Viral Videos For Dummies: YouTube Gets Scientific

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YouTube is getting into the forecast business.

With new analytics hub YouTube Trends, user-generated is getting a long awaited ranking system. Intended a zeigeist of viral videos, Trends will essentially function as a blog that highlights YouTube uploads with viral potential – not unlike the hundreds of feeds doing just that on a daily basis, but instead of relying on instinct, Trends will base its picks on YouTube’s metrics. It’s certainly a more efficient way to predict the next “Charlie Bit Me,” but just as it’s sure to provide great guidance to the many media outlets/blogs digging for their next traffic boom, it might also take the joy out of the experience.

(More on Techland: What Went Viral This Week)

Four videos will be highlighted at 4 a.m. based on YouTube’s new diagnostic, alerting users to the top videos of the day, though comically, the blog seems a perpetual step behind blogging’s heavy hitters. All four videos highlighted on yesterday’s post were featured on prominent sites, (The Daily Wh.at, Gawker, Gizmodo & BuzzFeed) and while this certainly ads street cred to the whole operation the obvious still seams to be: Just read BuzzFeed.

But that’s just Trends at surface value. Underneath, there could be some very valuable information for those who make a study (or a living) of viral content. Brief viral explainers of recent hits and new algorithm-powered feeds in a variety of categories will become useful sources. Still, I’m wondering: Do we want our viral culture to go scientific? In all likelihood, YouTube’s viral factory won’t really change – at least in the way we unearth and devour viral content, but there is a small risk that uploads with mid-level interest will get big boosts from YouTube as more users come to trust the new system. This is neither a good or bad thing, but it does take away a slice of the organic beginnings of the viral video – albeit tiny.

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