August 3, 2008 / 1:05 AM / 10 years ago

Mother joins trend of turning to YouTube for help

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A mother whose ex-husband is accused of kidnapping their daughter has pleaded on YouTube for the 7-year-old’s return, joining a growing number of people using the online video site to highlight a cause.

Instead of holding a traditional news conference, Sandra Boss appeared on a YouTube video sitting alone behind a plain desk, appearing tired and begging for Clark Rockefeller, now on the run, to return their daughter.

Rockefeller is wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for kidnapping Reigh, nicknamed Snooks, who was visiting in Boston from London where she lives with Boss.

“I ask you now, please, please, bring Snooks back. There has to be a better way for us to solve our differences than this way,” Boss said in the video.

Andrew Lipsman, senior analyst at media research firm comScore, said YouTube was changing the way people sought attention and sympathy to their problems.

“I think the average person has access to a very large audience potential that they wouldn’t get over broadcast TV airwaves,” he said.

“Anyone can post content, and potentially reach an audience of a few million. It’s a way to bring attention to your cause,” he added in an interview.

Boss is not alone in seeking help from the public on YouTube, which has more than 200 million users worldwide according to media data providers. The company says 13 hours of video are uploaded every minute onto its website.

The family of Lisa Stebic from Plainfield, Illinois, has posted videos (here) asking for information about her disappearance in April 2007. Another man has set up a YouTube channel dedicated to his search for a daughter who went missing 15 years ago (here).

“When we created YouTube, we wanted to create a place where people can connect with others through online video,” said YouTube spokeswoman Jennifer Nielsen.

“It’s inspiring to see that it’s now being used for such important causes, making the most of our community and a truly global reach it offers,” she said.

YouTube, a unit of Internet search company Google Inc, has also partnered with British charity Missing People to help people make their appeal for the return of family and friends.

But some people are using YouTube for sympathy of a different kind. One recently popular item was by a woman who posted monologues about her failed high-society marriage.

In her videos, seen by more than four million viewers, Tricia Walsh Smith accused her husband and his daughters of conspiring to evict her from their apartment and said she found him hoarding Viagra even though they never had sex.

But simply posting videos doesn’t ensure a large audience, and Lipsman said one challenge for those looking to YouTube to gain attention or sympathy to their cause was making sure people saw it among the thousands of hours uploaded daily and shared it with others.

“The biggest hurdle there, ultimately, is just because you post something doesn’t mean people will care. It ultimately relies on the community itself to help virally distribute and draw attention to any specific video,” he said.

Editing by Michelle Nichols and Patricia Reaney

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