YouTube: Much More than Silly Videos

youtube_logoYouTube first launched in 2005, and for the first few years it offered a limited selection of content consisting mainly of short and sometimes silly amateur videos that entertained viewers. Now, thousands of videos are uploaded to YouTube each day, and many of them still fall into the "silly video" category. But a growing number provide interesting, educational, and professional content. This article looks at some of these.

Education wherever you are

KhanAcademyDon't remember algebra well enough to help your child solve for X? Need to review chemistry for the class you'll be taking next year? YouTube is chock full of educational videos, including over 1,800 videos posted by the Khan Academy ( Salman Kahn, who has a BS from MIT and an MBA from Harvard, began this project when he was remotely tutoring his cousin, Nadia. TBillNyehey started off with "live" tutoring via Web conferencing, but that was problematic because he and his cousin were in different time zones. Salman started creating video tutorials and uploading them to YouTube for Nadia to do on her own time. Six years later, his videos have been viewed over 25 million times with glowing reviews. 
Science Fair projects usually entail a volcano spewing sticky red goo all over the place. If you are looking for cool, new experiments, check out the videos from Bill Nye, the Science Guy.

Travel: What's it really like

LonelyPlanetAs a frequent traveler, I find that the videos posted by Lonely Planet, The Travel Channel, and tourists in general help when I'm planning a vacation or a simple trip to the local theme park. The videos give you an accurate idea of what to expect at your destination. Most (but not all) of these videos are non-promotional (i.e., they are not paid advertisements for the destination). Happy travels!

Sports news and practice

BeckhamMonday morning usually means conversations around the water cooler about the weekend's big game. If there's disagreement about the game's big play, you can whip out your iPhone and watch the game's highlights with YouTube. 

If you coach your kid's soccer team and one of the players is having problems understanding all the X's, O's, and arrows describing a play, pull out your iPad, open YouTube, and show them Beckham bending it or Pele making an impossible kick. Kids grasp the visual better than X's and O's. Go Team!

Friends and family

My son's 8th birthday party was held at our local gymnastics club. I took photos and videos showing kids bouncing on trampolines and a lot more. I pasted together a little video and posted it on YouTube for family and friends that were unable to attend.

Work and school projects

EvolutionOfDanceAs the "room parent" for my children's class, I have to come up with fun and educational crafts and activities for school parties. Fortunately, YouTube has 1,000's of ideas and how-to's that help. 
When your child has a class project due, will it be a boring sugar cube castle? How do you make an interesting diorama? Check out YouTube. 
Finally, when you're working on a project with others, you can share your work with colleagues or study group using YouTube. If you have an awesome presentation, share it with others. That's what Judson Laipply did, when he performed the "Evolution of Dance" as part of a keynote presentation. With over 156,000,000 views, it is the second most viewed video in the history of YouTube. What better way to entertain and educate?

Be famous and make money

JackieEvanchoJackie Evancho auditioned and got onto America's Got Talent via her YouTube Channel auditions. She came in second, sang in front of millions of live viewers, got to sing with her idol, Sarah Brightman from the original Phantom of the Opera, and is now on America's Got Talent's National Tour. All of this came about from posting her audition video to YouTube. Do you have a talent and a dream? Maybe YouTube can help you achieve it. YouTube's Partner Program may not make you as famous as Jackie, but it does let you make some money with your videos. The program is described in this video ( The payout schedule starts low, $3.00 for 1,000 views of your video, but increases to $3,300 for 1,000,000 views. 
Kevin Wu (Kevjumba) had been posting videos on YouTube since 2006 and already had a fairly large following when he joined the program. But after competing on The Amazing Race, he has jumped to over 1.1 million subscribers and 110,000,000 upload views.

View product reviews of just about anything 

WickedWitchIf you are in the middle of a store and are considering making a purchase, thousands of products are reviewed by experts and consumers on YouTube. You can quickly get an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of just about any product to help you make an informed choice.

How to do just about anything

WickedWitchLast Halloween, my daughter wanted to be the Wicked Witch of the West. Using YouTube videos from professional make-up artists, I was able to give her a flawless green glow. I've also used YouTube tutorial videos to make the perfect piecrust, learn dance routines, upgrade the RAM in my computers, and learn computer programs like iWeb, Photoshop Elements, and iMovie. What's your hobby? There's a YouTube video that will help you with it.

Watch movie trailers and clips

RottenTomatoesYouTube is your one-stop shop to find past or present movie trailers from every major film studio. It's also a great place to get information about upcoming movies and watch reviews. My personal favorite is the Rotten Tomatoes Show video reviews.

You'll also find clips from movies on YouTube. Sometimes the entire movie will be available, broken up into short clips. Other times, only the more noteworthy scenes will be there. I loved the guitar solo scene featuring Steve Vai from the movie, Crossroads. I wanted to show it to my son so I pulled up YouTube, typed in the key words, and "Viola!", there was Steve riffing on his axe.


LaughingPizzaWhatever kind of inspiration you need—spiritual, exercise, cooking, knitting, dancing—you can find it on YouTube. Want some family friendly music videos? Check out Laughing Pizza. Need to lose some weight? Put "Jillian Michaels" in YouTube's search feature. Need to live a healthier life style? Search for "Dr. Oz." Want to cook better? Go to "Gordon Ramsey." The greatest experts in the world are available in the palm of your hand.

News, politics, and commentary

ObamaStateUnionDid you miss the President's State of the Union address? What did John Stewart or Bill O'Reilly have to say about it? With YouTube you have access to news, opinions, and more.

A click away

YouTube has evolved into an incredibly useful tool for entertainment and education. With your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, visual information and entertainment is always a click away.

Bone up on algebra, check out travel destinations, view product reviews, and make some money
January-February 2011
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