Bits & Bytes: Truth not vital in recipe for making viral videos
BY ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer
Sunday, December 30, 2012
12/30/12 at 3:36 AM
What makes a video go viral?
I was thinking about that question when reading articles about the YouTube video showing a baby picked up by an eagle the other day. As you might expect, the video was faked, and the creators came forward to admit it. Yet millions watched it and encouraged other people to tune in, as well.
What I found more interesting was that the eagle video was their second attempt at making a viral video. Their first, another faked video showing a penguin that supposedly escaped the Montreal zoo, wasn't nearly as successful.
The eagle video hit the same week that the record for most YouTube views was shattered by Psy's "Gangnam Style" at more than 1 billion views. Why that video? Sure, the song's catchy and it's a hoot to see him enthusiastically gallop around, but there are plenty of videos that are funnier, weirder and catchier.
I'm far from the only one pondering the secret formula. Increasing numbers of savvy advertisers are intentionally trying to produce creative and eye-catching videos in the hope people will be entertained enough they'll pass the videos on to their friends, essentially giving the company free advertising.
For instance, few of us would intentionally go out of our way to watch an airline's safety video, much less an advertisement for an airline. But when Air New Zealand made a safety video with passengers dressed like characters from The Lord of the Rings and cameos by Peter Jackson and Gollum, more than 10 million people did.
Even politicians got into the act with inflammatory and over-the-top videos - well, more so than usual - in an attempt to spread their message. Some local politicians broke out silly animations and crazy costumes, but probably the best-known national viral political ad was Barack Obama attacking Mitt Romney through Big Bird.
Many of these attempts by corporations and politicians didn't work, but more and more of them are trying, and it's hard not to see why. Why settle for paying loads of money in hopes that someone will stumble across your ad when you can have people do the work for you and evangelize your message?
Still, success isn't guaranteed. The problem with relying on people is that people are fickle and unpredictable. Luck seems to be a big factor in getting a video to take off, not to mention having particularly influential early watchers.
The most successful videos seem to mix in the element of surprise or the unusual. Some are made to pass on the illusion of accidental effortlessness like the eagle video, and some seek to dazzle with elaborate spectacle like the Air New Zealand video.
I'm not sure anyone truly knows a foolproof way to create a viral video. But given all the creativity on display, I'm happy to see them try.
App of the week: Pint Club (iOS)
I once dragged my wife halfway across Seattle in search of a beer made from maple syrup and bacon. If you're even a quarter as curious to try the enormous variety of beers that exist outside Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon, you'll get a kick out of Pint Club.
The app is a semi-social network that allows you to take a picture of your latest beer discovery, tag where you found it, leave some comments about how you liked it and share all the info on the app or on other social networks. You can browse these posts for inspiration, or even set the app to alert you when you're near a place that serves your favorite obscure beverage.
Chili Technologies LLC, free.
Suggest an app for App of the Week at email@example.com
Netflix suffers Christmas outage due to failure at an Amazon Web service center
This past Christmas, countless people received devices capable of streaming Netflix movies, families settled in for Christmas favorites, and those away from relatives planned to while away the hours with a TV show episode marathon.
And then Netflix broke.
The most popular streaming video service in the nation suddenly stopped working on Christmas Eve, and it stayed down through the middle of Christmas Day itself.
Netflix eventually blamed the disruption in service on an outage at one of Amazon's Web service centers. Yes, Amazon's grown into a major player in the data world.
No online system is perfect. Outages happen. But it's troubling that this outage lasted nearly a full 24 hours, and other sites like Foursquare and Reddit have gone dark thanks to Amazon failures.
Let's hope these centers got some more reliable servers for Christmas.
Original Print Headline: Truth not vital in recipe for viral video
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Psy's "Gangnam Style" recently shattered the record for most YouTube views at more than 1 billion. Courtesy / YouTube
This viral video shows a baby picked up by an eagle. Its creators later admitted the video was faked. Courtesy / YouTube