Viral Video: What Are the Chances?

Going viral, a phrase that in recent years has taken on an entirely new and positive spin, describing the phenomenon of an idea, image or video rapidly spreading across the web. And while marketers and laymen alike have tirelessly tried to ascertain the secret formula to unlocking its guarantee of success or at the very […]

Going viral, a phrase that in recent years has taken on an entirely new and positive spin, describing the phenomenon of an idea, image or video rapidly spreading across the web. And while marketers and laymen alike have tirelessly tried to ascertain the secret formula to unlocking its guarantee of success or at the very least, recognition, it’s more likely that the process is merely a perfect storm of uncontrollable forces like timing and luck. Still, what are your chances?    

Chris Wilson over at Slate recently explored the possibility of a video reaching 1 million views on YouTube and the odds aren’t good. Wilson explains his methodology and results:

On Friday, May 22, I used Web-crawling software to capture the URLs of more than 10,000 YouTube videos as soon as they were uploaded. Over the next month, I checked in regularly to see how many views each video had gotten. After 31 days, only 250 of my YouTube hatchlings had more than 1,000 views—that comes out to 3.1 percent after you exclude the videos that were taken down before the month was up. A mere 25, 0.3 percent, had more than 10,000 views. Meanwhile, 65 percent of videos failed to break 50 views; 2.8 percent had zero views. That’s the good news: Your video is slightly more likely to get more than 1,000 views than it is to get none at all.

Of his original trial, only one entrant – a German music video – broke 100,000 views. As of today, that number sits at 367, 372. Wilson’s article includes a graph that plots the day-to-day statistics of total views, along with a link to download his raw data. He admits that the short time frame of the experiment eliminates the potential for a video to blow-up months or years down the line, but the numbers remain fairly telling.

One of the most staggering figures to arise from the test is the amount of videos being uploaded to YouTube. According to a company spokesman, the site’s content has grown at a steady rate – “it’s now up to about 20 hours of footage a minute from 15 hours at the beginning of 2009.” A fact that goes a long way towards explaining the crowded playing field competing for our already fractured attention spans.  

Slate: Will My Video Get 1 Million Views on YouTube?

[image via brtsergio on Flickr]

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