Thursday, February 12, 2009

PROFILE - The Viral Video Research Blog

For this post I will be profiling a blog that is not entirely dissimilar to mine, if only in that we work with roughly the same raw material. While anyone writing about viral video must pull their subject matter from the same wonderful cesspool as all the others, as far as ethos goes, this particular blog and mine share very little. So then- to perhaps gain a little perspective on the phenomenon of viral video and to anchor some of the more enthusiastic claims made in my hello-manifesto, lets take a look at the Viral Video Research Blog. The blog itself is a satellite to the website of Visible Measures, a silicon-valley company that specializes in providing "new capabilities and metrics that allow Internet video publishers and advertisers to understand audience behaviors and more accurately predict and analyze the success of Internet video programs" - in their own words. In other words, they are part of a fairly recent wave of firms that essentially hawk more hits on youtube.
But maybe that's a little harsh. Aside from offering placement options on various high-ranking sites, youtube among them, they also provide very detailed viewership statistics from a database of over 100 million videos on the top ten video sharing sites on the web. While I suppose this is a perfectly respectable example of modern capitalism, I can't seem to shake this feeling that I should somehow morally oppose what appears to be, at its most basic form, the commodifying of a new arena for creative expression. I'm sure there are complexities to the business model I don't understand and any number of salesmen that could smooth over any ideological concerns I might have, but ultimately I'm not here to bleed my heart out or buy anything. My interest in this blog lies in the statistics and research - rigid portraits of phenomena as they happen. I also feel that the limited commentary on the videos behind the numbers may help to illuminate a point I one day hope to make, but more on that later.

I have a feeling that it may come in handy to have a cold, hard, mathematical point of view to fall back on when attempting analysis of a video's most affecting qualities. One post I found to be particularly interesting features one of the first youtube mega-sensations - Judson Laipply's The Evolution of Dance. Contributor Matt Cuttler, writing shortly after the release of The Evolution of Dance 2, illuminates the possibilites of the sequel as a concept in the viral video world, versus the established model of the sequel in traditional media. Posing a question only answerable with time, Cuttler asks - "Is this evidence of an emerging trend, or a flash-in-the-pan that's destined to be a footnote in the history of our industry?" While he does not (and I assume dares not to) answer the question outright, the statistics provided raise interesting points about online viewing habits. Cuttler points to an incease in daily views of the original after the release of the sequel as evidence of what they call "viral activation," where interest in a new clip "drives a corresponding increase in viewership to related, but older clips."

While terms like "viral activation" certainly point to the commodifying aspect of corporate research I expressed fear of earlier, they are also fairly transparent in their meanings. Just think - how many times have you watched Jizz in my Pants, remembered Dick in a Box and then wound up watching the classic Lazy Sunday at least four times? Maybe never, but my point is that we all, as internet viewers, are more familiar than we might think with emerging viewership patterns detailed by firms like this. We invent them as we click about, leaving firms like Visible Measures to speculate about what that could possibly mean. We will be keeping an eye on this one and the trends it claims to capture and categorize, if only for the purpose of juxtaposition against the more cult-like, rabid-fan aspect of youtube I hope to delve into.

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