Made to be watched

Do popular science web videos which were explicitly made for the web attract more views than formats made for TV? And, do they generate more comments and more interactions? Yes, they do. To a very high degree, for views as well as comments, according to a publication in the Journal of Science Communication.
 
For their study, Alicia de Lara González who teaches journalistic writing at the Universidad Miguel Hernández in Elche, Spain, and her coauthors have analyzed 300 videos on climate change.
 
While the team’s main goal was to establish »a classification of the main current formats of online science videos«, it yielded additional interesting results. 41% of the samples, taken in 2015, were videos produced by general media outlets like The Guardian or Associated Press. Television channels comprised 8% of the samples. Scientific institutions were responsable for ten percent of the samples, non-governmental institutions like the World Wildlife Fund for 12%. User generated content only represented 6.6% of the samples.
 
Astonishingly only 3% of videos had an »educational aim«, meaning the videos would give suggestions to actions which might contribute to slowing down climate change.
 
Equally surprising: The »majority of the videos on climate change, including those published on the Internet, whether web formats (89%) or television formats (94%), do not include scientific terminology.« This is quite alarming since use of scientific terminology is »directly related to scientific rigor«, as the paper states.
 
Since online videos shape especially young people’s perspectives on the world, in our view these results point to general deficits in science communication. First, TV formats are losing influence on what people think about a specific subject. Second, YouTube consumers do not really get in touch with the scientific background of what we know about climate change. They may not even perceive climate change as a scientific topic. So, they may also miss the message that scientific work is a way to tackle global problems.
 
And third: Videos that teach people how they can individually contribute to protecting the climate are almost missing on YouTube. This latter issue is not as surprising as one might first think: videos warning of disastrous climate developments surely attract more viewers than videos who want to keep us from eating meat, driving cars and taking the plane to the Caribbean.
 
Original source:
Alicia De Lara et al.: Online video on climate change: a comparison between television and web formats. Journal of Science Communication 16 (01), A04. Published March 28, 2017

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