Analysis Model for YouTube Channels: Application to Digital Native Media
Modelo de análisis para canales de YouTube: aplicación a medios nativos digitales

José Sixto-García*
Ana Isabel Rodríguez-Vázquez1
Xosé Soengas-Pérez1

1University of Santiago de Compostela. Spain.

*Author for correspondence.

Introduction: The participation in YouTube of an international sample of reference digital native media is analyzed based on a model proposed by the authors. Methodology: The evaluation takes into account the variables that characterize the journalistic models of content production and distribution in current convergent scenarios, such as the implementation of cross-promotion strategies, the use of transmedia narratives or the empowerment of user communities or specific spaces for co-creation. Results and Conclusions: The results diagnose a work system based on productive routines focused on crossmedia. On the one hand, the strengths that YouTube offers for the media are evident, but, on the other hand, we found significant deficiencies that directly impact on the levels of engagement and in a decrease in web traffic, the number of subscribers to the channels and the number of views of the videos.

Keywords: Youtube, digital native media, channels, analysis model, engagement, cross-promotion, crossmedia.

Introducción y metodología: Se investiga la participación en YouTube de una muestra internacional de periódicos nativos digitales de referencia a partir de un modelo de análisis propuesto por los autores. Discusión: La evaluación tiene en cuenta las variables que caracterizan los modelos periodísticos de producción y distribución de contenidos en los escenarios convergentes actuales tales como la implementación de estrategias de cross-promotion, el empleo de narrativas transmedia o la habilitación de comunidades de usuarios o de espacios específicos para la cocreación. Resultados y conclusiones: Los resultados diagnostican un sistema de trabajo fundamentado en rutinas productivas basadas en la difusión multiplatorma y crossmedia donde, por una parte, se evidencian las fortalezas que YouTube ofrece para los medios de comunicación y, por otra, se destapan carencias significativas que repercuten directamente en los niveles de engagement con los públicos y en una disminución del tráfico web, de la cantidad de suscriptores de los canales y del número de visualizaciones de los vídeos.

Palabras clave: YouTube, medios nativos digitales, canales, modelo de análisis, engagement, cross-promotion, crossmedia.

1 Introduction. 2. Objectives. 3. Methodology. 4. Results. 5. Conclusions. 6. References.

José Sixto-García. University of Santiago de Compostela. Spain. 
Ana Isabel Rodríguez-Vázquez. University of Santiago de Compostela. Spain.
Xosé Soengas-Pérez. University of Santiago de Compostela. Spain. 

Received:  03/06/2020.
Accepted: 04/01/2021.
Published:  25/03/2021.

This article has been prepared within the framework of the project Native digital cybermedia in Spain: narrative formats and mobile strategy (RTI2018-093346-B-C33), of the Ministry of Science, Innovation, and Universities, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

How to cite this article
Sixto-García, J., Rodríguez-Vázquez, A. I. y Soengas-Pérez, X. (2021). Analysis Model for YouTube Channels: Application to Digital Native Media. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 79, 1-16.

Translation by Paula González (Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, Venezuela).

1. Introduction

Since about a decade ago, social networks have become a necessary and essential element in the management of organizational communication (Sánchez, 2010).  Since the publication of the first video, 'Meet at the zoo' in 2005, YouTube has been incorporating more and more features of a social network, although there was a debate, now over, about whether or not it was a social network. YouTube was considered a video-sharing service (Lange, 2007), a media for the distribution of user-generated content (Zink et al., 2008), a social network (Haridakis & Hanson, 2009), a content community (Smith, Fischer, & Yongjan, 2012), and a participatory environment (Burgess & Green, 2013). To this day, YouTube can be considered a social network, although it has unique characteristics compared to the others both in the product it offers (only video) and in the way of consuming it (the user already anticipates the product they will find) and in the way to access it (no registration or profile configuration is required to access the contents) (Sixto, 2018). 
Waters and Jones (2011) explained the rise and success of video in communication management by understanding that they provide the user with the three Vs of communication (verbal, vocal, and visual), so the level of impact increases by several communicative fronts and the brand is humanized. Several previous studies confirm the use of YouTube in business management strategies. Thus, for example, an analysis carried out in the Eurozone showed that 44% of companies used this social network (Bonsón, Bednarova, & Escobar-Rodríguez, 2014), another that 16 of the 20 best reputable Spanish companies according to Merco had a channel (Costa-Sánchez, 2014), or another that places YouTube as the third most used social network by Portuguese superbrands (Costa-Sánchez, 2016). However, it is always the role and responsibility of the community manager to decide and assess (Battaglini, 2015; Hernández, Silva, & Rivera, 2013) if the organization is capable of nourishing and maintaining the YouTube channel (Hoyos & Lasso de la Vega, 2017) since absence is preferable to an outdated or poorly managed presence.
In the review of the academic literature, we have also found research that demonstrates the application of YouTube in diverse sectors and fields such as politics (Berrocal, Campos, & Redondo, 2012; Berrocal, Martín, & Gil, 2017; Gil, 2019; Gómez & López, 2016), fashion (Díez, 2017), social activism (García, 2013), motherhood (Curbelo, 2015), or language learning (Asensio, 2018). Artero (2010) confirmed that YouTube has a high summons power for users, while Shay and Van Der (2019) measured the value of audience responses to social media posts initiated by companies and concluded that they have a positive relationship with brand values, although they clarify that publishing content in excess can have an adverse effect on said values and consequently reduce the cumulative reach of an organization.
Regarding the specific field of the media, Cobo and Pardo (2007) found that it was from the transformations that appeared as a result of the consolidation of the web 2.0, and therefore of the media and social networks, when the traditional media were forced to rebuild their architecture and offer more digital resources. Carbajal (2008) analyzed the impact of YouTube on the websites of Spanish television channels and Ruivo and Gómes-Franco (2019) synthesized how the EFE agency reinforces its brand image through a channel aimed at the final audience, an alternative for which Televisión Española also bet to disseminate the historical archive (Desiderata, 2019).
As audiences have been fragmented and have become social due to the interactivity they practice on networks, in parallel to the consumption they carry out traditionally (Deltetll, 2014), the media have also been forced to adapt their digital discourse to these new models of behavior and consumption habits (Bazanini et al., 2015). The use of social networks favors the transition of journalism from a single-channel activity to a multi-channel system so that both companies and journalists must operate simultaneously on several channels in all phases of news production and distribution (Neuberger, Nuernbergk, & Langenohl, 2018).
This multichannel and multiplatform distribution that the media began to experience, caused in turn by the multiscreen reception to which the public became accustomed, must be part of the convergence processes that affected the media since the late 1990s and had a direct impact on companies, technologies, professionals, and audiences, and in each of the phases of production, distribution, and consumption of content. Therefore, journalistic convergence should be understood as a process of integration of traditionally separated communication modes that affects business strategies, technological changes, the preparation and distribution of multiplatform content, the professional profile of journalists, and the ways of accessing content (Salaverría, García Avilés, & Masip, 2010).
In this convergent context, the media began to implement specific narrative strategies to adapt the distribution of content to the needs of the audiences and exploit the potential offered by technology, among which we highlight cross-media practices and, more recently, proposals for the co-creation of contents. In the first case, it is about integrating different channels, supports, or media to launch a common message, but adapted to the specific languages of each platform, in such a way that this integration of content from crossed or convergent media provides complementary information to the public. (Ma, Tanaka, & Nadamoto, 2006) that incite the user to navigate from one space to another and whose existence can be publicized through cross-promotion mechanisms (Copple, 2012). In the case of co-creation processes, the involvement of users is much greater by allowing them to co-construct their own unique experiences for each of them thanks to the enabling of participatory spaces (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2004) that involve a modification of the original storyboard and storytelling. But also, technology, social networks, and movements such as gamification, social TV, or the generalization of the use of the second screen have contributed to enriching the discourse and facilitating the construction of transmedia narratives (Rivera, 2012) that involve the division of the stories and, therefore, the requirement for the user to visit various spaces to get a comprehensive perspective of the story.
If to all this is added that audiovisual resources increase the credibility and trust of brands because they allow corroborating the facts (Wardle & Derakhshan, 2017), and that other previous researches have confirmed the preference of audiences for audiovisual content (Blanco & Palomo, 2019), we wonder if the most recent media, such as cybermedia, created on and for the Internet, were conceived from a convergent perspective and supported by social networks for the distribution of content. Specifically, it is intended to observe if they resort to YouTube with the aim of audiovisual enrichment of the textual discourse favoring the verification of the facts. Let us also remember that the social network increased its commitment to quality journalism in 2018 by promoting reference information sources and recommending this type of content to avoid misinformation (Lapowsky, 2018).

2. Objectives

The 2020 Digital Report published by We Are Social in collaboration with Hootsuite indicates that the number of users of social networks in the world has already exceeded the 3.8 billion mark and that YouTube is consolidated as the second most used social network on the planet with 2,000 million users, second only to Facebook, with an audience of 2.449 million people. The data support and justify the need to use YouTube in the journalistic discourse, but we began the research with the hypothesis that few media outlets continuously broadcast news on YouTube. This practice, on the other hand, is frequent on Facebook, where newspaper pages are characterized by a constant and permanent publication of current content.
The main objective of this research is to analyze the corporate presence of digital native media on YouTube. The exam is based on the parameters established in the following secondary objectives:

  1. Quantify the number of subscribers, videos, and views of each channel.
  2. Identify the frequencies of publication in the channel and the communities, if any.
  3. Recognize cross-promotion strategies whose existence can be publicized through mechanisms that encourage the user to navigate from one space to another (Copple, 2012), that is, between the web, social networks, and external spaces.
  4. Register content dissemination models through cross-media and transmedia narratives.
  5. Check the exploitation of YouTube's resources to improve engagement with users.

3. Methodology

The selection of the sample is carried out with an international perspective; one Spanish media outlet, seven European ones, and another American one are chosen (see Table 1), all of them reference digital natives in the world context and their respective countries because of the force with which they entered the digital scene. Besides, all the media make up the sample of the project Native digital cybermedia in Spain: narrative formats and mobile strategy (RTI2018-093346-B-C33), of the Ministry of Science, Innovation, and Universities, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which funds this research.

Table 1. Sample of analyzed media.

Source: self-made.

The selection, therefore, responds to a non-probabilistic sample that is used in scenarios where the population is variable and small, so it is pertinent (Igartua, 2006) to select characteristic cases of that universe (López-Roldán & Fachelli, 2015; Otzen and Manterola, 2017). The presence of these media is also verified in the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2019 and, although the results (see Table 2) show that three of these digital natives are already among the media with the highest weekly percentage of searches and use (% weekly use), we believe that YouTube can help the set of media to improve their position in the respective national contexts where the presence of traditional or matrix media predominates.

Table 2. Presence of digital natives in Digital News Report (2019).


For the analysis of the presences, a card was designed composed of nine evaluation items that respond to the proposed research objectives (see Table 3) and that was applied to the last year (from May 2019 to May 2020). The research combined methodological techniques of a quantitative nature (frequencies of publication or number of subscribers) with others of a qualitative nature (content analysis or direct observation from the user’s perspective). Each item was assigned the different implementation variables and each one of them a score based on the level of achievement. For the establishment of scores, we take the Likert scale model (Wigley, 2013) as a reference, in the sense that scales are established where the highest score is reserved for excellence and the lowest for situations that can be improved. 
Each item is valued up to 1 point. All the variables are applied exclusively from each other, except in the case of the possibilities or resources of diffusion, where the use of podcasts adds up to 0.25 points, but it is not included in the previous variables, not because of its uniqueness, but because it is a format that is not common on YouTube and, therefore, not required. Obtaining the maximum score in all items adds 12 points (12.25 points if podcasts are taken into account).

Table 3. YouTube channel analysis model.


4. Results

All the digital native media analyzed have had their own YouTube channel for at least five years (see Table 4). The number of followers is significantly different between some channels and others, but a direct relationship is found between the number of videos uploaded and the number of followers so that those channels with the most followers (, Observador, and The Texas Tribune) are also the ones that offer the most content to the community, which also has an impact on the number of views that these channels reach.

Table 4. Subscribers, videos, views, and channel registration date.

Source: YouTube (27/05/2020).

In achieving engagement with the public, apart from the number of videos published, another factor directly related to the quantity influences: the frequency of publication. Taking as reference May 27th, 2020, the date of publication of the last video in the respective channels had been produced as shown in table 5. It can be seen that, again, there is a coincidence between the channels with the highest number of subscribers and those that daily disseminate content ( and Observador), although, in the case of The Texas Tribune, the publication routine is weekly. On the contrary, it is especially striking that the other media only publish videos once a month (Krautreporter) or even with a frequency that goes from three months a year, which shows the neglect of the channels, especially when those same newspapers broadcast daily content on Facebook or Twitter.

Table 5. Channel publication frequencies.

Source: YouTube (27/05/2020).

To prevent channels from becoming video repositories, since September 2016, YouTube has offered brands a third option to implement a better dialogic and interactive concept with users. It's about communities, an initiative that allows you to add publications to YouTube, which prevents audiences from having to turn to other social networks to talk about the content of the videos. As can be seen in table 6, three digital native newspapers have incorporated this option in their channels, two of them with the most subscribers. However, when analyzing the publication frequencies, it is found that they are conceived as merely symbolic spaces, since taking as a reference May 27th, 2020, the closest publication date is three weeks ago (The Canary), while the farthest is a year ago (The Texas Tribune).

Table 6. Presences and frequencies of publication in communities.

YouTube (27/05/2020).

The existence of cross-promotion strategies between the corporate website and the different platforms and social networks, and vice versa, allows the public to navigate from one digital space to another, which increases the possibilities of interaction and favors the development of transmedia narratives, in the case of being implemented. When examining the widgets for accessing social networks or instant messaging services from the corporate websites of the newspapers, it turns out that only three media (two of them are among the ones with the most subscribers) offer direct access to YouTube. This situation causes the social network to appear at a clear disadvantage compared to other networks such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram although the latter two have fewer users than YouTube (see Table 7).

Table 7. Cross-promotion from the web to social networks or apps.

Source: self-made.

Taking YouTube as a starting point, the cross-promotion strategies are similar, so that there is a general preference for directing the user to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and also to the corporate website (see Table 8).

Table 8. Cross-promotion from YouTube to the web, social networks, or apps.

Source: self-made.

Cross-promotion strategies on YouTube can also be understood as gears that lead the user to other spaces outside the communication group to which the native digital media belongs, but that the editorial management considers related or of interest to readers. Except for Observador and Il Post, all the media offer their audiences the possibility of accessing third channels (see Table 9) and two of the media with the most subscribers on YouTube ( and The Texas Tribune) are also the media that offer the most channels to their followers. 

Table 9. Cross-promotion from YouTube to external channels.

self-made with YouTube data.

Regarding information architecture, YouTube channels offer the possibility of cataloging videos in playlists. All the media use this option and classify the videos according to their theme (interviews, debates, events, etc.). Content analysis shows that except for The Texas Tribune, no media outlet broadcasts corporate content, only informational.
There is, therefore, no preparation of ad hoc content for YouTube, in such a way that there is cross-media dissemination of content that is published on the web and also on other social networks, especially on Facebook and Twitter. This cross-media diffusion that stars the different channels, eradicates transmedia narratives and co-creation spaces even though they are not incompatible per se, but complementary. Another of the narrative potentialities offered by YouTube, live broadcasting, is used by four digital native media, again two of them have the highest number of subscribers (see Table 10). In the content analysis, another surprising piece of information emerges: the use of YouTube to broadcast podcasts. It is a resource used by three media and that, although it is sometimes presented with some type of image or as a recording of a radio program, it is usually neither the format nor the usual type of content on YouTube.

Table 10. Use of resources provided by YouTube.

Source: self-made.

5. Conclusions

Table 11 shows the scores obtained by each media in each of the items and the final score obtained. As can be seen, four media outlets (The Texas Tribune,, The Canary, and Observador -in this order-) get more than half (6) the possible points (12), and three of them (The Texas Tribune,, and Observador) are also those that have the highest number of subscribers, videos, and views. Therefore, it is demonstrated that the greater the effort to keep the channel alive, the more engagement strategies used, and the more resources used than those offered by YouTube, the more successful the channels are and the more valuable they are for the public, as the number of views shows. The fact that The Canary has not yet reached a number of followers as high as the other media is justified in that it is the youngest of all since it emerged in 2015 and joined YouTube in August of that same year (see table 4) when other media such as The Texas Tribune already had six years of experience in the social network.

Table 11. Evaluation results.


The main strengths of native digital media on YouTube lie precisely in the presence model, that is, in the choice of the channel. It is a variable that is not taken into account in the model analysis file due to its lack of alternative since the channel is the only feasible option for organizational presences in the social network so that any other possibility would already imply an incorrigible point of origin that would have dire consequences for brand management.
Secondly, the use of the different resources or dissemination possibilities offered by YouTube is also a strength, because, although, indeed, some channels function only as repositories of content disseminated in other digital environments, the network is also used for broadcasting of live video, and even in some cases, for the transformation of podcasts to audiovisual format. On the other hand, the organization of the contents in playlists created according to the theme of the videos helps the user in the search and visualization of the information.
Third, the opportunity offered by convergent scenarios is taken advantage of, not only to carry out a cross-media diffusion of the contents, but the cross-promotion is also exploited to lead the user from the web to social networks and from YouTube to the web and other social networks, although in the first case, a preference for other networks, such as Facebook or Instagram, over YouTube is certified. Besides, a third model of cross-promotion is diagnosed based on the subscriptions that the channels make to others and that do not necessarily coincide with media belonging to the same communication group, but also with third parties with different themes or similar ideology.
On the other hand, the analysis reveals a series of deficiencies that could go unnoticed by the common user, but when researching the channels from the point of view of academic research, they reveal a set of deficiencies that, when corrected, would considerably improve the value of YouTube presences, as supported by the data of subscribers and views of the media that achieve the highest ratings.
In the first place, there is absolute neglect of communities, a space enabled by YouTube precisely to prevent social dialogue about audiovisual content from being transferred to other networks. The neglect is notable in terms of the provision of these spaces, but it is practically total in terms of the frequency of publication of content since no media broadcasts videos in the community on a daily or weekly basis. This causes the interaction between users of the community to be reduced and the transmission of content to acquire a more unidirectional than dialogical character, which increases the possibility of ending up turning the channel into a mere repository of videos, with little value for the audiences (Waters and Jones, 2011).
The problem of publication frequencies is especially serious in the communities, but it is not limited only to them, but also in the feed itself there are cases of media not uploading videos for several months or even a year. Between saturating the user (Shay & Van Der, 2019) and completely neglecting it, there is a middle ground in which it is suggested that brands be located, in such a way that a daily publication or two or three per week, depending on the case, can be enough to maintain an active channel that captures the attention of audiences. On the contrary, publishing every several months directly affects the engagement of the public and affects the SEO positioning of the channel as it suffers a marked decrease in search results.
It must be taken into account that not all media have the same infrastructure or the same resources for the production of audiovisual content, but it should be asked, however, if it is convenient to have active channels without activity since it is likely that the damage they cause to the image of the brand is greater than the benefits, especially when in other networks such as Facebook or Twitter there is continuous and daily dissemination of news and information.
On the other hand, YouTube channels are not being exploited for the implementation of transmedia narratives or co-creation spaces. We believe that enabling these options would lead the media that obtain the best results in the evaluation to a level of excellence that would further increase their value to the public. Similarly, in those media that take less advantage of YouTube channels, the use of narratives that force the user to complete the storytelling of the web on the channel would mean an increase in visits and views. Enabling spaces for co-creation, or at least playlists that house user-generated contents, seems a good alternative to encourage the participation of the public who, at the same time, would see their level of commitment to the media increased by understanding that they, too, participate in its production and ideation, following the line of the contributions of Prahalad and Ramaswamy (2004).
Nor is the existence of content created ad hoc for YouTube verified, but the common practice is the multiplatform dissemination of the same product that is adapted to the specific languages of each digital site. We agree with Ma, Tanaka, and Nadamoto (2006) that these productive routines are those of convergent scenarios, but applying cross-promotion to cross-media diffusion itself can be an engine for generating leads, for example promoting content on Facebook that can only be viewed on YouTube. In this case, we could not refer to transmedia narratives because the story does not start on one platform and is completed on another, it is only promoted, but if the impact is good, it becomes a lead and that lead becomes a web traffic mode.
Like several previous studies show the success of YouTube channels in politics or fashion (Berrocal, Campos, & Redondo, 2012; Berrocal, Martín, & Gil, 2017; Gil, 2019; Gómez & López, 2016; Díez, 2017), the media, especially those whose only presence is digital, are encouraged to take even more advantage of the possibilities that YouTube offers for journalism in a context in which, as Neuberger, Nuernbergk, and Langenohl (2018) pointed out, companies and journalists operate simultaneously on several channels both in the production and distribution of news. But it is also understood that if the brand does not have the capacity or resources to feed the channel with content, it is preferable to focus on other networks rather than having a poorly managed or inactive presence.

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José Sixto-García
Professor of Journalism in the Department of Communication Sciences at the University of Santiago de Compostela. He has a Ph.D. in Communication and Journalism, he was director of the Institute of Social Media (2013-2019) and his research focuses on new media, new narratives, and social networks. He belongs to the research group Novos Medios [GI-1641 NM]. His publications include books such as Fundamentals of digital marketing or Professional social media management, published in a prestigious publisher.
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Ana Isabel Rodríguez-Vázquez
Professor of the Audiovisual Communication area in the Department of Communication Sciences at the University of Santiago de Compostela. She has a Ph.D. in Journalism. She worked for more than a decade in the press, television, and internet (content director for She belongs to the Research Group in Audiovisual Studies [GI-1786].
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Xosé Soengas-Pérez
Professor of Audiovisual Communication in the Department of Communication Sciences at the University of Santiago de Compostela. His research is focused on the analysis of news content on radio and television. Among his latest publications are "Cyberactivism in the process of political and social change in Arab countries" or "Pluralism and control of information on Spanish generalist television channels."
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