Posts Tagged ‘ entertainment ’

Five seconds to live: a video’s fleeting chance of going viral

If a video over 3 minutes is uploaded to YouTube, does it make a sound?

Not much of one, or at least not sounds that will be heard by many. As my class this morning poured through some of the most popular videos that have caught fire on the web, speed emerged as one of the most common traits. Many of these videos are funny, some are surprising, some heart-warming, but none last beyond a few minutes.

Twitter isn’t the only reflection of our short attention spans. Viral videos have to make a quick and immediate impact or they’re closed out before ever being spread to friends and family via email. Maybe the clip can last past the five minute mark, as the ubiquitous wedding dance video does, but you’ve got to figure it out within seconds if you’re to going to keep watching.

How fast must you get the message across? Well for this four-minute clip of YouTube’s greatest hits, all it takes is a few seconds for each referenced video to make its mark. Can your clip achieve instant recognition? Otherwise its lifespan will be dismally short.

Of course there are plenty of other requirements in order to make a video viral, chief among them being humor or entertainment value. It has to be original enough to stand out but still relatable to everyday life. In short, it has to tell a story, with compelling characters, all in less than the time it takes to read this blog entry.

That’s where the real work comes into the creation of a viral sensation. It’s not enough to have a great idea, well executed and produced. You’ve got to edit the content down to its absolute core, with everything that doesn’t make an impact stripped out of the final version. Those willing to pare down their material to the most compelling bits have a chance at surviving through the YouTube wilderness. Otherwise the audience may never stick around for the punchline.


There’s always room for more details on the web

Note: the following is a short essay for One Web Day on how the web has impacted my profession. You can see a video of me reading an abridged version here.

In print, my words had no hope of reaching an audience.
Online, there was always room for my voice.
As a college undergraduate working for The Daily Tar Heel at UNC-Chapel Hill, space was tight to publish stories from the dozens of staffers working each day. But thanks to the paper’s website, space was plentiful to give every qualified story a platform. The web provided assurance that everything staffers wrote could reach an audience, while simultaneously motivating writers to improve their craft.
No matter how far we progress in the communications field, that appeal of the web remains just as strong.
In many ways, the benefits only grow with experience.
A good communicator, be they in journalism, public relations or filmmaking, will produce a volume of quality content that easily eclipses the available space in print. Photographers take hundreds of pictures at an event, filmmakers record hours of footage, advertising campaigns produce dozens of related marketing pieces. In the pre-Internet days, only the absolute cream of the crop could be viewed by the general public.
The Internet blew open the door of in-depth content for those curious about a particular topic, while at the same time empowering those compiling the information. Rather than just post the bare minimum that will fit in print, communicators strive to create as much compelling content as possible, knowing it can have life on the web.
It’s enlivened our consumption of media based upon specific interests. Rather than just hope the latest edition of Slate has a piece by insightful political writer John Dickerson, readers can quickly go back and access all his past stories or tweets. When entertaining sportswriter Bill Simmons hits on a great topic at, he’s not constrained by word counts and can link us to his sports and pop culture inspirations. While fans are waiting for the captivating television show Lost to start a new season, they can go to official sites or fan message boards for new content built around past episodes. When inspiring news columnist Nicholas Kristof posts a compelling piece in the New York Times, readers can check up on his blog or Facebook page to see all the news gathering and the thought processes that went into the writing.
This doesn’t ensure that all content reaches a mass audience, or even that it won’t just be ignored once posted online. But the web provides assurance that nothing of quality need ever remain buried, and that fans of any fictional or non-fictional piece can always dig beneath the surface for more details. No matter how constrained or restricted access to a traditional platform remains for up-and-coming media professionals, they always have a place to share their knowledge and let their talents shine through.