of last year it had reached more than 200m views on YouTube. “Before if you got on CNN or ABC in America that was huge and that was the best thing, if you were a cable station it was great – they always bragged about ‘Oh, we’re in 72m homes’. Now I think, so what? YouTube is in every home.”

With just six other full-time members of staff and a monthly budget of just $45,000, the success of TYT has been quite remarkable. They make their money through sponsorship, subscriptions and YouTube revenue sharing. It has no advertising budget, the viewers provide the publicity by sharing links and clips on social networking sites. This is like word of mouth to the masses.

TYT keeps up with the US network programming by being able to book a wide variety of guests because of its ever-increasing popularity. As it has no higher up television executives telling them what to do or which guests to give an easy ride, they are able to ask what the public really wants to know. Needless to say this has upset a few people. “I heard from [US Senate majority leader] Harry Reid’s office, after his interview, that we were effectively blacklisted for future interview requests. I didn’t really shed a tear. We’re gonna be all right.”

The TYT has also been recognized by its peers for the sterling work that they do. They beat both the BBC and Rush Limbaugh, the leading talk radio host, to win Best Political Podcast 2009 at the Podcast Awards and Best Political News Site 2009 at the Mashable Awards.

According to Uygur this is just rewards for all the hard work he and his team have put it. “We worked really hard at getting all the details right. Whether it’s the tagging of the video or the thumbnail [image] … What ultimately mattered most was that we were delivering something the American media wasn’t. The American media is delivering nothing but fakeness,”

If all online video journalism could aspire to the standards of TYT then perhaps Uygur is right and traditional television may soon become obsolete.

Yianni Meleagros

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