British monarchy makes YouTube debut

Queen delivers Christmas message online for the first time

YouTube is now playing host to "The Royal Channel", billed as the official channel of the British monarchy.

Introduced 50 years after Queen Elizabeth II's first television broadcast to her subjects, the channel showcases the Queen's Christmas messages past and present, and includes documentary footage about the monarchy.

"One of the features of growing old is a heightened awareness of change," said the Queen, now aged 81, in the 2007 Christmas message featured on the YouTube channel.

In her lifetime, the British monarchy has steadily adopted new technologies in an effort to reach a wider public.

Her grandfather, King George V, made his first Christmas radio broadcast to the nation in 1932.

The Queen introduced her 1957 Christmas message , recorded in black and white, by saying she hoped the technology would bring her closer to her subjects.

"I very much hope that this new medium will make my Christmas message more personal and direct," she said then.

Since then, much has changed in the world of broadcast technology, including the spread of color television, satellite transmissions and high-definition images. Alongside that other electronic formats have developed to take advantage of the Internet as a transmission medium, including podcasts and video-sharing sites such as YouTube.

The official Web site of the British Monarchy opened in 1997, and began offering a podcast of the Queen's Christmas messages in 2006.

The Queen's Christmas message is traditionally broadcast at 3 p.m. U.K. time on Dec. 25. By midday Wednesday, the 2007 message had attracted over 300,000 viewers on YouTube, while the 1957 message, which has been online since Sunday, had attracted almost 800,000, according to YouTube.

While staff at Buckingham Palace are hoping to reach out to younger subjects with the new YouTube channel, statistics supplied by YouTube show that its audience has geekier things on its mind. The Royal Channel is number two in the site's rankings of the most subscribed channel rankings this month, behind "Household Hacker," a guide to hacking household electronic devices such as robot vacuum cleaners and garage door openers.

When the European Commission launched EUtube, a YouTube channel to explain the workings of the European Union to the citizens of its 27 member sites, it adopted a more sure-fire way to attract viewers: sex. One of the first videos on its channel was a montage of erotic scenes from films made in the European Union, under the title "Film lovers will love this!" In the six months since the channel launched, the clip has attracted 5.1 million viewers.