What is it?
At its core, YouTube is a video-sharing site, but it is far more than just that. YouTube is a community of creators and fans ranging across a wide area of subjects. Musicians might share their music videos, comedy shows might use it to share clips, readers share their love of books, and tons of crafty people share how-to video's. And of course, there are cat videos, hundreds and hundreds of cat videos. These creators and fans often use the comments underneath the videos to interact with each other, which can result in very dedicated and close-knit communities.
What can it do for me?
While looking at cute cat videos might alleviate stress when you're stuck on a hard paragraph in your latest paper, YouTube’s use as a science communication tool is probably far more relevant to academics. Through videos uploaded to YouTube, you can open up your research to a larger audience, which allows you to promote your field of interest or gain more interest in your specific research (and perhaps more funding for it), hopefully both. A short two-minute video such as this one from Prof. Lorenza Colzato from the LIBC explaining the results of one of her articles makes it easily accessible to the lay person. And the video on the research Dr. Sietske Kleibeuker did for her PhD thesis can even be used to inform funders. Or you can show what your research and outreach has led to, such as this music video by Spinvis, based on work by Dr. Michiel de Vaan.
All the standard privacy caveats apply, but additionally, this is a Google product. This means that there will probably be some exchange of information between YouTube and any other Google products you might use, such as Gmail or Google+.
Pros & Cons
- YouTube is easy to use and it is easy to start making and uploading videos, all you need is a smartphone and internet access.
- YouTube is a free service
- With about 1.3 billion users and 5 billion video views a day, YouTube offers a huge potential audience and global reach.
- YouTube videos can be shared on Twitter and Facebook and embedded on websites.
- YouTube allows users to choose to filter their content so they won't see "potentially objectionable content". This is called restricted mode. However, the criteria for what is considered potentially objectionable are not always as clear as they should be. Recently the company got into hot water for screening videos for no other reasons than that they mentioned LGBTQ+ issues. Even though they apologised, it is an example that you can't always predict what will happen with your content.
- YouTube is also very rigorous in complying with DMCA takedown notices, so you have to be careful about music used, even if it is only playing in the background in the location where you are filming.