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WHAT IS A YOUTUBE PHENOMENON?

By Arun

What does a Youtube phenomenon mean? Does it mean a million hits or multiples of the same? Well, that is what the definition seems to be these days. Does a Youtube phenomenon mean that the video or post in question is hugely popular and is in fact a rage? That too seems to be one of the accepted definitions. If you get multiple millions of hits on Youtube, you are a Youtube phenomenon; and if you re a Youtube phenomenon, then you are automatically a raging blockbuster – this seems to be becoming a dogma these days and if we do not clamp down on this soon enough, we will have internet savvy marketing whizzes creating superhits out of pretty inconsequential material.

This whole obsession with the number of clicks on Youtube obviously started off with ‘Kolaveri’. Now, the popularity of a song or a single is considered proportional to the number of people who have viewed the official video on Youtube. And, consequently, there seems to be a race to attract the maximum number of clicks onto one’s video. The very fact that there is a conscious effort on the part of people to get their videos noticed on Youtube takes the charm away from the numbers of hits they generate.

The idea is this; someone releases a music video/single/or anything for that matter on Youtube; takes the aid of other media (social media or formal media) to publicise the fact that such a video has been uploaded. Obviously, such a strategy is bound to bring about a large number of hits, especially when this video is being uploaded by a celebrity. But, would such hits count as Youtube hits? Aren’t they in fact generated by formal media and publicity? Shouldn’t a Youtube hit be something that catches on autonomously?

The point is; multiple millions of hits for a celebrity’s video on Youtube do not mean anything. It is just a passive click by an internet user on a much hyped link knowing that it is going to cost him just 5 minutes and no money. In times when internet usage has become as common as TV viewing in urban areas, a Youtube hit is only as good as a TV viewer in a living room watching something on primetime television because there is nothing better on offer.

A real Youtube phenomenon would be a video from a hitherto unknown person that garners millions of hits. Like the ‘Ultimate dog tease’ video, that has 90 million hits. It is nothing but a homemade video featuring a pet dog drooling and moaning at the mention of food. It got to 90 million without any fanfare, any celebrity and any media support – that is what should be rightly called a Youtube phenomenon. Or for that matter the Mumbai CST flash mob.

And, just as a reality check; total clicks on all videos of ‘Sam Anderson’ (hope you might have heard of him) might go well over a few million. Even Power Star Dr. Sreenivasan might come close to a million hits on Youtube. Malayalam’s equivalent of Sam Anderson, Santhosh Pandit, has an unprecedented number of hits on Youtube.

A celebrity video garnering a million hits on Youtube these days is not a phenomenon, especially if it is done with the media supporting it in one way or the other. And clippings and song videos featuring celebrities should refrain from quoting Youtube hits as a measure of their success. Youtube hits are meant to be counted for amateur videos. Professional clippings, trailers and video songs measuring their worth on the same scale are not right. Professionals have their own avenues; leave the amateurs to count the hits.

Just a few years back, there were voices, even though scattered, which said that Youtube could be sued for copyright infringement for unauthorised publication of movie clippings. Now, no major movie is complete without releasing a single video on Youtube. Amazing, how times change. The point is; upload those videos, clippings and songs on Youtube, we love watching them. But, please do not hold aloft the number of hits and claim “blockbuster”.

This is not meant to demean the achievement of any video that has notched up great numbers on Youtube. But, this could lead to an unhealthy tendency where alternate strategies are evolved just to get hits on Youtube; that has nothing to do with the actual content at all. The internet is a funny place, where keywords, tags and search terms can be cleverly optimized to attract traffic and we don’t want to see cinema or music having to do such things just to claim that they are a Youtube phenomenon!

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