Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Of Course That Herman Cain Smoking Ad Is a Web Video Hit. But What About the Rick Perry Spot?

When your pals start posting a Republican primary candidate’s TV spot on Facebook, you know it’s gone viral.

At least if you’re me, and your pals never, ever post Republican primary candidates’ TV spots on Facebook.

So no surprise to learn that the weird/funny/puzzling Herman Cain “smoking” ad is the 2012 campaign’s most popular Web video to date. So says Visible Measures, which tracks this kind of stuff.

The ad has racked up 2.1 million views on YouTube and other sites. Tellingly, only 1.3 million views come from the original video — the rest are reposts, “replies”, spoofs, etc.

And if you haven’t seen it yet, of course, you really should.

More interesting to me is that this ad, from Cain rival Rick Perry, is the second-biggest hit on the Web. And it’s a photo finish. This one, which first appeared in September, has just under 2.1 million votes. If this were a real race, we’d have a recount.

So. Two ads, almost-equal view counts, very different zeitgeist rankings.

Lesson here? Simple: It’s easy, if you’re me, to define “viral” as “thing I’ve heard about.” And often, you/I will be correct.

But very often the chattering/typing classes — or anyone, for that matter — mistakenly assume that our view of the world looks like the one everyone else sees. And the great/terrifying/humbling thing about the Web is that every so often it reminds us that there are 7 billion people out there. Which means “popular” is often going to mean “never heard of it.”

Okay. Sermon’s over! Back to me and my pals on Facebook. Look at this old “Headbangers Ball” video my friend Todd just posted!


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work