Gangnam's Billion Earns Peanuts By Analog Standards

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?

13 comments about "Gangnam's Billion Earns Peanuts By Analog Standards".
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  1. Chuck Parker from 2nd Screen Society, February 8, 2013 at 11:05 a.m.

    You're forgetting that in the anal

  2. Kevin Lee from Didit, February 8, 2013 at 11:06 a.m.

    So, is it the agency and client-side media buying machine continuing with its current inertia that is the problem or is it a fundamental order of magnitude difference in the true value of the impressions/views in the two settings.
    I'd argue its a bit of both. Who's gonna get fired for buying a super bowl ad? Unless the ad completely sucks chances are you'll get a promotion and raise and your personal brand will skyrocket. Take a chance on a million dollar online video ad buy (and get ten times the views), and you'll be forced to justify the expense with a hard ROI, brand lift won't be enough and you'll have to do much more work to place the media.

  3. Chuck Parker from 2nd Screen Society, February 8, 2013 at 11:08 a.m.

    You are forgetting that in the analog world Psy would have earned zero. No one would ever have put him on anything.

  4. Stanford Crane from NewGuard Entertainment Corp, February 8, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.

    The real shame is the venture investors are missing the content play in TV, because that's where the real money is generated. To them it's only about digital. That's their story and they're sticking to it...even if few are making any money in the space.

  5. Thomas Kurz from EFP, February 8, 2013 at 11:29 a.m.

    Well said...I think the divide between analog and digital will have to narrow sooner rather than later.

  6. Yvonne Divita from BlogPaws, February 8, 2013 at 11:35 a.m.

    Here's where I have trouble with this view - few people under 40 watch TV ads. Few people under 40 read newspapers (in print) and the rise of ebooks is proof that print is not the place to put your dollars. The Stupid-Bowl (yes, that's what I call it) continues to attract large sums because of what it is...not because it's on TV. Put it on the web, and the cost will skyrocket. We have yet to tap into the true potential of online ads and marketing... but it's coming, and sooner than you think. Just my brazen opinion.

  7. Chris Simpson from AU/SOC, February 8, 2013 at 12:03 p.m.

    Why does Kalia Colbin write 'it's a shame' that the "actual internet bit,,, is sandwiched between prospects for making money" ? It looks to me as though the present economic structure of the web is precisely the reason that it attracts such wide and diverse audiences. Ms Colbin seems to 'want her cake and to eat it too.'

  8. Ron Stitt from Fox Television Stations, February 8, 2013 at 1:04 p.m.

    Great post, I'm always amused when people just can't understand why advertisers still buy TV. Not sure where you got the idea Super Bowl ratings were down...actually, they were the highest in history, and it was the highest-rated TV show (of any kind) since Nielsen introduced meters. For you non-TV types, the rating peaked at 52.9 and averaged 48.1...that means at one point, 52.9% of all TVHH (vast majority of all households in the U.S) were watching. Together. At the same time. And no, they weren't all age 40+.

    Of course, Psy made many millions more riding the YouTube wave (or if he didn't, he needs a new agent). We need to stop thinking in this either/or paradigm and understand the totality of audience media consumption/behavior.

  9. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, February 8, 2013 at 1:23 p.m.

    I think this misses the objective of advertising. Whether it's video views, click throughs, impressions or whatever, those are only measurements that quantify an exposure. We don't get paid for exposing marketing messages. That's easy. The payment comes from creating and exposing the marketing messages in ways that create action among audiences. No plan I've ever written or executed had as a marketing objective, "create video views."

  10. Terry Heaton from Reinvent21, February 8, 2013 at 2:16 p.m.

    I'm with Ron here. The all-or-nothing, either-or mindset of media makes no sense. These are two entirely different markets. One is top-down, one-to-many; the other is 3-way horizontal, including one-to-one. One creates audiences; the other is social and connected.

    Another point glossed over here is that, for many, the Superbowl is a commercial viewing experience. It's the only such animal in existence. All other TV viewing involves ad avoidance, and this says more about the industry's long-term viability than anything else. Of course, that's a secret, right?

  11. Jeff Koenig from digiriot, INC, February 10, 2013 at 1:19 a.m.

    Actually, Ron, it means 52.9% of the woefully inadequate 25,000 Neilsen boxes that are absurdly used to measure the viewing habits of 300M Americans were tuned to the Super Bowl. So about 13,000 *guaranteed* viewers - that's absolutely worth $4M for 30 seconds, right? Right?

  12. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, February 11, 2013 at 12:33 p.m.

    Both the Superbowl and Psy's video directly earned about $1m per minute in advertising. Additionally, Psy became a world celebrity and will make 10x - 100x more from that. So I don't follow the logic of this post. Data:,

  13. Ron Stitt from Fox Television Stations, February 11, 2013 at 5:25 p.m.

    Actually, Jeff...wrong. At this level of viewership, the sample is very reliable/high degree of statistical confidence. Or is it your experience that nobody you know was watching? When you suggest that cost should be based on 13k viewers, you show that you are not serious. BTW, are lots of people watching TV and is traditional Nielsen methodology the best way to measure it are two different questions.

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