Don’t Call it a Viral Video Unless It Goes Viral. Till Then, It’s Just a Promotional Online-Video.

Semantics be important… especially for a relatively novel “space” like online video. For starters, I never much cared for the term “viral” marketing, because it had sick connotation. Like my marketing might make someone sick enough to cough on another hapless patsy. Then comes the term “viral” videos to celebrate the wonderfully horrible videos one couldn’t resist sharing. I created “Viral Video Genius” as a satire, people, and still use the phrase as an inside joke to piss off those too naive to recognize otherwise.

video virus

But still today we see “viral” referring to any video hoping to go virus. That’s just ridiculous, friends. Do you agree? By definition, a video isn’t “viral” unless it gets a lot of views. I used to say 500 to 1 million, but now you pretty much need 5 or 10 million to rise above the noise.

This post was inspired by a Tweet by Chris Brogan. He can’t be our new ZeFrank now because he acknowledged my existence. But Scoble’s up for grabs.

You see this guy, Mose, asked:

mose tweets

Fair question. If someone “seeds it” or pays to have it a preroll on some crappy video-sharing site that serves porn in India, does that count?┬áChrisBrogan, in a surprise move, punts the question my way:

chris broganNow this was surprising since I never figured Brogan for the type that would know the word “Nalts” (even if I’m kinda famous because I was on today’s eGuider reel with Daisy Whitney, Ben Relles, and that dude who MC’s the DiggNation show I stormed in my underwear. Can you imagine if all the people in “Welcome to eGuider” got together in a room? Would anyone get anything done?

But I digress from my digression. So to Mose and ChrisBrogan, in my infinite 140-character wisdom, I says, “Seeding counts as “viral”; not paid views. Lets call ’em prom online vids (pov) unless they actually go viral (rare).

Then Mose, who clearly has good taste, comes back with:

mose tweets naltsMose is suggesting we use the hashtag #pov to track any activity about “Promotional Online Videos,” a term that’s perhaps more accurate than “viral” when talking about the majority of videos. But having searched POV I’ve decided it must be a porn term, and that is just as well. Maybe this blog post will pick up some accidental traffic, giving me the same satisfaction of creating a “viral” video that had an average view-duration of .04 seconds. Whoops? Another digression. This will be the only post since 2008 that Nutcheese finishes.

Seriously, though. Seriously? Calling a video “viral” before it goes viral is like calling karaoke singers Grammy Winners. One in a million may well be, but let’s call them karaoke singers in the meanwhile.

In a year you won't remember anything I wrote in this post. But you'll still be offended that I used a Japanese woman to illustrate karaoke.
In a year you won't remember anything I wrote in this post. But you'll still be offended that I used a Japanese woman to illustrate karaoke.

8 Replies to “Don’t Call it a Viral Video Unless It Goes Viral. Till Then, It’s Just a Promotional Online-Video.”

  1. I don’t like this post because the picture of the virus reminded me that I should be studying for biology rather than reading this. Screw that! Biology sucks!

    My last final is tomorrow morning so you wont be hearing me bitch about school anymore… well… until next semester anyways.

  2. In my opinion, viral should refer to the way the video gets it’s views not the number of views. A viral video is one where a viewer shares it with his friends and those friends share it with theirs and so on. The popular vloggers get millions of views, but I would guess that very few of the views are “viral”.

    By the way, I’m not liking the POV acronym. It is commonly used as an acronym for “point of view”.

  3. Of course I know you as the SOURCE of all such knowledge. I mean, it’s either you or Steve Garfield I ask these types of questions to, but I think of you as more the guy going after big audience and Steve as Mr. Slice of Life.

    The snowflake things weird me out.

  4. Well, with pre-viral “viral” videos, the analogy is apt. We do call a virus a “virus” no only when it seems alive while inside some other organism’s cell turning it into a virus factory but also when it’s hanging out in the world showing no signs of life.

    However, I agree that it’s not useful to call a video viral until it goes viral.

    “Promotional Online Video” is fine, except for the association of POV with the camera’s or the filmmaker’s “point of view” (as Alexis mentioned @2), regardless of the MPAA rating.

    Would there be a separate term for the typical videos that go viral–what before the Web were “America’s Funniest Home Videos” or just Exhibit A in the trial? There’s at least one video sharing site that uses “Viral” as the video category name for “idiot and/or dangerous stunt home video” and not for something created for promotion. Perhaps we should call that type of video a “vidiocy.”

  5. I’m not offended by the karaoke picture. In fact, that’s a pretty good song she’s singing, “Ito” [“Threads”] by Miyuki Nakajima. The on-screen lyrics are: “What will these threads become? Within the wind that was unsafe and trembling.” This is immediately followed by “You are the warp and I am the weft / Someday this woven cloth might protect someone’s wounds.”

    [Sing along from 2:32-2:46 at “Konna ito ga nan ni naru no? kokoro motonakute furueteta kaze no naka…”]

    Of course, Nalts chose this particular picture on purpose to illustrate not only that karaoke singers aren’t ipso facto Grammy winners (as POVs aren’t immediately viral videos) but also that you never know what one of these WVFF threads will become.

  6. I couldn’t agree more. One time a colleague told me that he makes “viral videos” and I said, “Really? Send me the video.” It turned out to be horrible comedy with 564 views. The only virus involved apparently had infected and destroyed his grasp of what reality was.

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