Thursday, October 11, 2018

Forbes Week #3: The Power of Large Numbers

    The Internet was a very different place a decade ago, as this piece illustrates. The public was still wrapping its head around the concept that you could produce something enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people and not get anything for it. While services like YouTube have gotten better about sharing the bounty, we are still seeing the big social media services hoover up profits that used to go to creative individuals.
    Speaking of which, this was the last piece I wrote for Forbes, unless I'm missing one. When I tried to track down the editors I had worked with, they had all been fired. That sort of thing used to happen a lot.
    This originally was posted Sept. 24, 2008.

     Judson Laipply's act has been seen by nearly 100 million people. Matt Drudge boasts a daily audience of 25 million. Sen. Dick Durbin's mail from constituents in Illinois shot up 700%.
     Those huge audience numbers impress us. There is strength in numbers because they exude a power, implying fame, wealth and significance. Nothing testifies more to the popularity of an entertainer, the success of a Web site or the significance of a cause than counting the millions of people who are paying attention.
     But how much should they impress us? What do those big figures mean in a digital age, and do we tend to give them more importance than they actually deserve?
     Take Judson Laipply. His name probably means nothing to you, but odds are you've seen his "The Evolution of Dance," a six-minute clip of the trim, balding Clevelander gyrating to 30 snippets of songs that long topped the YouTube chart of most-watched videos of all time--viewed a staggering 99,451,300 times and counting.
     If those were record sales, it would be equivalent to the splash the Beatles made in 1964.
     But 100 million YouTube views are not record sales or movie tickets or a network TV audience. Laipply makes no money from his online success, at least not directly.
     Someone does profit from all those eyeballs--YouTube runs ads for Revlon and Circuit City and other top companies. But its split with content providers such as Laipply remains 100/0, so the only benefit the motivational speaker received was indirect.

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  1. While I do look at Drudge, he manipulates his links & either leaves out important info, such as some outrageous things actually happen overseas, plus many of them are links to the absurd & often phony articles in the British tabloids, such as the Daily Fail AKA the Daily Mail, one of the worst news organizations on Earth.
    And he has this weird thing about combining company names into one, as if they operate in concert.

  2. "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except to be paid for it." Dr. Johnson


  3. The funny thing about technology outrunning culture is that we sometimes get lapped, where it feels like we're at the same place. Not only are we not "dialing" phones anymore, some of us aren't even punching in the number - we just pick up the phone and tell Siri to call someone, just like back in the days before the human switchboard operators were displaced by dial phones.

    1. Spot on observation! Now to think of it, even (maybe especially) troglodytes initiate their phone calls orally. I generally don't. One bad experience: tried several times while driving to call a Huck Finn Restaurant but was frustrated by Siri's repeated denials of relevant information. Finally figured out that Siri didn't understand "Huckleberry Finn Restaurant."


    2. Me: Call Kate
      Bluetooth: Kate only has a home number. Would you like to call her home number?
      Me: Arrrgh


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