Michelle Jenneke’s dancing routing just before the start of her track race at the Junior World Championships did more than cause the creation of a viral video, and make her name a household word, it totally busted YouTube’s attempts to devalue videos that go viral because of sexy thumbnails and content.
If you don’t know by now, Michelle Jenneke spontaneously danced while warming up for her race, and during that process, made some hip-swerving moves that knocked the World out of its chair. One enterprising media-type took the video of her warming-up, slowed it down a bit, and matched it to some funky Central American pop tune. That video has gained over 7 million views over the past week.
This blogger wondered what it would look like if Michelle Jenneke were dancing to the new Zennie62 Theme by Emily Palen, and the result is the video at the start of this blog post, just installed less than a day ago, and already gaining more views than many of my recent videos have.
All of this is busting the new YouTube algorithm.
YouTube Was Trying To Change The Video Traffic Dynamic
In working to gain more video views, and thus more ad money, for YouTube Partner videos produced by major brands, the video giant altered its way of determining which videos reached the “Suggested Video” status. A “Suggested Video” is one that appears at the top right of a list of videos under a topic.
In the old days – before December 14, 2011 – a YouTube Suggested Video was the one that got the most clicks. For years a culture of viral video watchers and makers grew up from this, and the viral video producers learned to use different techniques, like a provocative thumbnail.
More often than not, that thumbnail got you to click on the video, even if you didn’t see, say, an actual sex act – which is prohibited on YouTube anyway. But all of that was to change on December 14th, 2011.
YouTube / Google AdSense December Algorithm Change Harms Partners
That’s what I blogged on December 18th, 2011: the day many YouTube Partners took to the Partners Forum to complain about the sudden and massive drop in traffic all had experienced, to varying degrees. In my case, I experienced a 47 percent drop in video view traffic. Other YouTube Partners, who were running “single subject” channels, experienced drops of up to 90 percent. That’s right: 90 percent of their traffic performance was wiped out.
For all of us Partners, that drop equals a loss in income. Since then many have tried various techniques to recover our losses. What I have found in my experiments is that sex still works. But the difference is that the “sexy video” must be honest to its content, or it will not gain viewers. This is because YouTube is measuring “engagement” or how long a person watches a video, as a determinant in the videos elevation to “suggested” status.
The Michelle Jenneke videos qualify as engaging and sexy. So much so that even the video of her full race went viral, and of the videos that appeared among those “most watched” on June 21st, “Michelle Jenneke” videos dominated the list – her name was the only one associated with multiple viral videos on the YouTube front page.
Michelle Jenneke Stars A Trend
My prediction is that Michelle Jenneke’s starting a trend back toward the old fashioned viral video around a sexy woman, but this time we’ll get more honest ones. It will also spawn a trend of videos of young female athletes trying to get their viral video name by doing a “Michelle Jenneke.” The overall difference today is that what you see in the thumbnail will be what you get in the video. And the lesson here is you can’t change how people are wired.
We are visual. In an age where YouTube has many kinds of videos uploaded each second, we can’t help but look at the video of the body, and particularly the female form. There are some, generally observers in their twenties, who bristle at this idea, but what the Michelle Jenneke episode proves is we can’t escape who we are as humans. To try and do so is just plain silly.