Content’s Greatest Hits of 2013: Miley and Snowden steal the show

By Chris Lee

Eye-catching headlines, a promise of extremity and social currency appear to be the main drivers for content virality, according to a crowd-sourced study involving 7.7 million influential consumers and creators. The ‘Scoreboard’ study by global communications agency Ogilvy in tandem with the Huffington Post includes “everything and anything” from videos and tweets to hash-tags and selfies from around the globe.

An expert panel of judges from the worlds of academia, media, marketing, content creation and social networks divided the crowd-sourced favourites into Top Fives across five genres: Sex, Humour, Fame, News and Lifestyle.  Between them, the Scoreboard’s Top 25 generated more than 1,113,100,000 views and 5,787,600 shares across social media.

The top scoring content in each category includes:

·       Miley Cyrus’ fusion of sex and shock at the MTV Video Music Awards tops off a year of increasingly sex-fuelled music video content, and puts her at the pinnacle of the sex category and overall, the report’s authors said

·       For news, The Guardian’s ‘NSA Snowden Files’ scored highest, leading impactful news sharing online

·       A home-production YouTuber, MrEpicMann, takes the top spot in humour with ‘How animals eat their food’

·       Number one in the fame category is another home-generated piece of content, ‘Pope Selfie’, taken by @FabioMRagona

·       In lifestyle, Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches achieved the top grade

The key ingredients of virality

According to Scoreboard’s authors, the keys to creating and identifying content that “lives, catches fire across media, across mediums, across lives and through the years” are:

·       A teasing, grabbing title or headline that demands universal engagement:  People need to know why to look, why to care and why to share in the first millisecond content is encountered 

·       A promise of extremity: Extreme intimacy, exclusivity, sexiness, revelation, humour, shock or surprises are required to get noticed by the right people, and to get those people reacting, talking and sharing

·       A promise of social currency:  People need to feel that reacting to, with and sharing content reflects their own values and will benefit their own social standing and group

The practice of “red topping” – attention-grabbing headlines or images in the style of tabloid papers – is now a standard requirement in online publishing success, the report’s authors added. “The Scoreboard reveals long-held principles of story-telling and mass appeal continue to define and determine popularity and success in the digital world,” they said. “Humour, exclusivity, intimacy, shock, scandal, cuteness and teasing – the core facets of traditional ‘red-top’ reporting – kept the public engaged online and struck a chord in the UK’s collective psyche.”

The Scoreboard also demonstrated that whilst celebrity, professional production values and media-spend contributed heavily to the success of many top scoring entries, great content is does not rise to the top as a result of these factors alone. Across all the categories, home-grown or user-generated content which has been created with the keys detailed above, demonstrate another way exists. The algorithms of YouTube, Google and Facebook also ensure that the very rare pieces of content which drive engagement with no help are given help by the platforms themselves, and thus seen.

“Our Scoreboard is dominated not merely by phenomenally successful sharable content, but by highly impactful images, videos and text that have been forged from the eternal emotive centre of classical story-telling,” said Michael Darragh, Head of Content, Ogilvy Public Relations. “While Miley Cyrus scored highest overall, it is not her celebrity that mattered. The conversation, parody and debate she ignited and the ability to cross mediums earned her the top spot. Miley’s Wrecking Ball was powered by the same fuel that fanned the flames of popular stories across the history of all media – from the red top to the tablet.”

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