Earthquake, Tsunami Draw Major Global Interest

March 17, 2011

Footage of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami were in high demand on Friday and into the weekend as users worldwide sought out information about the disaster. The rise in searches, the number of videos, and the volume of views place it among the biggest international stories on YouTube in recent years .

Early numbers indicate that, in the United States, the spike around "tsunami" searches in the U.S. were considerably higher than any spikes associated with the recent protests and unrest in the Middle East, which is the other biggest news story of 2011 with significant user-generated video. (It's worth noting though that those events extended over a longer period of time, however.) Searches last week for "tsunami" in the U.S. spiked higher than any other news or entertainment story during that period.

Taking a quick look at some of YouTube's top news channels, which were posting earthquake and tsunami footage, further reinforces the point. Russia Today, the Associated Press, and Al Jazeera English -- all of which are among YouTube's top 10 most-viewed news channels -- saw the biggest single day spikes they've ever seen on Friday. The largest was from Russia Today, whose videos make up 5 of the top 10 most-viewed from the past week.

For the first two months of the year, Russia Today daily views averaged 850,000. On Friday, Russia Today videos were viewed around 20 million times globally.

Videos on these three channels were viewed a combined 40 million times on Friday alone.

Other notes:
  • U.S. regional search interest was by far the highest in Hawaii, followed by Alaska and other west coast states that were expecting residual effects of the earthquake.

  • CitizenTube has been organizing user-generated video with Storyful since the earthquake and, of those curated videos, 18 have over one million views. In total, roughly four hours of on-the-scene video are available there.

  • Globally, "tsunami" is the #2 rising search of the past 30 days. In Japan, the top two rising searches for the past 30 days are 地震 (earthquake) and 津波 (tsunami). A search for tsunami-related videos (English and Japanese) will deliver over 25,000 results from the past week.

  • See the weekend's Most Shared and top trending on-the-scene videos here.