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.

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