Late last year, Psy’s disturbingly catchy tune “Gangnam Style” hit one billion views, the first YouTube video to do so. You probably heard about it. You’ve probably seen the video. You may even have had a crack at horsey dancing. It’s a huge milestone for YouTube, and a significant achievement for the Korean pop star -- but its success still shows how much further the Internet economy has to go.
The Los Angeles Times reports that, as of early December, Psy had made somewhere between $870,000 to $1.7 million from YouTube ads. By way of contrast, the Super Bowl clocked just over 108 million viewers -- and charged around $4 million per 30-second spot.
The fact of the matter is that, as a media channel, the Internet still generates a fraction of what you would expect from its analog counterpart. If I got my song viewed a billion times, $1.7 million real dollars would seem as inadequate as 10 million theoretical dollars.
They may say print is dying, but there’s a reason analog offerings get paid the big bucks. Forget about viral hits for a second; TV and print still deliver the most consistent density of eyeballs in the market. In my city, the most popular Facebook Pages and crowd-sourced news sites don’t begin to rival the exposure you get from a single article in the print version of our local paper.
And while Super Bowl viewing numbers may be down this year, the event and other broadcast offerings have some major advantages: You can forecast viewing numbers with greater confidence than with any online video, and you can forecast that a significant chunk of those views will occur simultaneously -- driving buzz, further engagement, repeat views, and virality.
Psy reaps additional benefits from his Internet fame, of course. He landed a spot in one of those Super Bowl ads, for starters and his song has been downloaded millions of times.
But this is the grand irony. The buzz and virality that marketers are paying for comes when a broadcast spot gets shared and rewatched online. So CBS is basically getting paid in anticipation of successfully sending viewers to the Web. And online performers get paid when they successfully go offline. The actual Internet bit of all this is sandwiched between prospects for making money.
Despite this being the Digital Age, creating the most popular video ever on YouTube is still not a destination. It’s a starting point that opens the doors to other opportunities. And isn’t that a bit of a shame?