9:38am

Fri September 6, 2013
TED Radio Hour

What Does YouTube Tell Us About Millennials?

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 1:55 pm

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Next Greatest Generation?

About Kevin Allocca's TEDTalk

YouTube Trends Manager Kevin Allocca watches and thinks about popular videos for a living. He talks about how interactive participation has become a crucial part of entertainment — and that Millennials will only demand more.

About Kevin Allocca

Writer and analyst Kevin Allocca works with YouTube Trends, a spot for tracking the latest viral videos — and connecting to the communities that make the parodies, tributes and reply videos that circle the giant viral planets of the YouTube-iverse.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

GUY RAZ, HOST:

It's the TED Radio Hour from NPR. I'm Guy Raz. And today's show is all about the next greatest generation - Millennials, and how they're changing almost everything we thought we knew, like who gets to be famous.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FRIDAY")

RAZ: Friday. Friday. Got to get down on Friday. Friday.

KEVIN ALLOCCA: You're a day early, my friend.

RAZ: No, it's Thursday. But to me, it's Friday.

ALLOCCA: That's right. It's always Friday at YouTube.

RAZ: So YouTube's got to be full of Millennials.

ALLOCCA: Could you define what...

RAZ: So a Millennial, technically, is somebody born between 1981 and 2000.

ALLOCCA: So then, yes.

RAZ: Right.

ALLOCCA: The answer is yes.

RAZ: This is Kevin Allocca. He's 29 and he is the trends manager at YouTube. Did you - OK, let me test you. Did you see Cookie Monster doing "Me Want It."

ALLOCCA: Yeah. Wonderful.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "ME WANT IT")

RAZ: We were very proud 'cause our team here saw it when it only had like 20,000 hits, which was kind of a big deal.

ALLOCCA: Yeah.

RAZ: So it's Kevin's job to watch all of these videos.

ALLOCCA: I have the, sort of, privilege to spend a lot of my day trying to understand the things that are popular on YouTube.

RAZ: Kevin is paid to figure out why things like that song about Friday, sung by an unknown teenager named Rebecca Black, why they become so huge. Here's the start of his TED Talk.

(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)

ALLOCCA: We all want to be stars, celebrities, singers, comedians. And when I was younger, that seemed so very, very hard to do. But now, web video has made it so that any of us or any of the creative things that we do can become completely famous in a part of our world's culture. Any one of you could be famous on the Internet by next Saturday. But there are over 48 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. And of that, only a tiny percentage ever goes viral and gets tons of views and becomes a cultural moment. So how does it happen?

RAZ: You know, when I first saw that Rebecca Black video, you know, I couldn't believe it. Like, I thought, my God. I mean, tens of millions of people have now watched it. And then I thought for a minute, well, it doesn't really matter what I think of it or whether I think the quality of it, you know, sucks. It's been put out there and people kind of responded to it.

ALLOCCA: I think, actually, it does matter and that's actually the interesting thing here, right. The act of you thinking about it and wanting to have an opinion on it, is what has made that thing so popular. And this is the confusing thing to people who haven't grown up with thIS stuff. Talk to a teenager, they will sort of completely understand why that's popular, and it's because they love to talk about and be a part of things. And so it didn't actually matter whether, you know, someone has declared it good or not because it just became a part of the cultural conversation.

RAZ: So it didn't matter that some people hated it. I mean, lots of people hated it.

ALLOCCA: I think that a lot of people liked to hate it, is the thing, right. They liked to share the fact that they didn't like it. It becomes this fun inside joke.

RAZ: I wonder, also, like, that connection that this generation, you know, younger consumers have with pop stars and with the media they consume. It's so much more intimate. Even though, 10s, 20, 30 million people see something, it's almost like they're closer to it than screaming girls watching the Beatles play.

ALLOCCA: Yeah. I mean, it's because we participate in the popularity of those things, I think, right. That's actually one of the defining things about the difference between what we had before and what we have now - is this ability to have interactive fandom and interactive entertainment. And you just said to me, a moment ago, you said, have you seen that video of Cookie Monster. We saw it when it only had X amount of views. You feel like you were a part of the early days of that video.

RAZ: Right. I saw it when it had 11,000 views.

ALLOCCA: Yes. You feel like you were...

RAZ: Yes.

ALLOCCA: ...First on board with that, you know.

RAZ: Yeah.

ALLOCCA: And so that's a really - it's really one of the really cool things about how this stuff works because you didn't say, I watched it with 11 million other people when it was broadcast on TV, right, like, you didn't. You saw it at a certain point, and you are a part of the sort of flow of this thing.

RAZ: Yeah. I tweeted it out before BuzzFeed.

ALLOCCA: There you go, see.

RAZ: What's your favorite video of all time?

ALLOCCA: You know, I feel like sometimes I should have a really great answer. There's a thing you must go look up right now and it's, you know...

RAZ: ...Going to change your life.

ALLOCCA: Yeah. But the truth of it is, I actually still really love the "Double Rainbow."

(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)

ALLOCCA: Bear Vasquez posted this video that he had shot outside his home in Yosemite National Park.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "DOUBLE RAINBOW")

BEAR VASQUEZ: Whoa, that's a full rainbow.

ALLOCCA: He, one day, comes out and he witnesses this...

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "DOUBLE RAINBOW")

VASQUEZ: ...Double rainbow. Oh, my God.

ALLOCCA: It's amazing, it's beautiful. He's profoundly moved by this sight.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "DOUBLE RAINBOW")

VASQUEZ: Whoa! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Whoo! It's so beautiful.

ALLOCCA: It starts, for many people, with a - I can't believe how this guy is reacting to this thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "DOUBLE RAINBOW")

VASQUEZ: Oh, my God. Look at that.

ALLOCCA: But very quickly, and even in the course of the video, you yourself are sort of just sharing in his same emotion.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "DOUBLE RAINBOW")

VASQUEZ: Double rainbow all the way across the sky.

ALLOCCA: You're having this weird channeled moment with him.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "DOUBLE RAINBOW")

VASQUEZ: What does this mean?

(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)

ALLOCCA: In 2010, it was viewed 23 million times. But he didn't actually set out to make a viral video, Bear. He just wanted to share a rainbow because that's what you do when your name is Yosemite Mountain Bear.

(LAUGHTER)

ALLOCCA: And it's a communal thing because you're not just watching it and then saying, OK, that's that. Like, you feel this impulse to be like, I can't believe I just saw that. You have to see this, too. We have to talk about this thing together. And I want to watch you watching this thing because I will get a lot of pleasure out of that, right.

(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)

ALLOCCA: And so it all brings us to one big question...

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "DOUBLE RAINBOW")

VASQUEZ: What does this mean?

(LAUGHTER)

ALLOCCA: What does it mean? These are characteristics of a new kind of media and a new kind of culture where anyone has access and the audience defines the popularity. One of the biggest stars in the world right now, Justin Bieber, got his start on YouTube. No one has to green light your idea, and we all now feel some ownership in our own pop culture. And these are not characteristics of old media and they're barely true of the media today, but they will define the entertainment of the future. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

RAZ: I wonder if that is going to be this generation's legacy. That they basically made it possible for people to not need permission to get on stage.

ALLOCCA: Yeah. And there's a question for me about, you know, how much the technology is shaping the generation because a lot of this is about the ability to openly distribute things, right. So how much is the technology shaping that generation and how much has the generation and its impulses and behaviors shaped the technology? I think for a site like YouTube that has all these, you know, different elements to it, you know, that are sort of somewhat game changing about culture and education and entertainment, we feel like it's very much shaped by the people who use it.

RAZ: Kevin Allocca. He's the trends manager at YouTube. You can hear his full talk at TED.NPR.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.