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.
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.