May 112009

I am not a big fan of the numerical sociologists of the Internet , Fang Wu and Bernardo A. Huberman., but I thought for a bit they had finally come up with something interesting with their paper “Persistence and Success in the Attention Economy”. Their data reveal a seeming paradox: the more videos a person uploads on YouTube, the less likely the video will be an attention success, that is will garner more than 1% of all downloads for videos uploaded in that week. They make it seem that persistence in continuing to upload new videos in that situation is foolish at best.

What they ignore is that seeking attention does not automatically mean seeking the widest possible audience. Given the popularity of Youtube overall, there are probably many specialized audiences, and it could well be that persistent up-loaders are seeking and even have found a substantial niche audience, even though it be less than 1% of the undifferentiated total. They also ignore that uploading a video takes very little effort, is free, and may be intended just for friends or relatives. What this study really demonstrates is only that individual motivation cannot be determined just by numerics. An actual look at the videos of the “persistent” up-loaders would probably offer more insight into the aims behind them.

  One Response to “Attention and Popularity are not Necessarily the Same”

  1. […] Attention and Popularity are not Necessarily the Same […]

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