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NTV Rerun: What Constitutes an Online Hit?

Last year around this time, we asked the question: What Constitutes an Online Hit? We talked to a number of industry professionals, many of which cited the magic play number of 100,000. But some 12 months later, more people are watching — and making — online video than ever before, so we wanted to see if that number had changed.

For our original story, we spoke with Funny or Die, Revver, JibJab and Heavy. At the time, Funny or Die said that if a celebrity-driven video did 100,000 plays in the first week, that was good (great if it was a UGC vid). Revver said 100,000 views in a day (which would translate to 400,000 to 500,000 over the vid’s lifetime). Overachievers JibJab said 1.5 million plays in the first week was a hit for them. And while Heavy pegged a hit at 100,000 plays, it said it would settle for 50,000 if those were 50,000 rabid, evangelizing fans.

And now?

“One hundred thousand doesn’t hold anymore,” said Adam McKay, co-founder of Funny or Die. “I think it’s that million-hit line. More than a million and you have a hit.” McKay has high expectations for the celeb-driven videos for which the site is known. He recalled a recent video featuring Fergie that only did 500,000 plays, which, McKay said was “a little bit of a disappointment.”

When contacted for a follow-up, Revver just sent us a brief email saying “Revver’s take on this hasn’t changed – we still consider 100,000 views to be a definite hit.”

Not much has changed for JibJab either. “When I said 3 million in a week for JibJab, that’s what we still look for,” said Gregg Spiridellis, co-founder of JibJab, “So much of our view count happens in the first week after release.”

Heavy has lowered its expectations. For the first two weeks after a video is released, “We’re happy with 50,000,” said Eric Hadley, Heavy’s chief marketing officer, “But 100,000 gives you the mileage on it.” Hadley also stressed the importance of context. For a smaller site like Heavy, 100,000 plays is good, but for a larger site like Yahoo or MSN, he said, it would be a different story because of their size and scale.

We also got some new information this week from that reliable online video hit factory CollegeHumor. The brains behind Internet Commenters and Minesweeper: The Movie don’t consider a video a hit unless it’s played half a million times in less than two weeks.

So where do we net out? Smaller players like Heavy and Revver are sticking close to their prior definition, while sites with a track record of success are upping the playcount ante, demanding more plays for a video before it’s considered a hit. With the total number of online videos watched growing from 9.2 billion in September of 2007 to 11.4 billion in July of 2008, I’m inclined to believe that we need to raise the bar for what is considered a hit.

But what do you think? This post, like last year’s, isn’t intended to come up with a definitive answer, but is once again meant to kick-start a discussion. How many plays should a video generate in order for it to be a hit? Tell us your opinion in the comment section.

12 Responses to “NTV Rerun: What Constitutes an Online Hit?”

  1. @Chris – thanks for the rerun, I’ve love to see what others think?! I’d stick my finger in the air and offer 100k views per video per week makes a hit these days. By this benchmark, NONE of the episodes qualify as a hit, LOL, although the series has done nearly 500k views in 7 weeks. And our viewers have generated nearly 60 pages of comments and discussions.

    @Jeremy – I think the absolute number of views do matter and serve as an important rule of thumb for a space that is still emergent and clamoring for the attention of advertisers. It’s the kind of eye catching stat candy that helps bring attention to what’s going on and makes great publicity.

    @ Gonzo – Although we too talk of “engagement” a lot (and you’ll see we are not short of ideas on how to use “interactive”, LOL) we still struggle for a robust definition of the term. And whatever definition for engagement we arrive at, absolute views will still matter especially for significant brands because of the marketing efficiency of reach, i.e. will your brands want a “fraction of two million” and spend lots of dollars with you if that is only a drop in the ocean for them?

    One aspect not discussed is the consistency of views, to separate the one-hit wonders from the consistently popular. Perhaps this may not be the place for that? I’d love to hear some other people drop some numbers … how many views make a hit?

    Deleted: The Game

  2. I think it depends HOW a video got its plays too. If a video from an establish creator gets 300,000 views due to entrenched massive subscribers, is that still a “hit”?

    500,000 views for Lisa Nova is pretty much par for the course, but for an unknown, it’s a coming out party smash hit. Hmmmm….

    I’d say a real “hit” is 1 million, no matter who you are. Vote McKay. (he’s funny)

  3. I absolutely agree with Jeremy. Its not about gross numbers but engagement, interaction and roi. What value do you bring to brands who want to be involved? At the end of the day, I would rather deliver brands a fraction of two million if the audience is passionate and valuable.

  4. I’m not sure hits are relevant anymore with the now infamous long-tail taking effect happening online.

    As Seth Godin says it’s not how many but who that’s most important this day in age. Would you sooner have 1,000,000 people see your video who enjoyed it but didn’t comment, share, or bookmark your video, or 100,000 who loved it, commented, shared, and bookmarked it? I would personally sooner have the latter of those two.

    Ad dollars in the short-term would be better with the 2,000,000 eyeballs (1,000,000 viewers x 2 eyeballs/viewer) consuming the content, but over the long-term if you can build an engaged and passionate viewerbase those eyeballs will be far more rewarding both from a personal and business perspective.