Is 'SourceFed' The Future of News?
Some of you may know that I’m a long-time follower of Philip DeFranco, one of the biggest content producers on YouTube. His Philip DeFranco Show has more than 2 million subscribers and the news-based videos he posts attract millions of hits every week.
Back in January, DeFranco launched a brand-new channel to spin off from his popular news-and-entertainment show. DeFranco called the channel SourceFed, and hired a crew of new hosts to head up a daily series of short videos about popular topics on the web and elsewhere. Six weeks after its launch, SourceFed has collected more than 300,000 subscribers, and judging from its rising popularity, it’s already setting the example for how news is shared online.
Some of the popularity is due to many of the early fans of SourceFed being DeFranco followers. They like how DeFranco’s quick-fire, opinionated style bleeds over into the 4-5 daily videos on SourceFed, and how the channel focuses on making news and current events relatable for viewers who don’t get their news anywhere else.
As for the new viewers attracted to SourceFed, why does the model work? Consider the flagship show on SourceFed, the snappy 20 Minutes or Less. As the name implies, it breaks down the biggest stories in entertainment, current events and gossip into videos that add up to no more than 20 minutes of content. Viewers can pick and choose which stories interest them, and there’s a sense that viewers have more control over what they consume compared to a traditional news site.
The hosts of 20 Minutes or Less are an engaging trio made up of Lee Newton, Joe Bereta and Elliott Morgan. All three provide their personal spin on stories, and it’s easy to see how viewers would feel drawn to the personalities DeFranco chose to head up his news channel. Lee is a quirky geek girl, Joe is a fun-loving athletic guy, and Elliott is the sensitive nerdy one. If this weren’t a YouTube channel, it would be a sunny sitcom.
The news stories on SourceFed are light and digestible. They don’t go into lots of depth, but encourage viewers to follow links to the longer news stories that inspired the videos. As far as I’m aware, SourceFed doesn't do their own reporting; tracking down sources, conducting interviews and breaking stories is a bit beyond their scope. Like a lot of news aggregate sites, SourceFed is really another filter to help web audiences sift through the reams of content produced in a given day on the Internet.
So what distinguishes SourceFed from the hundreds, if not thousands, of similar news outlets? It’s because SourceFed is growing fast, and something about its conversational style seems perfectly tuned for the social media generation. Unlike a missive from an accomplished Associated Press reporter, SourceFed has the necessary street cred for people to share with their friends and followers.
The videos are short and to the point. Whoever writes the copy for the hosts has found a way to blend jokes and hard facts into fun little stories. And with three hosts (and occasional guest appearances from other YouTube personalities), few can accuse SourceFed of having the "guy with a camera" slant that turns certain viewers off DeFranco's original videos.
If viewers get tired of the news-on-the-go in 20 Minutes or Less, the channel also includes a few more shows. There's a one-on-one interview series with Lee Newton and a man-on-the-street game show featuring DeFranco, Inc. crewmember Kevin Brueck. If I'm not mistaken, DeFranco and his employees have set up their own little network under our noses.
As a journalism student, there’s something disquieting about that. Sure, I can always tell myself that 20 Minutes or Less wouldn’t exist without the work of real journalists who find the stories first. But that would be too easy. In a way, SourceFed should be congratulated for catering to the popular taste in news and repackaging content in a better presentation.
If there’s a whole generation who only get their news from YouTube channels like SourceFed, it’s the channel that’s getting the recognition for delivering the story, not the reporters responsible for the original journalism. That means journalists better take notice of SourceFed and YouTube channels like it, because unless we can make our work resonate with viewers the way SourceFed does, we might as well pack up our gear and choose another profession.
Are you a SourceFed viewer? Do you feel informed after watching the handful of videos they post each day as part of 20 Minutes or Less? Are YouTube channels like this leading the way for tomorrow’s “journalism”, even if it piggybacks on other reporters’ work? Sound off in the comments section. If you liked this article, check out some of my other Internet-related posts, including my recurring YouTuber Spotlight column:
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