to make your video watchable

(using viewing figures as a measure of success)


– feel free to add to my Completely Unscientific Taxonomy of YouTube Popularity. I started this a while back, and never got around to publishing it until now…

NOTE: Vids with More than one attribute are even more watchable.

NOTE: Yes, I’ve probably missed some good ones…

  1. Unusual content – people, machines or animals doing something unexpected:
    Wedding parties dancing down the aisle, cat standing up on 2 feet, finch perfectly imitating construction workers
    are all great examples of this.
  2. Shocking or surprising or slapstick – mainly people falling over, or reacting to predictably shocking stimuli, such as scaring someone with a fake head. Extra points for pride before a fall. In fact, a lot of failblog videos have a slapstick element like Dance Fail.
    Corollary: Also pointworthy is the “Nelson Munce Haa-Haar”  factor i.e. joy at the misfortune of others.  Although in the case of Drunk Kitty there is a caveat: You can’t feel too bad about laughing, otherwise it cancels out the funny.
  3. Feelgood / cute factor – baby animals / kids being adorable – most people respond positively to cute in real life, it’s no surprise that enough people looking at the same things online.
    Corollary: In the case of David After Dentist, and Charlie Bit My Finger, these have elements of point 1 and point 2 about them too. For cats, there is also appeal in them displaying human attributes such as Cat Fixes Printer or yet again Standing Cat (original version)

  4. Mass  Participation – getting a bunch of  people to do something at the same time –  prisoners dancing to thriller, and improv everywhere’s frozen in grand central are both good  examples of the genre.  I think the appreciation of the effort involved is part of why this works.

  5. Incredible Talent or Effort in makingchat roulette piano guy and Lego Matrix fairly represent this section, although there are so many others who can go into this category.
  6. Bright lights –  extreme sheep LED Art – at the time of writing, Leamington Spa nightclub has only been up for a couple of weeks and is at 100,000 mark already. UPDATE it’s now at over 500,000 views.

  7. Watchability – We are impatient beings – and watching something 6 minutes long on the internet is like watching a 30 minute programme on the telly.  Evolution of dance  works because it’s instructive, nostalgic, well-structured and funny – even if the video quality ain’t that great, we’re happy to watch it because it gives us so many other reasons to do so. The recent phenomenon of Fenton the Dog chasing deer in London’s Richmond Park now has over 3,000,000 views at the time of writing.**

A word on Repeat Viewing Potential – most of these videos are easy to watch more than once. In the case of Nyan Cat, Fenton the Dog and countless others, they stand up to more than just repeat viewing, for whatever reason.  What’s particularly interesting is that some of these videos generate re-mixes and inspire interactive participation.

For more on these, pop over to the BBC’s website here to watch “The Stuff that Memes Are Made Of“, where Joel Veitch and I attempt to make a meme out of a squirrel.

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