Advertisers tune in to YouTube ‘Generation C’

Lina Saigol 03/22/13 Financial Times

When YouTube emerged as one of the internet’s most popular sites in 2005, some tech analysts were quick to dismiss it as a fad.

Eight years later, however, the home of Korean pop music videos, “Charlie bit my finger – Again!” and budding filmmakers and musicians has reached a milestone that TV networks would kill for: one billion unique monthly viewers.

Driving that stratospheric growth is a new demographic group, dubbed Generation C by researchers at Google (which bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65bn) because they thrive on four ‘C’s: connection, creation, community and curation.

Generation C, Google says, has taken up permanent residence on YouTube, making the site one of their primary daily destinations.

YouTube plays to the way this generation consumes media – in bite-size chunks that become talking points in the same way TV shows do.

One of the biggest contributors to this growth has been South Korean pop sensation Psy, who took the world by storm with his hit ‘Gangnam style’.

Parodies of the kooky music video quickly proliferated as the original version reached one billion views in December 2012, surpassing teen heartthrob Justin Bieber’s 2010 “Baby” video as YouTube’s most-viewed clip.

Generation C is defined not by its age but by so-called “connected behaviour” – constantly switching between devices, thriving on the community around them and finding the content they want to consume. They tend to be in the 18-34 age group and inhabit a multi-screen world of smartphones, tablets and PCs – 67 per cent watch YouTube on two devices or more, Google found.

Advertisers have taken notice of YouTube’s phenomenal rise. Audience size is key to attracting advertisement dollars from companies looking to extend their marketing reach. Nielsen Research Group says Generation C could influence $500bn of spending a year in the US.

In January, a Google executive said in a company earnings call that ‘Gangnam Style’ had generated $8m from YouTube, with 1.2bn views yielding a royalty of about 0.6 cents a viewing.

Howard Davies-Carr’s “Charlie Bit My Finger – Again” – a 56-second home video of a boy and his baby brother in which the latter bites the former’s finger – is another of YouTube’s most watched videos. As of October 2012, Mr Davies-Carr had made about $500,000 from the clip.

What YouTube has not yet figured out, however, is what makes a “viral success.”

Jonah Berger, a professor at Wharton, studied the success of “Charlie Bit My Finger – Again!” and concluded its popularity was down to the “visceral emotions it arouses in viewers.”

The study suggested that “the popularity of such videos is rooted in the way they excite the body, inducing a spectrum of physiological changes”. That causes people to become more likely to share information, which in turn can be associated with the video’s success.



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