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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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik