Scamming the internet. Ethically and economically bankrupt. (10)

Its tempting to think of the Internet in idealistic terms. The lack of censorship and the ability to create content without advanced knowledge or training has created a system fundamentally different from corporatist television.

But have these underlying values resulted in a system that democracy advocates dream of at night after heavy doses of tvo and davos debates?

A relatively old post by viral marketeer Dan Greenberg should lead some people to say … probably not.

One of the main complaints of Marxists and cultural critics of corporate programming is that the content of a TV program, news story, or music video has all but ceased to matter. As long as it doesn’t offend sponsors and generates revenue, objective and balanced information falls by the wayside.

But the ranking systems popular to Internet video sites like Youtube aren’t much better, and have led net-savvy marketers like Greenberg to declare that “Content is NOT King.”

In place of content stereotypical titles, tags and thumbnails attached to videos are the greatest predictors of popularity. Add in some paid-for fake commenting, blogging and e-mail forwarding to take advantage of the system and you have yourself a contagious hit.

But the ethical and economic consequences of this are saddening. Of the 500,000 to 2 million user generated videos uploaded everyday only a few might get lucky enough to be featured on Youtube’s front page and receive mainstream exposure. The fake videos with a team of viral marketers behind them have the advantage of a high exposure to budget/talent/political relevance ratio.

Economically speaking a system which profits those who can generate fake attention shows just how low advertisers have to go. It may be easy to trick consumers but they probably won’t enjoy it in the long term. The corporations who employ this type of marketing, if caught, could stand to lose reputation, and rightly so.

From a media ethics point of view the stereotypes employed are of the lowest caliber. They contribute to a stereotypical view of gender, race, sexual orientation, and often reduce human nature and experiences to an objectified status. Giving them more attention through viral marketing just aggravates the problem.


Youtube's most viewed videos of all time are a good example of the stereotypically offensive images and titles that lead to viral "success."

Published in: on February 5, 2009 at 8:41 pm  Comments (1)  

Youtube and the small family audience. (3)

An amateur video entitled 'The Kill' from FlimFlamFilms

An amateur video entitled 'The Kill' from FlimFlamFilms

It seems strange to admit, but those annoying numa numa and soulja boy video (and the like) forwards you keep getting in your e-mail inbox aren’t the most popular type of videos on Youtube.

Strangelove points out that the most popular behaviour on Youtube is the making and sharing of videos for small networks of people, either associated by family or friends.

John Berger’s documentary “New Ways of Seeing” defines the camera as a mechanical eye that allows us to reinterpret our world. No longer limited by immobility or time, or even the invisible parts of the spectrum, we may see quite almost anything on Earth and a great deal outside of it that we never could before.

But the corporate camera is something quite different. It dominates our eyes with its temporal and spacial selections of what it deems to be important. Usually these selections are made up of content that supports the market ideology of capitalism. They slide in and out of our minds in a never ending phantasmagoria.

Even reality TV reproduces the power relations of Michel Fourcault’s confessional society. The characters are the sinners and we are their innocent priests and mothers Teresa. Oh wouldn’t that be nice? If only it were true. Neither are reality TV shows like Big Brother or So You Think You Can Dance Canada? free of the product placement that plagues the average sitcom or James Bond movie.

The only thing a reality TV show lacks is a big budget. The fragmented audience can no longer afford to pay Seinfeld and Friends their millions per week. In this way, a reality TV show is much like a freeloading, mostly annoying sibling who eats better than you and gets to drive the car.

But if Youtube’s audience trends mean anything then perhaps one day we can be rid of the monopolistic use of the camera. If more people maintain the trend of entertaining themselves and their small networks of friends and family, hopefully Big Brother and (Home Depot’s) Mike Holmes on Homes days are numbered.

But I’m probably being overly optimistic. Too many people have already been duped into loving their private property to let go of Home and Garden Television anytime soon.

Home Depot's Mike Holmes

A Renovations book by Home Depot's Mike Holmes

Published in: on January 28, 2009 at 8:38 pm  Comments (1)