Analysis Culture YouTube — Jean Burgess, 29 September 2010
Popular Uses of YouTube in Italy and Australia: Part 1

I’m writing this from the University of Urbino, where I am spending a week as an academic visitor, leading up to a one-day mini-conference on research methods on Thursday, which I’ll blog about in a few days’ time.

Since I’m here, I thought it might be useful to do a quick comparative study of the popular uses of YouTube, looking at Italy and Australia, – Australia because obviously that’s the focus of our current project; and Italy because, well, I’m here and have access to local knowledge, and I think there could be some interesting similarities and differences. Also, Axel and I are gearing up for the ECREA pre-conference ‘Doing Global Media Studies’ in a few weeks’ time – while we’ll be discussing the blog and twitter mapping we’ve been doing, the issues of working within and across ‘national containers’ is currently at the front of my mind.

I am going to post these preliminary research notes on YouTube in Italy and Australia in two parts:

1. A look at the 20 most viewed videos of all time, comparing the Australian and Italian versions (that’s this post)
2. A look at the 20 most subscribed channels in the same locations (that’s the next post).

I was originally going to include the ‘Worldwide (All)’ charts as a baseline, but for the time being I’ve decided not to, simply because I’m unsure exactly what the data would correspond to in geographic terms. To put it simply, we know that YouTube ‘Worldwide’ includes the USA, but not if it *excludes* countries where there are localised versions of the website available (or more accurately, sneakily mandated through the default settings). Scroll down to the bottom for a more detailed discussion of this somewhat confusing issue.

Anyway, here are the lists – corrections to the notes are most welcome.

[table id=4 /]

I did this because I wanted to find out:

1. If there are sufficiently interesting or intriguing similarities and differences to make it worthwhile to do some serious research in this area; and
2. how well some of the basic categories Joshua Green and I used in our earlier study of YouTube hold up in comparative work, three years later!

As I said above, these are just research notes, not a proper analysis, but here are some quick observations:

1. First of all, it seems that cute kids, animals being animals, showing off and failing at things are deeply shared interests in both the Italian and the Australian YouTube audience. The YouTubeness of YouTube is alive and well. So that’s that out of the way. :)

2. I suspect that the different copyright licensing arrangements YouTube has negotiated in different countries are causing the ‘unavailable’ messages for some of the most popular Australian user-uploaded music videos, when trying to view them from Italy, and perhaps even vice versa? I won’t know until I get back to Australia, unless anyone wants to check for me in the meantime, or has any information on this issue

3. (At least) four out of the twenty most viewed videos in the Australian list were made by well-known Australian YouTubers; but none as far as I know in the Italian list.

4. On the copyright issue, which seems to come up around music most of all, it seems that there might be slightly more tolerance for fan-made music videos in the Italian context? Again, this needs looking into much more – the Ronaldo fan-video certainly got the Silent YouTube treatment, which is in my opinion unnecessarily harsh.

5. In general, clips from television seem more popular in Italy than in Australia; while as I said vloggers don’t have much of a presence in the Italian charts (at least not at this very crude level) – but to think about if that’s true and what it might mean, we’d need to look at much more data, different kinds of popularity, and different time frames.

That’s enough for now. When I look at the most-subscribed channels across the two countries tomorrow, I think some of the patterns I think I’m perceiving in this first bit of data will start to make more sense.

A further word on the ‘local’ and ‘global’ versions of the YouTube website and popularity charts: back in 2006 before YouTube brought in ‘localisation’ (which really means geographic filtering), it made sense to think of the website as global. But as localisation has been applied to more and more countries, these days most users will only ever experience the version of the website customised for the location of their IP address – unless they are very good detectives and can find the localisation options hidden at the very bottom of the screen. So the ‘worldwide’ version of YouTube is probably misnamed – but it wouldn’t be quite right to just assume it really means the USA, either. I think it would be fair to assume it covers the USA and all countries not in the list of localisation options. For completeness, as of now that list is as follows:

Czech Republic
Hong Kong
South Korea
New Zealand
South Africa

No China or Turkey for obvious reasons (YouTube’s blocked or banned in both places) – but also no Norway or Portugal, and so on. If anyone has better knowledge about this issue – for example, what version of YouTube you get in countries not on the list; or what the ‘Worldwide’ charts are actually based on – I’d love some pointers!

Feature image by imjustcreative.

About the Author

Jean Burgess is a Professor of Digital Media and Director of the Digital Media Research Centre (DMRC) at Queensland University of Technology. She is @jeanburgess on Twitter.

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