YouTube is not for amateurs any more

The pioneering times of YouTube are over, also in the field of science communication. That is the baseline of a qualitative study on 190 science videos, selected by their popularity, on 95 YouTube channels. Jesús Muñoz Morcillo, a research associate at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany, and currently a Volkswagen Foundation Fellow at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, and his co­authors published their results in December 2019.

The rough summary: To be successful as a YouTuber, you should adhere to professional standards in terms of frequency of production and audiovisual quality, among others. The term »user generated content« is no longer of much use: It’s not amateurs, that make their way, but users, who adopt professional criteria.

Next insight: The field is dominated by male presenters. Women, some suspect with good reason, climb the stage less often, since there they become target of rafts of exist comments. (We reported the identical phenomen in »Mostly explainers: FastForwardScience­ Finalists 2019«).

The authors conclude, that science videos are mainstream now: »… it seems that even the production of popular science web videos is mutating into a new form of traditional mass media, with the irruption of small (or not so small) vices, and transgressions.«

Really? Aren’t there still honorable individuals, who operate successful YouTube channels, just because they are excited by science and feel the desire tocommunicate this excitement? The research paper gives the answer: »Most non ­profit channels … belong to universities, NGOs or research institutions … [in our sample] we have not even found even one individual video production which was defined as a non­profit activity.«

Individuals are becoming a minority: 72 per cent of the selected channels are run by groups of two or more people.


Morcillo, J. M. et al.: Producers of Popular Science Web Videos – Between New Professionalism and Old Gender Issues. International Journal of Marketing and New Media. Vol. 7, no. 13, 72­98, 2019.

The presented paper has also been discussed on (in German), February 18, 2020.

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