The Epidemiology of Viral Videos

The folks in advertising and PR agencies who have the best clothes, most piercings, deepest Bennifer knowledge and most current urban slang like to deliver lectures to those of us in janky Dockers about how we still don’t “get” the power of viral videos.

The mainstream news media is, like, so out, they tell us breathlessly. Persuasion these days is all about wireless viewing of virally spread, organically generated new media, such as forwarded You Tube videos. It’s happening all around us, and Nielsen is clueless! THIS, they say, is where the savviest marketing and political people are focusing their efforts!!

Well, it’s headed that way, but for people who have to invest in persuading people right now, it’s important to understand what’s actually happening out there right now. According to Pew, Americans are absolutely viewing these “viral videos.” But it’s still a pretty small slice that are seeing them online. For example, 4 percent saw Senator Clinton’s breathtakingly unfunny Soprano’s video online. Ninety-six percent did not, which coincidentally is precisely the number of people who admit to regularly wearing janky khakis.

So the notion that the masses are viewing these viral videos online is overstated by many. However, the new media is absolutely impacting the old media. For instance, almost four times more people saw Senator Clinton’s Sopranos video on good old fashioned television (15 percent) than saw it on-line (4 percent).

So, yes, viral videos matter, and people in the persuasion business ignore them at our peril. But they still matter mostly because they are slavishly re-run by the mainstream media, who are petrified of looking like they don’t “get it,” and still have the biggest hunk of audience.

– Loveland

10 thoughts on “The Epidemiology of Viral Videos

  1. Amen. I work at a little PR shop in St. Paul, and we’re “all about” this new media stuff. But even I — as a 24 year old who is literally growing up in this “new age of marketing” — know that all of the excitement about these cool, new, truly powerful tools needs to be tempered with a bit of realism.

    And I’m very excited about whatever lies around the next corner.

  2. jloveland says:

    People in the industry also sell this tactic on the basis of “there’s so much media clutter coming at consumers, you have to do something different to cut through the clutter.”

    While I strongly agree with that general principle, viral videos are already not unusual for many, and are themselves an extremely cluttered medium. You Tube is pure clutter, and the days when I viewed all or most of the video coming into my mailbox are long gone.

    When TV went from 4-5 channels to 150-ish, many in the industry said “well now it’s too decentralized, we have to deliver messages elsewhere.” But many in the industry have become enthralled with the Internet, which is fascinating and hugely important, but is also many of times less centralized than even the most elaborate cable TV package.

    I’m not nearly smart enough to be a media planner these days. What a messmerizing mess.

  3. Ellen Mrja says:

    Mike has got it right. We all should be very excited about whatever lies around the next corner because it’s going to be breathtaking. I remember the first fax I ever received. I thought it was a miracle. (So did people who first heard noise through the radio.) Remember the first time you “got” onto the web? We all should have recorded this date in our memory books because it opened up our lives by, oh, I don’t know, one zillion percent?

    And if there are companies and people out there who still don’t “get it,” I advise them to take a half-day off from work and START getting it. Otherwise, they won’t be ready when my eight-year-old niece and twelve-year-old nephew (who are smart as whips) invent the Glix-Plix, which will put our 2007 communication devices and strategies out of business.

  4. jloveland says:

    Being a renowned hipster myself, I can help you out:

    jan-ky. (adjective) inferior quality; held in low social regard; old and delapidated; refers almost exclusively to inanimate material objects, not to people

    We tried to pick up on these girls waiting for the bus, but I was driving my sister’s janky 1989 geo metro so we just got clowned instead.

  5. Loveland, you’re showing your age with the Bennifer reference. Not even Paris Hilton’s publicist’s massage therapist’s herbalist’s colonic irrigator cares about Bennifer any more. You still watching Fred & Ginger movies? On Beta?

    And Ellen, I’m buying stock in Glix Plix. Your neice and nephew could sell the idea right now to Steve Jobs and retire.

  6. Ellen says:

    Bruce: PLEASE NOTE! Glix-Plix is hyphenated.

    Thank you.

    Ellen M. Mrja, Brand Awareness Goddess

  7. Michelle Haschka says:

    Joe, I’m pleased to see you’re making good use of your slang flashcards. You’ll be hip in no time.

    -Former WS healthcare dawg

  8. jloveland says:

    I’ve been cramming. It’s the only word invented in the last thirty years that I can ever recall, so I cling to it like its my binky. My lifestyle particularly lends itself to usage opportunities.

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