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The JKWeddingDance video was real; the viral effect was MANUFACTURED – Post 1 of 2

originally investigated and reported on Friday July 31, 2009 by Augustine Fou, with Tugce Esener @tesener

Several friends and colleagues had the same reaction when they found out about this video — that it was at such a high view count already and we were late to the party of finding out.  Then we did some more digging — digital forensics  :-)  And this is a case where a viral hit was indeed successfully manufactured.  There’s something to be learned from all this – how to successfully manufacture a viral video sensation and make viral profits.

Related: How to manufacture a viral video sensation and make viral profits – Post 2 of 2

Chris Brown is successfully tapping into the viral halo of a funny video that coincidentally used his song.

ReadWriteWeb article on how rights owners (Sony, Chris Brown) can make viral profits on other people using their work instead of suing them - http://bit.ly/KA3HI

The video was real. But promotional activities (possibly/likely paid) created the initial viral effect (led to the tipping point of the viral effect) which then got carried a further by people thinking they were simply late to the party, including myself (e.g. 440k bit.ly clicks and 3k detectable retweets out of the 13M views). The numbers don’t jive.

The viral halo has added 1 million more views to the video from August 1 – August 2.  (13.1 M to 14.5 M)


Ten ELEVEN TWELVE THIRTEEN proof points to follow, each with screen shot to illustrate.

1a. anyone notice that the “Forever” soundtrack is remarkably consistent throughout the video as if it were dubbed or added in after the original footage was shot. The sound is too consistent in volume and loudness to have come from a built-in, on-camera microphone. At the very end of the video, once it cuts back to the couple at the altar the sound quality goes back to the echo-y, tinny sound of an on-camera mic.

1b. The “TheKHeinz” user on YouTube was registered on July 19, 2009, the day the video was posted. We usually look for clues like this to detect “plants” by PR agencies.  This is an issue of trust — a user “CmdrTaco” on Slashdot has been around the forums for years, made hundreds of posts, and was rated by the community very highly. PR agencies trying to seed stories have to create new user accounts during the PR campaign (recent registration date) and have made no other posts or uploads before (no history).

thekheinz-user-info-on-youtube

2. The social intensity detected in all of the top social venues like Technorai, Delicious, Reddit, Digg, etc. indicate there was not enough organic sharing to support a view count of 13 million views in 11 days (updated: 14.6 million today August 2, 2009).

a) Bit.ly shows only 447k clicks on the shortened URL

bitly-statistics-on-jkwedding-video

“At Fortune’s Brainstorm:Tech conference Ashton Kutcher effectively took credit for boosting the views from – in his words – 12,500 views before he tweeted the link – to some 1.2 million views 12 hours later…”

Well, unfortunately he used a bit.ly link which provides public analytics on how many people clicked. Most tweets result in immediate traffic, which then tails off immediately after the tweet falls off the first page. In his case, look at the following bit.ly stats URL and click “past month” to see the peak clicks on July 23. All he can actually claim is that his tweet drove a peak of about 100,000 clicks on that day not 1.2 million :-(

http://bit.ly/info/Z7vMw

too bad Ashton. next time you make a BMOC claim, be sure to use a non trackable method, so analytics won’t “out” you so easily.

august-21-bitly-intensity-update

after only 3.5 days of retweets the twitter intensity died off to next-to-nothing; if this were a truly viral video, carried forth by real people (and not by paid PR support and paid media) the retweet intensity would remain high. As of August 21, there are over 21M views on the video and the 505k retweets does not show actual organic support for that number.

ashton-kutcher-promote-viral-video


b) Twitturly shows only 3 thousand retweets on the YouTube URL itself

updated-twitturly-stats-for-video

c) Delicious shows only 447 bookmarks of the video itself

delicious-bookmarks-jkwedding

delicious-bookmarks-jkweddingdance

d) Reddit only shows 673 thumbs up for the video itself

reddit-results-for-jkweddingvideo

e) Technorati shows only 277 blog mentions of the video itself — this could be undercounting if blogs used URL shorteners. But if you look at the blog intensity results (below) sorted by blogs with most authority the blogs have very little authority (i.e. influence or size of audience).

technorati-blog-posts-on-jkwedding

– these are real indications of interest by real people. The social intensity of the passalong for this video does not substantiate the huge number of views in 11 days.

What we are seeing now is the additional viral halo, as the momentum is sustained by large media outlets reporting on the story — even Google Blog blogged about it (boasting about the success of YouTube advertising in driving revenues). Of course TechCrunch is right that viral videos can be monetized: http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/07/30/youtube-viral-wedding-videos-are-great-for-advertising/ )


3. Twitter shows nothing in the top “trending topics” related to this video – indicating few people are actually tweeting about it — if this video is SO viral (13M views in 11 days) then it has GOT to show up on a scan of social intensity. (see screen capture below)

July 31 (Friday)                 August 2 (Sunday)

twitter-trending-topics-455pm-july-31-2009August-2-trending-twitter-topics

4. The original video was posted July 19, 2009. The people from the video appeared on NBC’s Today Show and danced around Rockerfeller Center on July 25th (6 calendar days after posting). Today Show staff may be great at spotting news, but to get all the wedding party from the wedding to re-enact the dance on the Today Show in 6 calendar days — too good to be true?  Hmm…

today-show-appearance


5. Out of all the wedding videos on YouTube, how did Chris Brown detect this particular one that used his song. @glenngabe noted that there are song detection mechanisms  - ContentID - which detect the pattern of the copyrighted song and report that to the rights owners. We know there are hundreds, if not thousaands, or really funny wedding home videos — America’s Funniest Videos has been running for years and years on TV showing funny wedding blooper videos that people submitted to them.


6. ALL TEN of the top viral videos on AdAge’s Viral Video Chart took around 3 – 6 months to achieve full viral effect — not 6 days.  See all 10 videos’ stats, as reported by YouTube at the following link. This video has not shown up at all on the list of Adage viral videos.

AdAge Top Viral Videos all take 3 – 6 months to reach full viral effect



7. From @RedW0rm – YouTube Declares Wedding Video a Financial Success http://bit.ly/9ZUtu


8. also check the velocity of this http://twitter.com/#search?q=jkwedding or this http://twitter.com/#search?q=jkweddingdance notice the tweets are not seconds apart but hours apart. Something that achieved 13M views in the 11 days since posting would show far higher velocity or twitter intensity.

twitter-1-jkwedding

twitter-1-jkwedding

9.  For a top-trending topic on twitter, there is usually correspondingly high search volume that is detectable.  At first glance, terms related to this viral video like “jkwedding” or “jk wedding dance” all seem to spike.  But if you put it against even “Corazon Aquino” (one of the top trending topics NOW on Twitter) those JK wedding search volumes are dwarfed.  (see chart below).

corazon-aquino-search-volume

10.  Google only reports 366 links to the video and most of them are not even important websites (see Alexa blue bar)

google-in-links-for-jkwedding-video

11.  The video itself has no honors and no stats (yet); YouTube stats are conveniently turned off. Other videos have their stats graphs publicly available.

no-honors-for-jk-wedding-video

12. see the fine print in the YouTube description — For more information or to make a donation towards violence prevention please visit our website: http://www.jkweddingdance.com/ – why would a normal wedding video ask people to make a donation towards violence prevention? (see screen capture below), the WHOIS record shows the domain jkweddingdance.com was created 29-Jul-09 — today is 31-Jul-09

Updated: This was circumstantial evidence. A source confirmed that Jill is studying patterns of violence propagation for her PhD. Their choice of charity was their own choice. And the site was set up to help that cause.

violence-prevention-chris-brown

whois-jkweddingdance-part1

whois-jkweddingdance-part2

Conclusion?  The video itself is real, made by those nice people in the wedding. They may not even realize why or how their wedding video went viral (and the tens of thousands of other wedding videos on YouTube did not). On the Today Show, “The couple told Lauer they were surprised at the video’s popularity” (also see NY Daily News article – http://bit.ly/OA3iG )

Related articles:

ReadWriteWeb – Build Profit Not DMCA Suits

WSJ – YouTube Declares Wedding Video a Financial Success

PSFK – Co-opting Viral Hits to Sell More Music

TechCrunch – YouTube: Viral Wedding Videos Are Great For Advertising

Huffington Post – Viral Wedding on YouTube Drives Buyers to Chris Brown Music

ClickZ -http://blog.clickz.com/090805-160921.html

What Viral Videos Look Like

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Friday, July 31st, 2009 analytics, viral videos 40 Comments

Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.

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