YouTube View-Count Scandal Grazes Beyonce and PSY Alike, Shows Viral isn't Always Viral
With all that weight on something so easily manipulated, it's important to remember... well, just how much incentive there is for people to manipulate it. Not just major labels--like steroids in sports, it's the people who are barely breaking even who have the most to gain--and not just through outright forgery. VEVO's popularity as an ersatz radio probably has more to do with Adele's 365 million views for "Rolling in the Deep" than this well-shot video in which she does not even realize all that water is gay at the end (spoilers):
And while PSY and his 1.1 billion views were launched the kind-of-old-fashioned way, through word of mouth and your cousin's friend's Facebook, Eminem and Rihanna's fourth-place "Love the Way You Lie" has more in common with their old media successes than it does sixth-place "Charlie bit my finger - again !" The massive pop-culture figures the Evolution of Dance guy parodied in 2006 are now his direct competitors; web culture's low-budget phenomena and the major media conglomerates have converged on one easily fudged metric.
Now that we're observing YouTube views -- and PSY and Bieber's brief tussle for the top spot pushed them further into the spotlight than they've ever been -- we can't avoid changing them. So if last week's scandal was more about housekeeping than refresh-button skulduggery, it's still only a matter of time until we're trying out terrible Web 2.0 puns for the word "payola."