Thursday, April 26, 2007

Smosh Takes YouTube Throne: Google Demands Refund

Dateline .... 1am ET...April 26, 2007:

April 26, 2007 will go down as a very sad day in the history of internet video. Or at least in the history of lonelygirl15. Barring a minor miracle, sometime in the next few hours, Lonelygirl15 will step down from her YouTube throne. Bree, which reached the top spot on YouTube as the most-subscribed channel of all time in September 2006 (displacing the fiery Geriatric1927), will have yielded the top spot to, umm .... Smosh.

smosh rocks dude!

What is Smosh? Here is a random blogpost from a few months ago:
(Smosh has) the most discussed video (on Youtube at the time), which is as well ranked as the second most viewed video (of all time) on YouTube, had received a massive total of 22721 comments (as of Nov 2006). These numbers continue to increase everyday and definitely show the popularity of the video.

Nothing exceptional or world-changing occurs in this video though! It is simply two guys, known on YouTube as “Smosh”, parodying the Pokemon Music Video in their bedroom with a lot of exaggerated gestures and funny faces. However, in the YouTube community, this video is a revelation! 'NeoInvader' exclaims, “Legends Pure Legends”, while another remarks, “God, their facial expressions are priceless.”, and some even go further commenting that they have watched the videos a thousand of time “You guys are my heroes!”
I picked that very random blogpost to quote because everyone I can find coherently commenting on Smosh will say something similar. Yes, Smosh is two 19 year old guys from somewhere in the United States who make, well, frankly, not-funny comedy clips. And I don't mean not funny in a bad Saturday Night Live skit kind of way. Well, maybe I do. Time Magazine did dub them the SNL of youtube, in part for their "unswerving, unwinking commitment to idiocy." Like the bad SNL skits at 12:45am that just won't end. But worse.

But quality is of no great importance on YouTube. So, it doesn't make a difference what Smosh uploads, it WILL get hundreds of thousands of views, slavish praise from its fanbase, and perhaps even featured by youtube (the holy grail of exposure). In fact, if one of the Smosh guys made a video of the other one taking a dump ("whew, that smells dude!"), it would no doubt get half a million views. See pic above.

"Aren't Funny, Milo?! How can you honestly say they aren't funny? They won an award for being funny, you hater!"

Yes, yes, yes. Last month, Smosh won the YouTube award for best comedy video in the "First Annual Rigged YouTube Awards." This event was created for more YouTube press, but it was also a chance for the mainstream media to shine its light on the best youtube had to offer. Right?

Well, the spotlight was a little harsh for Smosh:

The Boston Herald (March 28, 2007) wrote:
Best Comedy: “Smosh Short 2” by Smosh - Apparently, YouTube is devoid of comedy. Two teens from California created this, and well, we don’t care how they do it in California.
And an upstate NY paper (March 27, 2007):
YouTube viewers selected seven "winners" for the inaugural YouTube Video Awards recently. For results, go to Smosh Short 2: Stranded video by Smosh won best comedy when it clearly did not deserve a nomination. It just wasn't funny. "Mixed Nuts" and "Completely Uncalled For"; which finished in second and third, were clearly more comical.
And an Australian rag (March 28, 2007):
Like any awards show, YouTube's were not without controversy. At least one winning video drew the ire of readers and led some to question the competition's legitimacy. Smosh Short 2: Stranded, the winner of the 'best comedy' award, was swamped with negative comments. Some users even went as far as to accuse the creators of stuffing ballots and paying YouTube for the award.
And the NY Times (link now dead) wrote:
Whew, that smells dude! Get off youtube you emo freaks!
OK, so maybe some people (read: smoshkoshb'goshlovers) will disagree with those assessments. But I just don't think its funny. But I'm not one of those people who say "get off of youtube," one of the most ridiculous taunts I've heard since the third grade. I just don't understand their appeal. I'm not going to begrudge anyone who truly finds it funny. I just won't trust their recommendations.

So, What Did Bree Do Wrong?

ian and anthony, or bree?  Don't ask Pill!

How could this happen? A few months ago, Lonelygirl15 had a healthy lead over smosh in subscribers. And almost double the number of any other channel on youtube. But, starting sometime in late February, Bree's new subscriptions started to dry up, while Smosh's started to take off. This latter event struck me as suspicious, frankly, but I have no concrete evidence of any cheating.

A number of theories have emerged for why Bree's popularity has stalled or declined:

1. Quality of the Plot: Many speculate that the decline in bree's popularity has to do with the decline in the quality of the plot. Bree took Jonas to the Vet. OK, I generally agree that there has been a decline. But Smosh's quality, well we already discussed that. But Smosh's fans exalt Smosh and bash lg15.

2. Bree's 15 minutes expired. Possible. Though it was much longer than 15 minutes, and its far from over just because Smosh is taking the throne tonight. Bree reigned atop youtube for seven months. That is an ETERNITY in internet time. Plus, numerous lg15 videos in the last few months still have received very respectable view counts.

3. The youtube timewarp: For awhile now, Lonelygirl15 videos have been released on the official website for a period of time before hitting youtube. The gap started at maybe a few hours. But in the last few months, the gap kept widening until youtube was about 8 videos behind. One might think this would drive more lg15 fans to the official site, but that doesn't seem to have occurred. Instead, core fans started going to the official site exclusively, thus leaving lonelygirl15 on youtube devoid of her biggest protectors. Every big youtuber needs its defense force. So the youtube comment threads for lg15 were overtaken by hatred.

4. People don't like watching episodic video online. This theory is that people would rather watch skateboarding mishaps, 85 ft. basketball shots, or just one-off funny videos on youtube, instead of an episodic series like lonelygirl15. Well, its true that youtube and its clones will always be a place where you can track down 30-second classics like "Girl Poops Pants." But that doesn't mean that an episodic series cannot develop a fanbase. Youtube, however, does next to nothing to foster episodic content. Its design and focus elevates individual videos over series. The new series on Myspace, PromQueen, seems to be having some success in least in part because of Myspace's commitment to developing an audience. YouTube doesn't do that. But it might share ad revenue sometime in the next century.

So, Google paid $1.65 billion for Smosh. And everything else on youtube; Montgomery Mini-Mall commercials, people lighting farts on fire, you name it. And don't get me started on the #3 alltime subscribed channel, miaarose. Um, can Google still get a refund?

Edited to Add, June 9, 2008: This post apparently falls high in Google searches about Smosh. You'll see some people in the comments are upset that I don't like Smosh. Hey, I'm not saying you are not allowed to like them, Tweens Of America. But think for yourself, decide what YOU like. The rest of us are allowed to shake our heads and mutter things about dentures and such if we want.

ETA: Sept. 23, 2008: Is Smosh going down?

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