Archive for the ‘power laws’ Category

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

My YouTube Break-even

Dig the hole deeper.

In the last week I’ve started posting screencasts about LibraryThing, under my YouTube user name, LibraryThingTim. And, of course, I’ve been watching videos. 

Today, I crossed a line I’m going to call “My YouTube Break-even.” The videos I made have been watched more times than I have watched others’ videos.

So, add up every time I’ve watched the eyeglass-catching video, FunTwo, Clay Shirky on love, Pulp, Tarkan, Fionna Apple, Weezer,* Turkish cooking videos, parkourthe anchorman and the lizard and John Stewart—which comes to 693 times—and it is just slightly less than my own videos have been watched. I have moved from being a net consumer to a net producer of YouTube videos.

The moment of relative equipoise is a special one—and rare. The sudden removal of access barriers to creative production and dissemination has created an explosion of “user generated content,” but it has not lead to attention equality. Traffic on the web tends to follow power laws. A small number of blogs, websites and videos get outsized attention. 

It’s probably true that receiving attention correlates with giving it. People who write interesting blogs tend to read a lot of blogs too. But giving attention can never scale as fast as receiving it. If the laughing baby spent the rest of his life watching YouTube videos all day long, he will never see as many as saw his.

And some people don’t even try. The folks at Universal Music Group have watched only 3,927 videos. Assuming they use the account to upload and test their own videos, they didn’t even bother to watch 700 of their own videos once. And, at the extreme of this and many things, we have Britney Spears. She, or her “people”—have watched only 25 YouTube videos, but they forced the rest of us to watch her efforts 188 million times. That’s 5,700 years of progressively more fetishized hip-thrusting!**

There’s still hope for me. LibraryThing screencasts will never be as entertaining as exploding Mentos. And there are hundreds of 90s alternative Boston-band videos yet to watch. 

I can climb out of this!

*Or Weezer, which ought to count ten times.

**Have Utnapishtim and Britney Spears ever occupied the same grammatical clause? No.

Labels: attention, britney spears, power laws, utnapishtim, youtube