Richard Blakeley, editor-in-chief of video site Gawker.TV, is teaching a $15 workshop on viral-video creation at General Assembly on March 1. Who’d spend $15 to learn how to gain YouTube megastardom? Blakeley tells the Observer that viral videos have vast use for businesses (he cited, for instance, the phenomenally popular Old Spice advertisements of last year). “Say you’re trying to promote shoes. If you go to the technology community, and say that these shoes will help you walk on water, it might get picked up by the tech community–which is bigger than the chess-playing community.” Blakeley referred specifically, here, to an actual shoe advertisement. “I’m getting into–if videos are fake or not.” CGI’s advanced, even for at-home users, to the point where this is no longer clear. What trends is ambiguity replacing? “Lip dubs were done two years ago.”
Viral videos are evidently no longer the province of the world’s Chris Crockers–and Blakeley says he has a checklist of six elements that make a viral video work. One such element? Music: “The ‘Bed Intruder’ song–it was viral, they already had an audience built, and it was a music video. I’ve seen that video like 15 times, not to see the video, but to listen to the song.” Simplicity, too, is valued: the creation of a viral video seems less the result of wild brainstorming for an idea, any idea, than the result of thinking along clear and organized lines. “If you’re like, hey, think of a viral video that has to do with food and cars–that makes it a hell of a lot easier. A car made of food! Or a car going through a fruit stand, like in the movies, but the fruit is cakes.”
General Assembly is beginning to offer classes and asked Blakeley, with whom the organizers are friendly, to teach one; his teachings, he says, will be similar to those he offers his 15 interns. His teaching career may not end with the one-time-only workshop. “There’s more I’d like to do. I have a sense of what can go viral in publishing. I’m trying to throw a lot of things out there and see what people respond to.” If there’s a straightforward way to go viral, why aren’t more videos breakthrough successes? “A lot of people ignore the first step: sure, you like it. Would anyone else?”
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