Batman dad, dancing job-quitter: Everyman videos are taking off and cashing in, Pew says

October 10, 2013

Last week, after a video of a woman quitting her job went viral, a mother in Portsmouth, N.H., quickly created a parody of the buzzy clip with hopes of carving out her own slice of Internet fame.

In the span of a lunch hour, Brenna Jennings recorded, edited and posted a video of herself quitting the mundane and exhausting tasks of being a mom.

The video quickly racked up more than 500,000 views on YouTube, enough to draw the attention of “Good Morning America,” which replayed the clip on television.

Jennings, 40, is among the scores of amateur moviemakers putting inhibitions aside and flooding the Web with their sassy dancing toddlers, sports stunts and living room stand-up comedy.

Teens and young adults have long been liberal sharers of photos and videos online. But a new study released Thursday shows that adults of all ages have joined the attention-grabbing group of Internet users.

One in 10 adults ages 18 through 49 posts videos online that the user hopes will go viral. Overall, 31 percent of adults upload or post videos online, an amount that has doubled since 2009, according to a report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

“As the online video culture grows, posting videos online is becoming a mainstream online behavior,” said Kristen Purcell, an associate director of research at Pew and author of the report. Only 5 percent of people who post videos online say later that they regretted sharing, she added.

Rapid adoption of new technologies has fueled the surge in online video postings. Android smartphones and Apple’s iPhones put video cameras in the hands of the majority of American adults. Many of those users are also using one or more social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ , that make it easy to share those videos.

The popularity of homemade videos has turned the top clips into regular features on talks shows such as “Ellen” and Web sites such as Huffington Post and Buzzfeed.

Jennings, who writes a blog about parenting, sees social media and online videos as a way to connect to other parents going through similar experiences.

“I appreciate people who I can relate to, like the dad dressed like Batman in his minivan saying funny things about even the mundane things he does every day as a father,” Jennings said. “It’s authentic and an equalizer; you don’t have to be a Kardashian to get noticed online.”

The majority of the videos show friends and family members doing funny and everyday things, such as attending sporting events or concerts, the Pew report says. Staged and scripted videos are less common, according to the cellphone and land-line phone survey of 1,003 adults.

The growth in online videos is still maturing, analysts say. YouTube, Twitter’s Vine video service and Facebook predict fortunes from selling ads against popular videos of babies biting fingers and cats dressed in shark costumes, as well as from placing ads alongside video channels for Internet celebrities. Some stars have millions of regular viewers.

With money to be made off viral videos, a cottage industry has emerged to capture the clips’ few days of fame.

Companies are tracking data to capture second-by-second movement of online traffic in any particular clip. Agencies are courting fresh talent so that within hours they can turn a funny moment caught on video into profits by licensing royalties and advertisements for the videos’ creators.

“There is a tremendous amount of data analysis going on to see how a video goes viral and to capture that wave at the right moments,” said Rob Sandie, chief executive of VidIQ, a company that provides data analysis on video-traffic patterns.

Two weeks ago, a tender video of a dad singing “Tonight You Belong to Me” with his 4-year-old daughter quickly became an online hit, thanks mostly to how the video was shared on social networks. According to an analysis by VidIQ, Facebook traffic accounted for 87 percent of those views; on Twitter, the clip was retweeted 5,169 times; and on Google+, it was shared 4,475 times.

Also two weeks ago, a father of four posted a montage of Vine clips of him wearing a Batman mask and talking in a Bruce Wayne voice to his children about mundane tasks, such as using a spoon to eat cereal and rewarding poop in the potty with a lollipop.

Within days of posting the video, the father, Blake Wilson, was being represented by the Jukin Video agency, whose researchers discovered him when the video’s view count hit 50,000 on YouTube.

Jukin helped broker a licensing agreement with NBC’s “Today” show, CNN, a viral video platform and a German television show called “Punk12.” Jukin spokesman Mike Skogmo wouldn’t reveal details of those financial arrangements. As of Thursday morning, the video had been viewed more than 7 million times.

Follow The Post’s new tech blog, The Switch, where technology and policy connect.

Cecilia Kang is a national technology reporter, writing about tech and Internet policies at the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission and how regulations affect businesses and consumers.
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