Whether it's news articles in the paper, tweets or this very column, conversation around a "viral video" is usually accompanied with a statement like "plus it has over 20,000 views in 24 hours" or similar.
The internet makes our obsession with numbers a global concern. When Psy's Gangnam Style hit over 1 billion views on YouTube, the feat was talked about everywhere. Sure, it was an interesting fact but more than anything it reflects the cultural cache of the importance of views.
The numbers became the story, which happens to all viral videos, negating their meaning. But are they real?
An article called "I bought myself 60,000 YouTube views for Christmas" by Chase Hoffberger for The Daily Dot (bit.ly/ytbuy) has been doing the rounds for the past week or so, and confirms that the practice of artificially propping up YouTube views is common place. Dedicated sites like YTView can add thousands of hits for about $50 to any YouTube video through an automated quick-hit process.
The practice is happening locally too. In December, the popularity of a shoddy novelty music video by Yasha Swag called Pickles confounded everyone by receiving 10 million views in a week before being removed (now reupped at bit.ly/yashas).
The video was the work of Jacob Povolotski, a self-proclaimed Irish "meme-troller" who bought up views for the video. He told Hoffberger he did it for fun. "I try to prove [to] some ppl how its easy to get on top."
So the next time you encounter a video with a gazillion YouTube views, arch your questioning eyebrow and resist the urge to talk about the numbers. As a reminder that quantity is not an indicator of quality, please remember that even in a time when the music industry seems is dying on its arse, Ke$ha still sold more copies of her big hit single Tik-Tok in 2011 than any Beatles song ever.