Image: Marilyn Monroe
John Brecher /
For every YouTube visitor in high school there is another one who is old enough to remember Marilyn Monroe, whose star still shines brightly on the video-sharing Web site.
updated 10/1/2006 4:42:14 PM ET 2006-10-01T20:42:14

Online video purveyor YouTube has, perhaps unjustly, earned a reputation as a loitering spot for the young and the restless. That isn't quite so.

YouTube's demographic closely mirrors the overall usership of the Internet, with 55 percent of its viewers between 18 and 49. For every YouTube visitor still in high school there is another one who is eligible for membership in the AARP. Thanks to its vast archives of some 8 million video clips, with 65,000 additions daily, YouTube is slowly cultivating a more mature fan base.

Patient surfers willing to wade through the often puerile contributions will be rewarded with hard to find screen gems, nostalgic news reels, instructional videos and even well-produced, albeit homemade, knee slappers.

Forbes scoured YouTube to find some of the most compelling clips from a variety of genres designed for older audiences. YouTube also compiles its most viewed videos (Colbert Report and South Park clips among them) and top rated videos (which recently included several anime clips). The Top Favorites category includes clips with at least 100 high scores. (Videos are ranked on a scale of 5 stars.) And for its growing international fan base, YouTube has added categories for 5 additional languages, including Chinese and German.

YouTube shelves its video in 12 overly broad categories like "Pets & Animals" and "Travel & Places." You'll have to know what you're looking for in order to trawl these categories or else wade through dozens upon dozens of screen shots before finding something eye-catching. In "Arts & Animation," Forbes found a 7-minute clip of Disney's 1928 Steamboat Willie, the first cartoon to feature Mickey Mouse. Rare interviews of rock stars, movie stars and politicos are scattered throughout "People." Sports fans can replay controversial calls for hours on end or even get free instruction on how to improve their golf swings, backhands and jump shots. (Everyone's an expert on YouTube, so exercise some healthy skepticism when seeking pointers.)

"Entertainment" is stocked with scores of video extras, like first season Webisodes from The Office (the American version), never aired on broadcast television. Fan favorites on YouTube demonstrate the mass appeal YouTube has cultivated, with NASCAR proving nearly as popular as The Daily Show and Paris Hilton outdoing both, with over 4,232 clips at last count.

Popularity on YouTube can also translate into stardom. Alternative rock band OK Go won over thousands of new fans when they uploaded their video "Here It Goes," featuring the quartet doing a dance routine on treadmills. The band's online popularity even earned them a coveted spot performing at the MTV Video Awards this summer.

Last year's Saturday Night Live skit called "Lazy Sunday," a rap video starring Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell, became a Web sensation after it was featured on YouTube, where it was viewed 5 million times before NBC asked YouTube to remove it. And the most recent star turn thanks to YouTube belongs to actress Jessica Rose, better known online as Lonelygirl15 , whose fictionalized video diaries proved so real that they earned some 15 million cumulative page views. Older viewers obsessed online as to the veracity of her postings, scrutinizing her room decor, debating recurring motifs, even investigating the registration of her Web site.

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