In Depth

YouTube LLC: YouTube

In just four years since its founding, YouTube has grown into the world’s most popular video-sharing site. Its emergence as a valuable communications channel has earned a Peabody Award for what the Peabody board called “embodying and promoting democracy.”

True to its scrappy essence, the site on April 1 announced the honor by posting this irreverent message: “We must admit, given all the trickery going on today, we didn’t quite believe it when we heard it, but it’s true: YouTube has won a Peabody Award. The Peabody Awards recognize outstanding achievements in electronic media, including radio, television and cable.”

“Naturally, we are extremely honored to receive this prestigious accolade,” the online announcement continued. “But it goes without saying that this honor truly belongs to you, the YouTube community and everyone who contributes their hard work and creativity to the site every day.”

Along with the user-generated content that initially put YouTube on the media map, the site played an important role in the 2008 presidential campaign by participating in debates with CNN. It also procured a whole new audience for important stories that originated on television, such as Katie Couric’s CBS News interview of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, as well as comedic takes on the campaign, including “Saturday Night Live” clips and the infamous “Obama Girl” video.

“The most important thing is that there were reactions,” said Jordan Hoffner, director of YouTube content partnerships. “Whether it came though [political] parties or candidates who had channels or multiple news sources like Associated Press, Reuters, Fox News—to have all that information out there and people commenting is what’s important. People wanted to know what was happening in key states, and we helped get more information out there to make them better educated, whatever their choice was.”

Building on the interest it generated, YouTube earlier this year announced official congressional channels where each lawmaker can create and control his or her own channel.

“We have always strived to be very open and democratic,” said Mia Quagliarello, YouTube’s senior community manager. “Candidates embraced it to share their message.”

Mr. Hoffner likens YouTube to another form of media: talk radio. “If you’re talking about it, we’re talking about it,” he said. “We’re about pop culture at the end of the day, an incredible snapshot of a moment in time in pop culture.”