Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Biggest YouTube Videos of the Year: Rebecca Black, of Course. And Pitbull?

YouTube is embarking on a big push to make the world’s biggest video site look more like TV: It wants to have fancier productions and programming that encourages you to stick around for hours, not minutes.

Meanwhile, YouTube users seem very happy to do what they have always done on YouTube: Watch weird clips of people and animals behaving oddly.

The site has published its list of 2011’s most popular videos, and they’re basically what you’d expect: Clips of cute dogs, and cute babies, and an annoying 8-bit cat, and a really cute cat. And, of course, Rebecca Black, the poor/maybe rich girl who may or may not be in on the joke. Probably not.

The surprise, if you don’t pay attention to this stuff, is that YouTube’s Top 10 most-popular list of 2011 isn’t really the site’s Top 10 most-popular list. It’s the list of the top 10 videos not put out by big music companies.

Because those clips, which are distributed by Vevo, the Hulu-for-music videos, are way, way, way more popular than anything else on the site.

The most popular music video of the year, for instance, is this Jennifer Lopez clip, featuring Pitbull. It’s at nearly half a billion views, which means it is likely more than 2x Rebecca Black’s clip, the top non-big-music-label clip.

In fact, it turns out that any clip featuring Pitbull does exceptionally well. Here are two more, which collectively have generated close to 400 million views. I’ll let much smarter people, like Maura Johnston, explain why Pitbull is so popular. For our purposes, the key takeaway here is that people really, really, really like watching music videos on YouTube. Even more than they like funny girls and cute cats.


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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