How to search for breaking news videos on YouTube

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“Keywords are king”

That’s one of the biggest secrets when it comes to finding breaking news content on social media platforms. Somewhere between the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, “keywords” took a backseat to “search engine optimization.” While it’s true that SEO is somewhat necessary for marketing a finished product (article or website), “keywords” are still an important element of the newsgathering operation.

FUN FACT: “Keyword” comes from the English phrase “key word,” which means “a key word.”

Over time, I’ll explain how to effectively use keywords (sometimes called “hashtags” or “tags,” depending on what you’re using) to seek out breaking news content on various platforms, including Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr and Twitter, but today, we’ll focus on finding breaking news video through YouTube.

SCENARIO: The CNN Budd Box chirps in your newsroom (or, if you work in print, you’re watching CNN). The band Sugarland is set to take the stage at the Indiana State Fair when suddenly the outdoor stage collapses because of a passing severe storm. Reports say amid the thousands of people who gathered to watch the band, some are trapped under the equipment. In this day and age of tablet computers and smartphones, you can almost bet one or two people caught the whole thing on their camera and uploaded it to YouTube.

FIRST: Based on what you know, think of some key words eyewitnesses may use. Jot them down or make a mental note of some. In this case, “stage collapse,” “sugarland,” “indiana,” “storm” and “stage” are some good keywords.

SECOND: Head to YouTube and put one or two keywords in the search box at the top:

THIRD: By default, YouTube will show you a list of related searches. You can change this at the top-right of the site underneath the search bar.

Choose “Upload date,” then start scanning for relevant videos.

FOURTH: If you find something, share it. Part of competitive journalism involves collaboration (I know, I know, sounds crazy but it’s true). In this case, I found the following video on YouTube:

…and then sent it to CNN’s Don Lemon on Twitter. After it aired, Don sent me this response:

I’m not saying “Share your video with your competition!” although in certain cases it’s definitely acceptable to do that. What I’m saying is, don’t be stingy with the video. For starters, it’s not your video: You merely helped discover what someone else posted. Second, you help develop a give-and-take relationship with your colleagues at other shops; these days, such relationships can’t hurt you, they can only help you, and though you might have to give a lot in the beginning, you’ll eventually see a return on your generosity.

But more about that philosophical thought later.

Some tips:

  • Validate: Look for things in a person’s video and profile that lends credibility to a particular piece of media. Time stamps, upload dates, geographic information in tags and on the user’s profile. It’s also worth comparing the scenery in a video to a photo already considered legit — in this case, live pictures from the fairgrounds being fed by CNN validated the appearance of the stage in the YouTube video.
  • Credit: Unless you shot the video, it’s not yours. If you use even a frame of the video, remember to credit the person’s username and not just “YouTube.com.”
  • Scoop It: If you’re incredibly lucky, it is possible to scoop your competition on a YouTube video. Fire off a message to the video’s owner and ask if they’d be willing to let you use that particular piece of video exclusively. Generally, news orgs find more success with this technique on a poorly-keyworded piece of video from an event not receiving a large amount of attention.
  • Be Incredibly Careful: Stringers are known to post breaking news video on YouTube channels with the hopes that someone will pick it up and then run it. You will be sent a bill if that’s the case.

Follow Matthew on Twitter.