The Secrets Of Viral Video Hits…..From Actual Viral Video Experts This Time

Nov 26th, 2007 | By | Category: Digital Video Downloads, How to Podcast, Internet TV, Making Money with Podcasts, Strange, Video, Video Podcasts, Vlogs

The NinjaTechCrunch published a controversial piece of linkbait over the Thanksgiving holiday on the “secret” strategies behind successful viral videos. The essay, by Dan Ackerman Greenberg, suggested that the days of indie video podcasts like Ask A Ninja becoming viral hits through hard work and creativity are gone.

“The Wild West days of Lonely Girl and Ask A Ninja are over,” writes Greenberg. “You simply can‚Äôt expect to post great videos on YouTube and have them go viral on their own.”

Instead, Greenberg argues that the secret of successful Internet videos is “clandestine marketing”:

  • Using fake headlines;
  • Sending videos, unsolicited, to mailing lists;
  • Paying bloggers to pimp the video; and
  • Creating multiple fake forum user accounts to hype the video.

We characterize the TechCrunch piece as linkbait because both Greenberg and Mike Arrington, the article’s publisher, have tried to distance themselves it. Arrington, after featuring the article on his site, now says “frankly I‚Äôm disgusted by this.” Greenberg claims that his article was mangled in editing, and that he doesn’t really use all the strategies that he said he uses in the original article.

Because TechCrunch’s viral video secrets article seems to be as much about spamming and linkbaiting as it is about creating viral videos, we thought we’d offer an alternate view – this time from actual viral video experts.

While TechCrunch relied on Greenberg, a guy who says “I can‚Äôt reveal our clients‚Äô names and I can‚Äôt link to the videos we‚Äôve worked on,” we talked to people with solid viral video credentials. People like:

  • Andrew Michael Baron – few people have done more to pioneer indie Internet video than Baron, the creator of a little show called Rocketboom.
  • Tim Street – creator of French Maid TV and a member of the Association for Downloadable Media advisory board. When it comes to viral video success, French Maid TV’s cup runneth over. The latest episode, How To Share Photos, has racked up over 3.5 million views at YouTube alone. Ooh la la!
  • Hayden Black – creator of the hit online series Goodnight Burbank, the show that USA Today called “better than 99% of the stuff on TV,” and Abigails X-Rated Teen Diary, in which he portrays a 13 year-old middle school girl.
  • Kent Nichols – creator, along with Douglas Sarine, of the viral video hit to slay all viral video hits, Ask A Ninja. Episodes of Ask A Ninja frequently get more than a million views on YouTube alone.

Here’s what these viral video experts had to say about Greenberg’s article and the real “secrets” of creating viral video hits……

Ask A Ninja’s Kent Nichols Dispatches TechCrunch’s “Secrets”
Kent Nichols

While Ask A Ninja‘s Kent Nichols, right, isn’t surprised by the tactics hyped by TechCrunch, he’s not impressed, either.

“There’s always going to be unethical bottom feeders that try and game the system,” said Nichols. “They can also just do a page refreshing scheme to get to their prized 100k threshold.”

Nichols had this to say about using Greenberg’s “clandestine marketing” tricks:”The simple fact is that he’s wrong. To build a sustainable hit you have to be good, consistent, and patient,” adds Nichols. “Look at Epic-Fu. They are growing into mainstream-sized numbers and they did it the old fashioned way, with hard work.”

“Another great example is the iPod touch kid (Nick Haley) that got seen by the Apple ad folks, after only 7k views on YouTube.”

Viral Success Takes More Than Tricks

While Greenberg suggests paying bloggers to pimp your videos, Nichols has found that bloggers are glad to feature your video…..if it’s really good.

“People that need to feature new videos are hungry for quality things to share. They have to share and feature things. And they will feature you, if you’re good.”

You can hear more of his thoughts in our interview with Kent Nichols and Douglas Sarine.

Rocketboom’s Andrew Michael Baron On Viral Video Success

Andrew Michael Baron with Rocketboom host Joanne ColanWe asked Andrew Michael Baron, shown right with Rocketboom host Joanne Colan, what he thought about TechCrunch’s viral video secrets.

He called them “Totally ridiculous!”

“This would be similar to a post about how to make it big with spam email or splogs – or dare I say – Mahalo,” said Baron.

“Even when trying to take this seriously, however, the points still fall short of any useful information,” he adds. “I don’t think content is king, per se, but viral videos are dependent on the high value of their content.”

Baron questions whether the viral successes that Greenberg claims can even be considered “viral.”

“100k or 1.5 million views is not classified as viral when paid for, forced and mostly gained by deception. Not only are these practices cheap and slimy, I don’t think they could bring about ROI, which is more of a measurement of success than hit counts.”

Serial Content vs Spectacle

In Baron’s view, there’s more to Internet video success than lies & spam. While the approach popularized by TechCrunch is based on tricking people, Baron’s is based on his understanding of media theory and the state of new media.

Baron explained his ideas on why some videos “go viral”.

“For this discussion, we could identify content that is serial in nature, like Rocketboom, and then one-off memes. Again, just for this discussion, the meme content can come in two kinds: premeditated and accidental.”

“The Miss Teen USA (meme) was accidental,” notes Baron. “The piggyback memes that followed were premeditated.”

“If it’s premeditation memes that you want, and I think that was the intent of the TechCrunch article, then one of the best ways to approach that is the same way you would approach a ‘spectacle’,” said Baron. “Spectacles have long been a means for becoming popular off the net.”

“Videos of spectacle translate on the net. Take the work of David Blaine or the first popular works of Laurie Anderson. These performance artists came up with ideas that were so out there that they would be noticed based on the idea alone. If you go to New York City and suspend yourself from a crane in Times Square for several days, you are going to get some press.”

“An idea that is very original and unique, while extreme, can be videotaped and put up on YouTube to get a lot of hits pretty easily,” adds Baron. As an example, Baron cites Improv Everywhere, a group that has had viral hits with improv spectacles like Slo-Mo Home Depot.

The second part of this article – More Secrets Of Viral Video Hits – features insight from the video gurus behind Goodnight Burbank, Abigail’s X-Rated Teen Diary and French Maid TV.

6 Responses to “The Secrets Of Viral Video Hits…..From Actual Viral Video Experts This Time”

  1. Elena says:

    Glad to hear somebody saying that there’s more to Internet video than bullsh**.


  2. […] var ratings = new sack(‘index.php’); var post_id = 0; function current_rating(id, rating) { post_id = id; for(i = 1; i « The Secrets Of Viral Video Hits…..From Actual Viral Video Experts This Time […]

  3. AJ says:

    You gotta wonder how much an effect you get from tricking people. I know I’ve viewed a lot of stupid videos based on an eye-catching thumbnail or a phony title.

  4. Rastica says:

    Nice – I love Rocketboom and Ask A Ninja.

    I wonder what other big video podcasters are doing.

  5. Quality, consistency and creativity win out every time over one-hit wonders and dark arts wizards. Thank you, Podcasting News for getting interviews from some of the leaders in next-generation content production.

  6. […] When we talked with Rocketboom’s Andrew Baron recently, he cited the idea of creating a spectacle as one of the ways to create great viral video. […]

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