If YouTube started as a place for people to upload low-res videos, Google’s global 2010 ‘most popular’ video list shows just how fast the model is evolving into something nakedly commercial.
First posted as recently as 1 August, the most viewed ‘ordinary’ video on YouTube to November was the ‘bed intruder song, which has been watched 48 million times and rising. In second place came the ‘TIK TOK KESHA Parody’, which has been seen 51 million times and was presumably relegated to second place because it has been around for much longer.
The list descends through the viral ‘annoying orange’ (27 million) through parody advert, ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ (24 million) to more traditional YouTube upload fare, ‘Jimmy surprises Bieber fan’ (19 million).
What is striking is how few of these are user uploads, how many are parodies of one sort of another, and just how advertising is now using the medium to push its messages.
Indeed, commercial music videos have moved in so fast that the ‘top ten’ list doesn’t even include the form. If it did, the Google top 10 for 2010 would be entirely made up of music videos by established artists, with ‘Baby feat Ludarcris’ by the ubiquitous waif Justin Bieber at number one with approaching 500 million views.
The dominance of commercial sources is partly down to large media companies mining the medium’s potential but Google’s commercial imperative is in play too – all commercial video content is preceded by advertising which Google has decided it needs.
By comparison, the most watched serious video of 2010 was the ‘Collateral Murder’ footage of US a helicopter attacking and killing Iraqis on the ground, seen around 10 million times. The leaking of this footage in April 2010, allegedly by US intelligence officer Bradley Manning, also marked the beginning of the Wikileaks controversy that grew into the story of the year as more and more senstive data was posted on the site.