So I got up this morning, fired up Techmeme to see what was happening in tech and on top was this blog post from online video tracking company Visible Measures featuring a home-brew list of the 18 most watched viral videos of all time.
It’s important to note that the video measurement startup didn’t simply analyze which videos got this total number of views on the 150+ video sharing sites it currently tracks, but also took into account views that were generated on other online properties where the videos were spread, like blogs and social networking services (a measurement method it refers to as True Reach).
I won’t bore you with the full list of very viral videos – check out the Visible Measures blog post to see who’s currently on top etc. – but there is a general observation I’d like to share and discuss with you.
Here’s what the company concludes after featuring the list:
As you can see, the list is a diverse collection of older and newer campaigns, and includes music videos, movie trailers, user-generated spots, and clips from TV shows. What they all have in common is a massive total audience.
I wouldn’t call it that diverse, actually. If you break the list down, you’ll note that it counts 8 music videos, 4 movie trailers, 2 TV show clips, and 4 user-generated clips. So out of the 18 online videos that amassed over 100,000,000 views according to Visible Measures, 14 are professionally produced videos that were arguably created for airing on television primarily, and certainly not specifically for online video sharing sites.
Furthermore, if you break down the list of 4 clips that were classified under ‘User Generated’, two of them are actually professional artist performances that were simply recorded and/or uploaded by a regular YouTube user (“Jeff Dunham: Achmed the Dead Terrorist” and “The Evolution of Dance”). Another one (“Lezberado: Revenge Fantasies”) features a woman talking about a professionally produced TV show (The L Word), and the video that Visible Measures links to on YouTube is actually one from the official channel of Showtime, where The L Word was aired on from 2004 to 2009.
So if you really want to be a pain about it, the only real user-generated video that was viewed over 100 million times would be “Charlie bit my finger – again!”, a video featuring two cute kids that funnily enough I had never seen before.
This isn’t abnormal, of course: mainstream media are called mainstream for a reason, just as celebrities are celebrities for a reason (well, most of the time) and popular music artists, TV series and movies are popular for a reason (well, most of the time). You’d have to be pretty naive to think YouTube (or any web service originally meant for amateurs to share videos on) isn’t always going to be used to massively spread professional music videos, movie trailers and clips from and about popular TV shows, and that they’ll overtake most if not all videos about dogs riding skateboards and whatnot.
This isn’t to say user-generated (amateur) content doesn’t have any value – it always does for at least one person – and could never be on par with professionally produced content, but looking at the list you’ve got to wonder whether we’re not all mostly craving for the latter on whichever medium we’re using at the moment we’re in the mood for it.