This article first appeared in AdAge.
There, I said it: Screw Viral Videos
Why the constant focus on viral videos is no good for the industry
Online video creators, advertisers and producers have an unhealthy fascination with viral videos, and that obsession is dragging down the entire industry. Why? Because viral videos are, at their core, no better than a fluffernutter white-bread sandwich, delivering little or no value to anyone.
Online video hasn’t been a hotbed of success so far, and while I used to blame discovery, being relegated to the podcast ghetto and the immaturity of some of our biggest practitioners, those are just symptoms. It’s the incessant focus on viral success, I now believe, that’s really keeping us down.
Let’s start with producers and show creators. Media is all about building habits. Successful producers bind an audience to their creation, building an insatiable hunger for the next installment, next episode, next post. But when you focus on viral success, you throw that focus on repeatability out the window. By its nature, viral videos are designed to surprise, titillate and entertain. They are, by nature, unique; the 27th keyboard cat or the 12th dancing baby is just plain boring. But once video producers taste the heady success of a viral hit, they keep trying to re-create lightning in a bottle. But let’s face it — we all know “David Goes to the Proctologist” isn’t going to be nearly as successful as his trip to the dentist.