Citizen journalism is about to become more powerful than you had imagined. The reason? The just-released iPhone 3G S, with its built-in video recording power and ability to directly upload to YouTube.
Citizen journalism is already quite popular, and even CNN likes to use its iReporters as news gatherers. But in general the breaking of news has been in the form of still photos or text-based Tweets—as in the case of the Hudson river plane crash—or, occasionally, poor-quality cellphone video. This is going to change, and some new data suggests the iPhone 3G S is the reason.
Before you point out that other cellphones exist that can shoot video and upload it to YouTube, yes I know, there are a number of them. But I don't think a single one of them can generate a statistic like this one: In the six days since the 3G S's launch, YouTube has reported an incredible 400% increase in mobile video uploads. That's literally four times as much mobile video content being uploaded now that people are using the new iPhone versus all the other portable devices used to upload movies beforehand.
Why is this? It's a combination of things, starting with the iPhone's new camera unit. The 3-megapixel lens is surprisingly good for stills, and the phone even has the capability to record 720p video. Although this option is crippled down to a maximum VGA resolution, the device can still shoot decent video. Next, uploading to YouTube is supported directly over the air on the phone, meaning it's very easy to record a clip and play it for the world right then and there. (The quality won't be as good as if you save it to your desktop first, as you'll see from this comparison on BoingBoing Gadgets, but still plenty good.) And finally, the video editing options in the new phone are extremely handy. They're not exhaustive, but they're ideal for trimming the clip you just recorded of your pal walking into a lamppost.
And that's where the iPhone may transform citizen journalism. It's clearly going to sell in the millions across the globe—think what that will mean for the YouTube upload rates. And then imagine what such ubiquitous high-quality mobile video could do for the protesters in Iran, or the footage that would be made available in a similar event to the Hudson crash. The best camera is the one you have on you, as the saying goes—and when it comes to breaking news, that may well be the new iPhone.