In One Way, Letterman Won On YouTube

Last night’s “Late Show with David Letterman” finale featured a taped segment purporting to be a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the show. In one snippet, a bored and distracted Letterman sat in an office attempting to toss grapes into a drinking glass a few feet away. After wasting time on that unchallenging pursuit, he declared, “You know what I’m gonna dedicate the rest of my life to? Social media.”

It was a perfect, subtle estimation of the minimal value Letterman attached to Twitter and Facebook and Google. In mock stupidity, he often referenced with “the” in front of those names, to show his unfamiliarity.

But it was no joke, really, because Letterman did conclude, as he told The New York Times, that he was aged out of the social network thing, and not only that, he didn’t really care.

Some interesting stats from marketing and data company Zefr displays that.

Letterman’s official YouTube channel has only 137.5 million views, which have resulting in 681,000 engagements.

That is, comparatively, nothing, the Zefr data show.

Jimmy Fallon’s official “Tonight Show” channel has 2.2 billion views (and 15.2 million engagements);’ “Jimmy Kimmel Live” has 2.1 billion views (and 12.1 million engagements), and “Conan” O’Brien has 1.4 billion views (and 11 million engagements). Zefr also has stats for the rest. It defines “engagement” as likes, dislikes and comments.

Altogether, Fallon sites have more views (2.31 billion) than Kimmel's (2.27 billion). Everybody falls in far below those guys.

What is curious is that Letterman has more fan channel views--meaning “unofficial channel”  views (253.9 million)-- than any of the other late night hosts. That's based on just 6.7 million uploads.

By comparison, Jimmy Kimmel, the host with the second most views of fan channels, at 212.6 million, is based on far more uploads (20 million).

That may not mean much except proof that Letterman was a comparatively lackadaisical sitemaster, and fans made up for it with their own material. But it could also mean that in terms of absolute engagement, Letterman has a lot to brag about because his fewer fans are so manically involved with him they posted their own videos.

Indeed, “The Late Show” is the only show in which the majority of its views and engagements come from unofficial fan videos. Zefr calculates that 65% of its views, 62% of its engagements and 83% of its videos come from fans, which, again, is either a sign of their devotion or the Letterman show’s nonchalance, or a combination of both.

From a commercial point of view, it may be a lost opportunity. Zach James, Zefr's co-CEO and co-founder, notes, "It's not so much about how big the total passion for the celebrity is, rather it's can that passion be harnessed? If you have many unofficial fan pages - it's harder to reach out to your fans then if most of them are following you on your own page.  In the case of Letterman, if fans are engaging in unofficial channels, they are engaging but not where the celebrity can reach them."  

Still, you have to wonder how big his video shares would have been if YouTube had been around when his first NBC show jolted late night sensibilities. Somehow, though, I think Letterman would think talk about “trending” and "likes" is just plain silly.

Those other hosts might have their problems, too. Recently, Zefr analyzed the reach and engagment of “traditional celebrities” like Fallon against a few of social-media’s biggest influencers--new names it said many viewers never heard of. You probably won’t be surprised to learn some of the newbies are smokin’ hot attractions.

Zefr compared Fallon to Connor Franta, whose name, definitely, is not ringing many bells across America. Or are we just stupid? Franta, a former member of Our2ndLife, has 4.4 million subscribers to his YouTube vlog, which has had at least 200 million views. He has a clothing line and a coffee brand and last month, this 22-year old released his memoir, A Work In Progress. 

Zefr says, matched head to head, Fallon has far more reach via social media (38.4 million for Fallon, compared to 12.5 million for Franta). But when it comes to engagement, Franta’s average 2 million touches across social media trounces Fallon’s average 1.2 million--and that’s despite that reach disparity. Ditto for Fallon versus Grace Helbig, whose engagement rate is more than double Fallon’s.

James writes, “You need to track the rise and fall of different personalities across each platforms to make sure you end up working with the right people. And, the amazing part of all of this is that these influencers are willing to work with brands in creative ways.”

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