Pilotprojekt Zwischenberichte

DIE WELT newspaper dominates YouTube’s featured news playlist

A comprehensive data analysis over a period of around 7 weeks shows that videos from the Springer news channel were recommended on the platform with above-average frequency.

By Johannes Filter, April 14th 2022

From October 29th to December 16th 2021, AlgorithmWatch collected all videos that were featured in YouTube’s news playlists. Our research shows that 26.5% of the videos that YouTube’s news playlists were promoting had been produced by Die Welt, a conservative news outlet from the German media conglomerate Axel Springer.

We have built upon an earlier analysis of data from our first data donation campaign. In the earlier study, we concentrated on data from our data donations. We noticed that Die Welt was featured quite often on YouTube’s new channel, but we didn’t have a complete data set. For some days, we only have a limited number of samples for the news playlist. In this recent study, we wrote new software and collected new and more data over a longer period of time so that we could gather complete data over the entire survey period. In total, 816,452 videos were gathered.

With the complete data, we identified which German news channels were being featured most in YouTube’s news playlists.

We also collected the videos that were published in the survey period but did not make it into the news playlist. With this data, we can compare the number of videos that were featured in relation to the number of videos that weren’t featured.

We found that the Die Welt’s YouTube channel published 1498 videos and almost half of them (744) were featured in YouTube’s news playlists. By contrast, public broadcaster Phoenix published 542 videos in their YouTube channel, of which only 109 were featured in YouTube’s news playlist (roughly a fifth). The prominent public broadcaster news program Tagesschau had more than half (234) of their 448 videos featured in YouTube’s playlists.

In our research, we also found that some videos that were labelled as news had not actually been recently published. A video by Die Welt about “AKTUELLE CORONA SCHOCKZAHLEN” (“SHOCKING NEW COVID FIGURES”) was presented in the “top news of the day” section one month after its publication date on 1 November 2021. Since the publication date is not prominently displayed next to the videos, such a misrepresentation of news can be misleading to the viewers. We found three other videos by Die Welt concerning Covid news that were at least two weeks old. This phenomenon isn’t restricted to Die Welt’s videos (we also found outdated videos by Tagesschau, Handelsblatt, or Der Spiegel) but since they are featured to such a high extent, there is a higher probability to find outdated videos from Die Welt in the featured news section. A video by the German tabloid BILD on a German rapper’s love life was even featured over the entire survey period.

This article provides an overview of our findings. Consult our technical report (with accompanying software code) for more details about the data analysis: https://github.com/algorithmwatch/youtube-news-monitoring

Read the German version of the article here.