June 13, 2006

On YouTube, every loser can be a winner


One week ago, at almost exactly midnight, I uploaded this stupid video and officially launched Operation Shockless and Awful, an experiment to see if intentionally crappy videos would gain any traction on YouTube. Since then, it’s been viewed more than 7,000 times, it was once the day’s 38th most discussed video, some heavy metal dude did a cover of my song (that’s also him in the above photo, right), and a girl named ohmyitsstephie offered her hand in marriage.

Verdict: success!

I can’t take full credit for this, though. I got an immediate, unexpected boost from Brooke, a.k.a. Brookers, an ultra-popular YouTuber who I recently met and got to know in the real, non-Internet world. Brooke’s got a great sense of humor, and when I told her what I was up to, she immediately championed it. She sent out a bulletin to anyone subscribing to her stuff -- a number I estimate at four gazillion -- declaring my video “the best video in the history of mankind.” In the YouTube world, this is like Angelina and Brad naming their child after me. I was set.

When I turned my computer on the next morning, a mere nine hours after first uploading the video, it had been viewed 620 times. Comments had come flooding in, almost all of them positive -- and this was what truly perplexed me. I could understand that people followed Brooke’s link, but these people actually seemed to enjoy this thing. Some compared it to Adam Sandler. A typical comment went like this: “HAHAHA ur funny as! ur awesome. (In fact, this particular person, perhaps feeling as if he or she hadn’t gotten the point across clearly enough, followed that comment up with another one: “my stomach hurts now lol to much laughing.”) People started subscribing to my videos. Twenty people requested to be my YouTube friend -- a concept I’m still not clear on, but which I approved anyway.

The numbers continued to rise. Every day, another 1,000 people seemed to check it out. Eventually, I figured, this can’t fueled entirely by Brooke’s bulletin. Instead, I think two other things happened: One, all the comments propelled the video into the “most commented on” section, at which even more people found it and commented. Two, a bunch of people listed it as their favorite video or posted it on their blogs, which inspired their friends to watch it.

After that, the spread was obvious. The standards for comedy on YouTube are clearly quite low, which makes sense considering the entertainment there is free and short. While a Hollywood movie has high standards to meet -- you paid money and you’re devoting two hours of your time -- a YouTube video is quick and painless. You can watch garbage and not feel ripped off. And with so many millions of videos on there, people must filter it somehow or else they’ll feel overwhelmed and lost -- and so they end up filtering it by popularity and reference, not by actual quality. People came, they enjoyed, they made it more popular. And the more popular it got, the more people it attracted. On YouTube, like the real world, the rich just get richer. Their currency is views and comments.

Fun stuff. I plan on continuing the experiment and creating a few more intentionally bad videos, but haven’t had the time yet. I’ll post them when they’re up.

Update: There have been more covers: One in Spanish, and one a capella.

Posted by Jason Feifer at June 13, 2006 08:12 AM


Your next video: Me and you do a run and chest-bump thing while Milli Vanilli blares on a boombox nearby. It'll be priceless.

Posted by berto at June 13, 2006 12:25 PM

omg ur blog post is the best evar

Posted by supask8r1994 at June 26, 2006 09:16 AM