That Time of Year

So, as 2011 draws to a close, the inevitable retrospectives are hitting, including one that I actually find interesting, the YouTube “Best of the Year”.

In the year that Rebecca Black tops the YouTube rankings, it´s tempting to retreat into curmudgeon mode and declare the death of culture, but I could probably do that most years.

Looking at the top ten as a whole though, it´s interesting to note a couple of details. Only one ad: The VW ´Force´ ad was huge before it ever aired thanks to YouTube, which seems to reinforce the idea that Star Wars will never go away. Though given the release of yet another version of the films, and this week´s launch of the new Star Wars MMO, that was probably not in doubt. The attraction of the ad is pretty obvious, but for it to stand out so far ahead of any other ad seems surprising to me (it´s worth noting that in the UK specifically, they list the T-Mobile Royal Wedding ad as the most-watched, with The Force coming in fourth).

The other thing that strikes me about the overall top ten is that the weird quotient is higher than usual. At least two of the videos that are basically music videos are squarely in the weird column, and then there are the chatting babies, the Nyan Cat and the talking dog. Arguably a precocious child ´doing a Lady Gaga´ is also weird, but that might just be the curmudgeon again.

As is often the case though, some of the subject-specific YouTube charts are actually more interesting than the overall version. As we barrel into a US presidential election year, you´d expect the politics chart to be full of campaign ads, but actually they barely feature, with Rick Perry´s “Strong” the most prominent (that one also gained another record as the most disliked video in YouTube history).

It´s a source of some satisfaction that the most viewed political video on YouTube this year wasn´t actually of a politician. During a debate about marriage equality in Iowa, a well-spoken young man in a suit called Zach Wahls spoke up in defence of his family and others like it. More than fifteen million views later, he´s outstripping Rick Perry more than two-to-one.

YouTube has a sometimes deserved reputation built on nightmarish commenters and an obsession with cats; therefore it´s nice to know that it can also still act as a vehicle for messages that actually have a positive goal.