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Why Online Video Sharing is a Social Media


eMarketer reports that a few short years ago, the term "online video" had a different meaning. Clips were downloaded very slowly, and had to be viewed in tiny windows. Sound and graphics were primitive. Clearly, it wasn't a popular media.

But, then came YouTube in the U.S., Dailymotion in Europe and Tudou in China -- video-sharing sites that all had three basic elements in common:

Flash Player technology that enabled instant viewing in the browser, without downloading. Upload capability that made file-sharing with friends, as well as viewers around the world, quick and easy. Embedding code that allowed users to post video clips on their Web pages and blogs.

Suddenly video was an open, consumer-driven platform, with virtually no cost of entry. As a result, online video moved from niche to mainstream, and in the process became one of the fastest-growing media platforms in history.

According to The Global Web Index from Trendstream, with research conducted by Lightspeed Research, early this year 72 percent of U.S. Internet users watched video clips monthly -- making video bigger than blogging or social networking.

According to the survey, 62 percent of U.S. Internet users watched at least one clip a week, a figure that Lightspeed analysts translated into 97 million weekly viewers. By contrast, Nielsen Online pegged the number of U.S. online video viewers in April at nearly 117 million.

That scale of usage would mean online video in the U.S. is now as pervasive as network television.

The age of online video viewers trends younger: 82 percent of teens (16-to-17-year-olds) and young adults (18 to 24) streamed video, compared with 73 percent of Generation X (25 to 34) and 65 percent of older boomers (55 to 64) who said they watched.

Online video-sharing was less common, with only 46 percent of users participating. While teen, young adult and Gen X sharing percentages hovered around 50 percent, the older the Internet users, the less likely they were to send links to videos.

One-half of all respondents shared videos via e-mail to friends and family. Twenty-three percent sent video out to friends on social networks, 21 percent by instant messenger and 14 percent to their friends on video-sharing sites such as YouTube and Hulu.

The most widely used platform for discovering and viewing video online was YouTube, followed by e-mail, music sites, Yahoo! and news sites. Sharing appears to happen mainly among close friends, as 72 percent of video-sharers sent to just one, two or three people. Video sharing is clearly becoming the ultimate social media.

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