Padilla, Adrián; Coromina, Òscar, & Prado, Emili (2025). “Trusted Media” on YouTube: volume and visibility of public media in search results. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 83, 01-17. https://www.doi.org/10.4185/RLCS-2025-2336

Summary

The article “Trusted Media on YouTube: Volume and Visibility of Public Media in Search Results” analyzes how informational content from public media is treated in YouTube search results, comparing it with content from private media and other sources. The study was conducted by analyzing YouTube search results over a period of 60 days, using keyword combinations associated with controversial and disinformative topics such as “vaccines,” “climate change,” “chemtrails,” and “flat earth.”

The methodology involved performing six daily extractions of the top 50 search results for each keyword combination, resulting in an exhaustive analysis of 1,329 videos and 71,096 search ranking positions. A Python script was used to automate data collection through the YouTube API, limiting results to the Spanish language.

Key Findings of the Study:

  • Overrepresentation of Public Media: The results indicate that YouTube’s search algorithm tends to overrepresent publicly funded media in search results. Although public media accounts for only 3.70% of channels, they occupy 13.45% of ranking positions. In comparison, private media represent 14.58% of channels and occupy 14.59% of ranking positions, showing proportional representation. Native channels, on the other hand, despite representing the vast majority of results (66.03%), are underrepresented relative to their total population on YouTube.
  • Content Lifespan: Public media content not only appears more frequently in search results but also has greater longevity in the rankings, granting them higher visibility and lifespan. This content tends to maintain or reappear in ranking positions for longer compared to other types of media.
  • Social Interactions: Despite their greater visibility and frequency in search results, public media content generates fewer social interactions (views, likes, comments) compared to content from private and native media. This suggests that while they are more present in search results, they do not necessarily attract more public attention.
  • Ranking Position: Public media videos tend to achieve better average positions in search results, meaning they are closer to the top position, increasing their visibility and likelihood of being consumed. However, the difference in average position among the different types of media is not significant enough to categorically state that YouTube decisively favors public media in terms of positioning.

Conclusions

The study concludes that there is an overrepresentation of public media content in YouTube search results, which can be interpreted as a strategy by YouTube’s algorithm to prioritize sources considered reliable or of high informational quality. However, this increased presence does not necessarily translate into higher engagement or interaction from users.

On the other hand, the presence of public media on YouTube competing with private media and native users of the platform reflects the adaptation of these “traditional” media to the new hybrid media ecosystem, as well as a demonstration that their formats and styles remain valid in the current communication landscape.

The overrepresentation of public media in search results raises questions about the ability of YouTubers to provide quality, plural, and reliable information, and demonstrates that public media remains necessary to ensure a healthy informational ecosystem.



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