By Timothy Dillon
Photo Courtesy of Julian Jensen.
Everyone is looking for their own little 15 minutes in the spotlight. It used to be that unless you wrote a book, took to the stage, or climbed your way onto the silver screen, you wouldn’t get that chance, but since the dawn of YouTube, it has become a very different sort of fame game. It is about going viral.
In case you didn’t know it, viral videos are in. They drive us crazy, encouraging us to repost them on every social media outlet we are connected to because if we don’t, how else will all our Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and fellow tumblrs know what we think is funny or amusing or interesting? And this is a vital part of it. It is our need to share and interact with others that perpetuates web content. However, while this may be what drives the virality of this content, it isn’t necessarily what starts their ascension into digital glory. That is a job for tastemakers. What is a tastemaker and what do they have to do with things going viral? Just ask YouTube Trends Manager Kevin Allocca.
Allocca outlines the three keys to success in making a viral video: tastemakers, communities of participation, and unexpectedness. Allocca has done a great deal to discover what the qualities of a viral video are, but is that what makes them go viral? Isn’t it actually how many views a video has garnered? In fact, this was the case until YouTube began cracking down on companies and people who aim to artificially increase their number of views. YouTube has responded by shifting what justifies a view by measuring the amount of the video watched rather than just counting clicks. So while there are a few characteristics to shoot for in making a video to post online, there is no surefire way to get views, unless you grab the attention of a tastemaker.
Perhaps the best known tastemaker for web content and viral videos is Daniel Tosh and his hilarious (albeit controversial) show Tosh.0. The show format is fairly straightforward; we are shown various videos, some trending and some just on the rise, while Tosh offers up his trademark snarky commentary. His show could be consider unbalanced if it were not for the infamous “web redemption” segment that allows those who become the butt of internet jokes, memes, and videos to “redeem” themselves. Without a doubt, Tosh.0 is the finger on the pulse of YouTube.
Tosh isn’t without standards though. The criteria for making it onto Tosh.0 are generally as follows: a clear video, preferably in HD, relatively short, and it should feature someone getting hurt. Also, he prefers legal content, so don’t expect to find any inter species erotica on Comedy Central anytime soon. As for the “hurt” portion of his criteria, it isn’t exactly a cut-and-dry case of physical injury. Embarrassment, surprise, shock and horror; the full gamut of emotional damage is explored. So while your 15 minutes of fame might be just a few clicks away, you may have to shed a few tears in order to get it. Which begs the question that many have been asking themselves more and more since his controversy last year: Why have a show where someone needs to get hurt in order to achieve notoriety?
Schadenfreude is an explanation as to the why we have it, but does it address the issue of why that is acceptable? Not so much. Even though the show offers up an initial warning to deter viewers from engaging in activities that might be harmful, how can we expect viewers to comply when they could be the next joke or better yet, eventually the best web redemption? At the end of the day, the fine line that Tosh.0 walks provides for a couple good laughs and the occasional wincing, while the more primitive part of you begs for more, despite the moral gray area the show inhabits.
This is well and fine for now, but this may not last too much longer. Though Tosh has been renewed for a fifth season, this may be his last if he holds true to his promise of retirement or suicide on his 38th birthday. YouTubers will have to look to new tastemakers to hold up their clip as a shining example of comedic genius or vast human stupidity. For other ways of increasing your chances of going viral, simply search Google for tricks, tips, and trends of popular YouTubers, or check out this article.