News flash: The jailed Russian punk rock group Pussy Riot “did not gain international fame through their musicality per se.” (via The Economics of Pussy Riot on YouTube - Businessweek)
- That insight—none too surprising if you’ve ever clicked on a Pussy Riot video on YouTube—appears in anacademic paper (pdf) by three electronic-commerce researchers from the University of Texas, Austin. The 45-page paper, filled with equations and Greek letters, explains how being deliberately offensive can help a video break through the clutter on YouTube, where 72 hours’ worth of video are uploaded every minute. “Most viewers were drawn to [their] videos out of curiosity,” not a desire to watch a high-quality clip, write professor Andrew Whinston and PhD students Liangfei Qiu and Qian Tang.
- Not everyone aspires to be Pussy Riot, which staged such provocations as trespassing in a Russian Orthodox Church—a performance that drew two-year prison sentences for three band members. But Whinston, an economist who is a professor of management science and information systems, says it’s important for marketers to understand the various qualities that make one video go viral and another go unnoticed.
- The University of Texas paper explains the two reasons people click on a video that lots of other people have clicked on. One is “social learning”; the fact that others have watched it tells you it must be good. A very different reason is “network effect”; whether the video is good or not, it becomes more valuable to watch it if others are watching it. It then becomes a topic of conversation—and the more people have seen it, the livelier the conversation.
- In the introduction to their paper, the authors quote Malraux on Picasso: “You’ve got to create images they won’t accept. Make them foam at the mouth. Force them to understand that they’re living in a pretty queer world.”