Articles, Blog

The Worlds of Viral Video | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios

December 28, 2019

I think when people say viral I think they mostly just mean something that everybody’s talking about on the web. Content
is shareable when it hits people emotionally and makes people feel like
they’re proud to have it be associated with their identity. I kind of call it the new advertainment.
Make us great content and make it good enough that they’ll want to pass it around to their friends. Internet comedy specifically, I think that everyone’s just getting good at being funnier faster. Because people have such a shorter attention span for online stuff. That’s what I love about online is that it’s now created this opportunity where you can
make two to five minute videos and have them matter. People remember them. It has a timeless appeal. One of the interesting things about
viral video is there is actually no generally agreed upon definition. A lot of people like to use the word viral to describe something that takes off or is popular. For me, what counts
as viral is: are people inspired to share with their friends? Oftentimes it’s not even the video itself that’s so important. It’s what you think of the video. It’s what your reaction to that video is. We’re entering this new era in media where
it’s not just about serving your own needs. It’s about finding things for your friends and the
people in your life and people are becoming curators and publishers themselves. It’s what the video says about us when we share it. I like to be the funny guy so i share the
funny video. And so i think what you’re seeing now is the web is maturing, social
signals are becoming a bigger and bigger part of it and there’s going to be a higher bar for content creators to make things that people actually want to watch and share. From two thousand ’til two thousand six, accidental would be the key word in
characterizing these videos. It’s an extension from America’s Funniest Videos. Some of the most prominent themes will include cats, babies, schadenfreude moments, repetitive types of
music videos, animations, and borderline obnoxious songs. About two thousand six, there was the
emergence of a remix artist community on YouTube. Their primary role is to
take an existing clip and, totally re-contextualizing them, it took to the idea of viral culture to
the next level. From there people in the professional fields of video
production started taking notice. Videos like dick in a box, like a boss. These
videos totally took the absurd humor that has been running through internet videos
and they just introduced them to a much wider audience. That was the checkpoint
where mainstream and internet culture is really converging. How do we one up
from there? That’s the driving engine that this
convergence is bringing about. Viral video has been fantastic for
comedy. As much as we try to predict what’s going
to be a huge hit on the internet, you never totally know. And we try our best and there’s
things you can do. For example, I try to always start from a place of relatability. Like some topic that people
have experienced before in some way. Six Girls You’ll Date In College. You’re just like my dad. You’ll keep a picture of her to show to friends. She will not. With internet video, you just have to cram it. It’s visually like Hey keep watching! Don’t click away! Hi! HI! HI! We try to keep everything very visual, very fast and within like ten seconds
everyone needs to be aware of why is this funny, where its going to go. Another thing is it’s just, it’s more about the execution
of a concept that touches on a cultural nerve. Pop culture. That’s the thing
that’s being consumed the most. We did have a One Direction parity where we just totally called them like the seventh sign of the apocalypse. And all the One Direction fans were like we love it! As long as you’re covering things that they’re interested in they don’t care what you say. People are a lot more likely to share with their friends a video that they feel relates to their own lives in some way.
But we’re always surprised by what ends up becoming really popular. Early on, brands started looking at You Tube
creators and the so called viral videos they were making and thought hey we can do this ourselves. Initially they were trying to get
free advertising. That they could mimic what was going on on You Tube and with a gag or a
funny joke or a cute animal or a baby they could replace their television advertising.
Avion babies was sort of the first major super successful viral campaign. It reached over a billion views on You Tube.
Just an amazing success. But what they found over time is that these things cost
money so they’re investing more in it. I like power! Old Spice did hundreds of videos that were funny and made
that campaign last over time. What’s interesting are start-ups out there and some
established companies that are using video as their only marketing strategy. The dollar shave club launched basically on a funny video.
Another example is the orabrush guy. Their strategy is a hundred percent video. Videos that appeal to people’s emotions
also really work. Like the Google campaigns do. And those can be incredibly powerful but you know they’re not mentioning anything
specific about Google. It’s not just trusting that we can make good content and people will love us for it but it’s trusting that we can make good content that maybe really isn’t even about us. This is about brands creating content that people want to watch and
it’s really a revolutionary notion. I love two to three minute stories.
Storytelling is almost all I care about. Motivation or inspiration behind my videos is just whatever I think is interesting at that moment. In two thousand three the battery in my iPod died and I was really broke back then so it was a huge deal and Apple wouldn’t replace it. “Apple doesn’t offer a new battery for the iPod?” “No.” We made a three minute movie about it and put it online. It really exploded. It had about five million views in a couple of weeks and that predated You Tube. I always try to get a character that’s leading me through the story. Whether they care about the specific subject matter or not if they’re invested in the character, it’ll drive them through the videos. I’m a big cyclist so naturally I make a lot of movies about bikes and I live in New York City which is this amazing backdrop so it inspires
you to want to tell that story. And that’s what like texting while walking was. it’s
hard to invest yourself in a generic message but if its humanized, if there’s a face
behind it, it’s something to have a relationship with. So if i have the
opportunity to type a title in using software and it just pops up on the screen or I
can draw the title and then film it, by drawing it and filming it, you’re seeing the human hand. You’re seeing something I actually created. I don’t make movies for them to go viral. I just make the best movies I can and happen to just love three to five minutes. It’s my favorite length
for telling a story. And certainly that’s what I love about life more than anything
else, is experiencing the world through stories. We think about viral as entertainment but we’ve seen recently how powerful
and very dramatic events can also spread very quickly. So all of these trivial rules that we try to assign to what becomes popular on the web don’t always apply. Those videos could possibly lead to a discussion or a bigger debate about an
issue, whether it be interracial issues or bullying in schools. It’s now starting to affect politics. Like at the very start of the revolution in Egypt there is a video of a guy staring down a water cannon. it had elements of the Tiananmen idea. There’s gotta be comforting feeling that
somewhere, someone in the world, other people are seeing the mess that you’re in. So what
we’re seeing is transition from receiving and consuming these videos to talking about the video and starting another chapter. Now people are raising funds and doing
things to actually make things happen. When we think back and remember many of these moments, we’ll remember them through these You Tube videos. And that is a very, very different thing. Ten years ago it would take six months for
something to reach it’s full viral spread. Eight years ago it took something like two or
three months. Then it got down to a week and now it’s something that things can reach there full viral reach within a day or two. I actually think were in this
You Tube created renaissance of content. I think it’s cool that were in an era now where people are paying more attention to like how to get to the funnier thing faster. So
it is kind of a game, the viral contest. I think You Tube is still entirely the
wild wild west. Five years from now the stuff that we’re seeing online will be entirely different than right now. We’re in sort of this transitional phase. We’re just starting to understand what happens when you open up the power of video to the masses. We’re going to continue to see things that surprise us for the next decades.


  • Reply FoX July 27, 2012 at 8:27 am


  • Reply thescowlingschnauzer July 27, 2012 at 10:07 am


  • Reply thescowlingschnauzer July 27, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Good content, but to be honest 9 minutes is a long time with cuts that quick.

  • Reply PaulMrThe July 27, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    uncreactive idoit

  • Reply Luis Perez July 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm


  • Reply ciaosonodaniele July 27, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Hey hi casey!

  • Reply ______ July 27, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Is it sad that I recognized almost every viral video they showed? (excluding the justin bieber ones, off)

  • Reply Jacob Zeise July 27, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    casey neistat! whoop!

  • Reply Bumblebreeze July 27, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    that's a great thing!

  • Reply theowest July 27, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    too many old viral clips 🙁

  • Reply AMY P July 27, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Whoop whoop Casey!

  • Reply StraySora July 27, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    I need links to all the viral videos in the show! I haven't seen many of them T_T

  • Reply st00p1dmonkey July 27, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    Anyone remember the title of the video at 0:58?
    I totally forgot it and my Internet searches failed.

  • Reply Cornig July 27, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    i also want to know

  • Reply badpun July 27, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    i like turtles

  • Reply PBSoffbook July 27, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    just search for "going to the store". omg so funny. we lose our mind every time we watch it. 🙂

  • Reply PBSoffbook July 27, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    OK! We'll work on it. 🙂 Might take a couple days but we'll put all of them in the description!

  • Reply st00p1dmonkey July 27, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    Thanks a lot.
    The song is also so catchy.

  • Reply rebeljohn747 July 28, 2012 at 12:47 am

    what was the video of the weird brown walking thing?

  • Reply Steve Superman July 28, 2012 at 1:17 am

    Thanks for taking 9 minutes to explain something that takes 30 seconds.

  • Reply StraySora July 28, 2012 at 1:39 am

    You'd actually do that for me??? YOU ARE AMAZING!

  • Reply qawsx56 July 28, 2012 at 2:03 am

    Like if you cry evry tim!

  • Reply Austin Robinson July 28, 2012 at 3:33 am

    I LOVE Casey Neistat!!!!

  • Reply Sophia Hjkleightninezeroone July 28, 2012 at 4:59 am

    this video gave me feels

  • Reply ahlisbon July 28, 2012 at 5:14 am

    Great video but…not a single woman was represented.

  • Reply HiraA1000 July 28, 2012 at 6:46 am

    i get kinda sad everytime i think about how in a few years, youtube will be very different. im sure ill love future youtube as well and i know change is good, but i really love youtube now and epic fails and like a boss and sh*t — says vids XD ill miss it, and i cant wait to share those kinds of vids with my kids. ill have them laughing their butts off :')

  • Reply ilickspam July 28, 2012 at 10:34 am

    what was the ending credits song? i've been looking for it for years.

  • Reply martinnolan88 July 28, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    nice one. i've seen a lot of them but i really want to see them all.

  • Reply waterdude125 July 28, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Woahahoahoa When did gaga make the it's get better video?!?! link?

  • Reply munkijunki July 28, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    what a fucking circle jerk. Yea, it's fucking great that peoples level of attention and concentration are so low that…. HEY… HAVE YOU DRIFTED OFF AND STOPPED READING THIS? This is exactly what I'm talking about… you total Zombie.

  • Reply wj2713 July 28, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    please do so!

  • Reply Akeche July 28, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Wonder if we can make the video about viral videos go viral.

  • Reply MantaRayRecords July 29, 2012 at 2:27 am

    YOUTUBE Search: AV Blue Lights

  • Reply B. Winky July 29, 2012 at 8:21 pm


  • Reply justforexperience July 29, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Just go to Know Your Meme.

  • Reply Senkai7 July 29, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    WOW Viral videos…Where is the list?? i want see all…

  • Reply Piero Tampellini July 29, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Epic final!

  • Reply PBSoffbook July 29, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    We got it started! There is a link in the description to a work-in-progress Google Doc. It's about 90% complete. We'll finish it up this week. 🙂

  • Reply StraySora July 30, 2012 at 12:38 am

    Ok, this is not only my favorite Youtube channel, but it's clearly run by the most awesome people ever! I LOVE YOU WHOEVER YOU ARE! <3

  • Reply wj2713 July 30, 2012 at 5:02 am

    lord, never thougth it was such long list. i appreciatte it

  • Reply Donald Brand July 30, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    Great job guys (And gals?) Keep it up! And keep being awesome 😀

  • Reply poesidon2323 July 31, 2012 at 12:53 am

    go to that guys website, he made the xbox 360 start up logo

  • Reply Racquel Nelson July 31, 2012 at 3:20 am

    It's Friday gotta get down on friday. Dear god that song scares me.

  • Reply DGA July 31, 2012 at 3:23 am

    This needs to go viral right now

  • Reply SmokeFalcon July 31, 2012 at 5:02 am

    Awesome video guys. I just discovered your channel, and I love the documentary style look at these different subjects. Keep up the great work.

  • Reply InternationalTCK1 July 31, 2012 at 7:13 am

    Anyone else notice that the Asian guy got sweatier every time they showed him?

  • Reply coconut July 31, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Very interesting video, subscribed.

  • Reply HarveyMidnight July 31, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    While searching for the music, I found this video.

  • Reply Scott Sasina July 31, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    thumbs up if you saw this on Memebase!

  • Reply yuud4i July 31, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Badgers almost care about this video

  • Reply plp855 July 31, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    i really like his mane

  • Reply trollin80 August 1, 2012 at 3:03 am

    whats the name of the video with the bear doing martial arts

  • Reply NZpnw August 1, 2012 at 4:21 am

    too bad %60 of the videos are COPY RIGHTED AND WERE REMOVED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Reply Malcolm Bates Music August 1, 2012 at 4:22 am

    Key of awesome was featured in this!

  • Reply Patrick D August 1, 2012 at 5:08 am

    right click on the video. stop download. what is the name of the video in the top right corner???

  • Reply Spencer Gilbert August 1, 2012 at 5:30 am

    I find this difficult to masturbate too.

  • Reply Ducilios August 1, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Good god, I have seen like 3/4 of the videos in here, what I am doing with my life?

  • Reply umeshuk91 August 1, 2012 at 11:02 am

    @ 00.23 which lady gaga song video is this? Plz tell! thnks

  • Reply nishantve1 August 1, 2012 at 11:52 am


  • Reply Tyler Kurlas August 1, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    what I've always wondered, if you take the essence of gladwell's outliers, grassroots marketing, and "viral" entertainment… what patterns can we extract by studying who "likes" these videos first, what social media tools they use to share them, and the effects after certain people click on certain buttons (thinking infograph material). i think it would be interesting, and have many parallels to predicting a movie's revenues based on the turnout from opening night. thoughts/comments?

  • Reply PBSoffbook August 1, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    it's key of awesome's parody of bad romance. search for "Lady Gaga: Bad Romance parody" so ridiculously good. 🙂

  • Reply ronnysuke August 2, 2012 at 8:54 am

    So the guy's ipod battery died and he does not have enough money to buy a new battery but he has enough money to make a movie about it? my god, just how much does these ipod thingy costs? :O

  • Reply Adrian Lowell August 2, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Oh wow… I haven't been this inspired in a while good job. 🙂

  • Reply trifulquita15 August 3, 2012 at 12:19 am

    i have a video "Discurso de Mao" 22000 views, is it viral?

  • Reply Page Weil August 3, 2012 at 9:41 pm


  • Reply Jakob Montrasio August 7, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    Fantastic summary of viral videos until now.

  • Reply pescando August 7, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    Key of Awesome is a part of history. That makes me so happy.

  • Reply Kahandran August 7, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    "Because people have such a shorter attention span for online stu-" *changes video*

  • Reply one amazed potato August 19, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    this video gave me a feel

  • Reply GamedGamer August 26, 2012 at 11:12 am


  • Reply Joshua Duncan August 26, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Great video. Now, how many of my tax dollars went to fund it?

  • Reply bobotea August 28, 2012 at 4:28 am


  • Reply Stephen Benz August 29, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Josh the cartoon guy wants to know how many of his tax $ went to fund this video. Here's the answer: Corporation for Public Broadcasting received $445 million from Congress in 2012. According to Forbes Magazine (April 2012) 122 million Americans pay federal income tax. Do the math: 455 divided by 122 = 3.65. So all of NPR and PBS broadcasting costs you $3.65 a year. Penny a day.

  • Reply Wesley Foxx August 31, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    And just imagine, all of this would be a tiny, hobbled, censored fraction of what it currently is if we let internet-uneducated politicians pass completely broken policy that violates the first amendment.

  • Reply Marco September 9, 2012 at 2:31 am

    this channel is awesome

  • Reply xjanosikx September 9, 2012 at 2:49 am

    this is awesome, and the gooogle docs document you guys made? Google may the force be with You

  • Reply Acute-Dilute “Tochilicho” September 17, 2012 at 3:45 am


  • Reply ranitas 123 September 21, 2012 at 2:58 am

    y werevertumorro

  • Reply Franco González September 25, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Eres retrasada o solo sarcastica?

  • Reply ranitas 123 September 26, 2012 at 12:56 am

    de las 2

  • Reply Happy Derpina October 6, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    why there's the overly attached girl on the cover?

  • Reply Ambient Joe October 12, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    What the hell is that dummy thing walking in the road

  • Reply subhani rafi October 18, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    0:32 who is this guy

  • Reply Dino chan October 21, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    gets ticket for not riding in bike lane
    crashes into cop car parked in bike lane
    gotta love irony

  • Reply Other Stuff October 30, 2012 at 2:20 am

    That guy has his eyes twisted.

  • Reply TrainedZombie November 2, 2012 at 1:54 am

    Very nice

  • Reply Donal Troy January 31, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    how am i only finding this channel now??

  • Reply Leon Frost February 1, 2013 at 3:05 pm


  • Reply Alesi Ngemi March 1, 2013 at 1:00 am

    Mainstream and internet culture are not converging. Internet culture is causing hell for what is known as Mainstream – mainstream, we all should know, may as well be considered a company unto itself. The attempt of mainstream to converge WITH the tumultuous internet riverstream is a flailing attempt to keep money flowing where its been flowing for years..warner your hosting media group. They want to keep their lights on. They will fail. to our benefit

  • Reply red skippy March 4, 2013 at 11:58 am

    if its propaganda produced by the "masses", its still propaganda. popularity shouldnt be the arbiter of quality. notice how many viral videos are spectacular in nature; designed for short attention spans. the internet still has a long way to go to mature. be wary of these populists, complacent with advertising and the next shiny new thing referencing someone rich and famous

  • Reply tawnyflowers March 22, 2013 at 4:27 am

    So interesting to see how fast the world has changed just from youtube. Just amazing. 🙂

  • Reply Phoenixfighter March 27, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Like a sir.

  • Reply Beyond Birthday April 4, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Yes it is.

  • Reply Alesi Ngemi May 1, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    so to speak, incorrect? its called an opinion hipster – take your circle talking to the coffee shop for intellectual woolgathering. i could give a shite…move on.

  • Reply MarthaStout0202 May 3, 2013 at 2:40 am

    Yay! It was captioned!!

  • Reply Tujefe101 May 27, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    how is the girl in the bikini video called?

  • Reply MEGA KRISTIN June 20, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    awesome vid.. hmm anyone knows who is the girl in top right of thumbnail who had that scary smile expression?..

  • Reply Nour R August 31, 2013 at 11:38 am


  • Reply flishlish October 5, 2013 at 1:12 am

    That is Laina

  • Reply yupadme May 11, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Can someone like list up all the viral videos in this video for me? I need them when im bored or heartbreak or lonely or anything! Please

  • Leave a Reply