“I think we all need a pep talk.” It’s the first line from Kid President’s Youtube video that millions have seen. Robbie Novack, age 9, slips on his professional black suit and gives everyone a little pep talk, reminding us all that, “You were made to be awesome. So create something that will make the world awesome.” Kid President attempts to inspire us all to remember life is a game and we are all on the same team. Though inspirational, it is a tad political with subtle hints to bi-partisanship. In fact, on the Kid President website its current slogan is “Don’t be in a party. Be a party.”
Whether you believe Kid President is inspirational or political, his message has reached millions. Literally.
Kid President’s pep talk video on Youtube has received over 19.2 million views, so is it safe to say this video went viral?
In their brief article titled “Viral, Quality, and Junk Videos on YouTube: Separating Content from Noise in an Information-Rich Environment”, R. Crane and D. Sornette use their research to divide YouTube sensation videos into these three groups, but first they focus in on how these videos make it past all the “noise” on the Youtube website.
Currently, there are about 40 million different videos on Youtube. So how do people find an inspirational video like Kid President? Crane and Sornette demonstrate that it comes down to video quality and dynamic filtering. The filtering process begins with the two types of videos on Youtube’s front page: there are the “most-viewed today” and the “editor’s picks.” Crane and Sornette then focus on the “relaxation period” following a burst of viewing, which reveals to them more information about the quality and popularity of the content. What they find is that videos chosen by the community “clearly display significant precursory growth” even after the 100 day “relaxation period.”
But what comes after the relaxation period? Well, it’s honestly all up to the audience. Crane and Sornette argue that, “If the community is ‘ripe’ for the content, then each generation of viewers can easily pass on the video to the next generation, and one will find the view count relaxes slowly. If instead the community is ‘uninterested,’ then even a well-orchestrated marketing campaign will fail to spread through the network.”
Crane and Sornette then divide Youtube videos into three groups: viral, quality and junk.
Viral videos: those with precursory word-of-mouth growth resulting from epidemic like propagation through a social network.
Quality videos: similar to viral videos, but experience a sudden burst of activity rather than a bottom-up growth and because the “quality” of their content, subsequently trigger an epidemic cascade through the social network.
Junk videos: those that experience a burst of activity for some reason (spam, chance, etc) but do not spread through the social network.
By its very definition, I believe it is safe to say that Kid President is in fact a viral video. It was a grassroots project that got its popularity by people spreading it on social networks like Youtube, Facebook and even Twitter.
But it doesn’t stop here. In fact, academic and researcher Henry Jenkins discusses content he refers to as spreadable media. Jenkins is the founder and former co-director of the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT, and he also published a book called Convergence Culture which discusses the collision of old and new media.
In an interview from 2010 he discussed his new research about spreadable media. He believes, “If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.” But what does this really mean?
Jenkins defines spreadable media as “media which travels across media platforms at least in part because the people take it in their own hands and share it with their social networks.”
Jenkins also explains the similarities and differences between viral media and spreadable media. He says, “Viral media asks some of the same questions we are asking, having to do with how media content circulates through grassroots communities outside direct control of the people who originate it. But the language of viral media mystifies how this process works.” Jenkins continues by saying that it appears that there is no way to explain how or why the viral content goes viral. However, when it comes to spreadable media, there is a conscious effort in circulating certain content because people feel it will make a meaningful contribution to conversations.
Jenkins also touches on how political campaigns can use spreadable media to their advantage in regards to creating relationships and conversations with citizens. He says, “those who create spreadable content actively encourage [citizens] to spread their materials, often directly courting them as participants in the process of distribution.” Another advantage: spreadable media is relatively inexpensive.
Could President Obama have been employing the idea of spreadable media and viral videos when he invited Kid President to the White House? It’s up in the air. But what I can guess is President Obama got some great PR. The Kid President meeting the President video has 3.3 million views, and it has only been up for 15 days. Seems like another viral video to me.
Either way, it is hard to argue that Kid President is advocating and spreading a great message: teamwork. So to close this post, I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes from Kid President, “This is your time. This is my time. This is our time. We can make everyday better for each other. If we’re all on the same team, let’s start acting like it. We got work to do.”
R. Crane and D. Sornette, “Viral, Quality, and Junk Videos on YouTube: Separating Content From Noise in an Information-Rich Environment.” http://www.aaai.org/Papers/Symposia/Spring/2008/SS-08-06/SS08-06-004.pdf
Henry Jenkins Interview, “Why spreadable doesn’t equal viral: A Conversation with Henry Jenkins.” Nov. 2010. http://kultur.tvmkanal.dk/files/2011/09/Jenkins-spreadable-vs-viral.pdf
Kid President Videos:
The Pep Talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-gQLqv9f4o
Meeting President Obama: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TssZ9Uma1-w