The YouTube Nielsens

When I discovered that CBS had put out an embeddable clip of the exchange they used for the teaser advertising yesterday’s installment of the Couric-Palin comedy hour (effectively pre-empting their own broadcast), I wrote this in an email:

I actually wonder if they haven’t gotten as much traffic as they expected.

AFAIK, they treated today’s clip differently than they did the last ones–they made the clip available for embed at the same time as they released the teaser of that clip (which is the one I put up on a post).

In other words, I suspect that they didn’t get the traffic they wanted, because people were watching the fun bits on YouTube the next day. So they pre-empted those YouTubes and have the embed up with two ads.

I guess the proper word is "viewership"–meaning I suspected that CBS’s ratings for their Couric-Palin interviews weren’t all that great.

Turns out I was right.

Katie Couric’s newsmaking interviews with the Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, last week had only a slight impact on the ratings for her CBS newscast. But if the network could have added up all the other viewers the interviews (and its spoof) racked up, on places like CNN, YouTube and “Saturday Night Live,” Ms. Couric would surely have been more seen and talked about than in any week since she began her tenure as anchor.

Ms. Couric received a rush of attention for the two interviews, in which Ms. Palin, governor of Alaska, spoke haltingly on, among other topics, her state’s “narrow maritime border” with Russia. Clips turned up across the spectrum of television and Web sites.

The first interview last Wednesday, for example, has been viewed more than 1.4 million times on YouTube, while the parody of the interview on “SNL” was streamed more than 4 million times on, viewed in full more than 600,000 times on YouTube and in shorter clips many more hundreds of thousands of times.

Still, the “CBS Evening News” gained only about 10 percent in audience from the previous week — and it was actually down from the same week the year before. The newscast averaged just under 6 million viewers for the week, up from 5.44 million the previous week. A year ago Ms. Couric’s program drew about 6.2 million viewers. (CBS was also a distant third last week behind ABC, which won with 8.07 million viewers, and NBC, with 7.98 million.)

The CBS newscast didn’t even record its highest audience totals last Wednesday and Thursday, when the interviews were broadcast. Monday was the network’s best-rated night of the week.

Mind you, I’m not sure what to make of this data. The CBS executives interviewed in the article seem happy with the attention anyway, because it has boosted Couric’s brand. (Note to all women reporters who have credibility problems tied to the impression you’re a lightweight: interview Sarah Palin while you still can, because she will, by comparison, make you look like a fricking genius.)

And obviously, CBS tried to adjust to this new reality. After having lost ad revenue for last week’s interviews, they finally figured out they should release their own embeddable videos, so they can attach an ad before and after the clip, though a number of blogs simply made a new YouTube from that clip by stripping out the ads. I expect we’ll see more of the early release of content, with some way to prevent people from stripping the ads.

Still, I find the phenomenon an important milestone. One of the most important events of the campaign, thus far–Palin’s disastrous performance on CBS–has happened in the dispersed world of YouTube rather than on the broadcast network that created that event. That will have a range of effects, I suspect, not least in giving broadcasters an incentive to create content that bloggers will respond to. But what other effects it will have, I’m not sure.

    • diablesseblu says:

      Agree…maybe I meant “our” curve. I forget that not everyone gets their news, shares it the way “we” do. Of course, people do keep asking me “where did you read that?”

      You’re right (as usual) EW. CBS is responding with agility on this point. Sean McManus is a smart fellow….Les Moonves, not so much.

  1. emptywheel says:

    I don’t think they’re behind the curve at all. I think they’re the first ones to experience such a phenomenon in such a concrete way.

    The point is, the Palin interview says broadcast is no longer the dominant media for forming political influence. That’s new, as of last week (or probably the Gibson interview–though I’m sure these clips got much greater views). It’ll take a while for everyone to adjust.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      The point is, the Palin interview says broadcast is no longer the dominant media for forming political influence.

      Wish that I’d been this succinct.
      Also, from a usability perspective, IMHO this newer communications format and technology is more ’socially embedded’ and linked to creating, solidifying, and altering personal and group identity and relationships. Probably closer to the pub/tavern based conversations of the 1770s, I’d like to think (at least, that’s the hoped-for silver lining).

      I say that in part because this is crossing generations and social groups in ways that I think really are novel. I seriously doubt that CBS — or any of us — yet grasp the full implications, but I strongly agree that this seemingly small ‘tea leaf’ is a very significant milestone.

    • manys says:

      The point is, the Palin interview says broadcast is no longer the dominant media for forming political influence.

      A couple thoughts here, not necessarily coterminous. Perhaps people figured out that they wouldn’t have anything to gain by watching subsequent episodes of the Couric-Palin Show, which while indeed pumping up Couric’s brand (might as well use their terminology) also indicates that a trainwreck is a trainwreck. No matter how grisly, it’s exceedingly rare for rubberneckers to actually stop the car once they’ve passed it so that they can get an even better look.

      Secondly, it could be that the online excerpts of the interviews were enough to get the gist across. I think this holds true for internet-based news readers, but there are still entire swaths of the American population who simply cannot stand to read or watch the news on a computer. That these people aren’t tuning in for more of their potential Veep Next Door speaks to the unintended consequence of their spreading the interviews out over days and days (and weeks!). Apparently even the lowest common denominator philosophy (a la Couric) enjoys a level of idiot-fatigue.

  2. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    I expect we’ll see more of the early release of content, with some way to prevent people from stripping the ads.

    I’ve been keeping an eye out for someone to address this topic, and I couldn’t be happier than seeing you address it right here, EW.

    I think CBS was smart to move this direction, although I hope whatever encryption or dataCounting code they’ve written into their clips can be hacked by someone. (FWIW, that ’someone’ won’t be Yours Truly, but I have a high regard for human inventiveness in such circumstances.)

    I think this is a critical milestone (wonder whether Lessig will comment on it…).
    Just as an FYI, my own kids have sent me — and their grandparents — that humorous Sarah Silverman and the Great Schlep YouTube, and have sent it to their aunties, uncles, and Gram and Gramps. We’re all on notice: “vote Obama, or Else No Visits From Us For Four Years“. Course, given the fact that my mum’s grey-haired Breakfast Group are now fist-bumping at the Assisted Living Center, I’d say there are a whole lot of new social behaviors and connections that are new this year.

    FWIW, I have to suspect that a lot of grandmas are watching that Palin-Couric YouTube from a link sent by a grandchild.

    Which is yet another reason the McCain campaign is floundering; they’re still a teevee culture IMHO, whereas it sure looks to me as if the Obama campaign is a more networked, resilient, adaptive structure than the more bureaucratic-like McCain outfit.

    Anyway, what a great thread topic!
    Huge ramifications here….

    (Will let others take on that whole encrytpions and codecs part of the conversation, other than to say that surely CBS has embedded something there to count the number of clicks and views.)

    • emptywheel says:

      See, I’m NOT a big fan of hijacking the encryption–or at least not until after it shows live. I think peopel ought to respect it in the same way they’d respect an embargoed press release. CBS needs to pay for Couric, after all, or we wouldn’t get that content. In the same way it pisses me off when bloggers steal my stuff without a link, it pisses me off that the same blogger is stealing CBS’s stuff.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Totally agree.
        That’s why I don’t hack stuff.
        I leave that to others.

        I agree with every point you’ve made, and I also think that as a society we need to actually discuss it.
        Because if it’s simply posed as “hacker kid against Big, Anonymous Corporation’, then hacker kid won’t have any qualms about hacking. But if it’s posed as ‘the socially responsible thing to do is wait before you mess with this clip, say until 00:30 GMT on ‘X’ date (or until we remove our special Don’t Mess With This File’ icon)”, then I think 99%+ of users would probably respect it.

        I may be too optimistic, but if people see there’s value in it for them, and the rationale makes sense, then I think they behave in socially responsible ways most of the time.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Okay, I just re-read my first comment and see why I came across as not caring if people hacked — ever.
        I do care… it’s just that it seems there should be some timeframe after which you can reduce those files and file sizes– cause they must be creating a fair amount of server and Internet load, so after ‘X’ time, it seems to me that you’d ideally want to skinny down those files.

        Maybe CBS will think of a system to implement on their own — it’s just that I’m skeptical they’ve thought it that far out.

        Back to your main point, however — I couldn’t stand the thought of watching that much of Sarah Palin, so did not watch the whole interview. I can only take her for the length of a clip (!). But I also think that reducing the files to clips makes for a much better PUBLIC conversation, because people are engaged by different aspects of the interviews.

        Very smart of CBS.

        But questions remain about how to reduce those file sizes after some amount of either time, or of Internet use — or so it seems to this onlooker.

  3. BoxTurtle says:

    Maybe we’ve created the Great Democracy the politicians have always feared.

    Boxturtle (Beware the power of stupid people in large groups, however)

  4. Mary says:

    OT – FBI Won’t Release Ivins Documents

    About 15,000 pages about the guy who the FBI has said was the sole planner/executor:

    In August, the FBI and Justice Department identified Bruce Ivins, a former microbiologist at the U.S. Army’s biological weapons research center at Fort Detrick, Md., as the “only person involved” in the attacks that killed five people and terrorized the nation.

    But the reasons given for not releasing are pretty interesting:

    But David M. Hardy, the section chief of the FBI’s records management division, notified McClatchy that his office could not immediately release the records because there were “investigative leads still open” and the FBI needed to withhold the documents in order to protect confidential sources, privacy, law enforcement techniques and a suspect’s right to a fair trial.

    emph added

  5. diablesseblu says:

    Ooh….GE stock is off 10% dragged down by worries about GE Capital. Wonder how Welch/Immelt/Brokaw will respond to this?

  6. dosido says:

    The CBS executives interviewed in the article seem happy with the attention anyway, because it has boosted Couric’s brand. (Note to all women reporters who have credibility problems tied to the impression you’re a lightweight: interview Sarah Palin while you still can, because she will, by comparison, make you look like a fricking genius.)

    bwahahahaha! ROFLMAO.

    Don’t forget all the mentions of Katie on the I’m Mad as Hell Letterman Show last week.

  7. Leen says:

    Jesus Mary and Joseph Ray McGovern really slaps Biden up side of the head.

    To Joe Biden: Time for Confession

    McGovern draws parallels between Catholic confessions (Biden, McGovern both Irish Catholics,me too) and the focus and meaning of Rosh Hashanah
    “At Rosh Hashanah the ram’s horn trumpet blows to waken us from our slumber and alert us to the coming judgment. Rabbi Michael Lerner has been a ram’s horn for me. On Sept. 28, he sent a note addressing forgiveness and repentance.

    He encourages us to find a private place to say aloud how we’ve hurt others, and then to go to them and ask forgiveness. “Do not mitigate or ‘explain’—just acknowledge and sincerely ask for forgiveness,” says Rabbi Lerner. He suggests we ask for “guidance and strength to rectify those hurts—and to develop the sensitivity to not continue acting in a hurtful way.”

    • dosido says:

      jaysus. what a bunch of crap. like palin doesn’t have anything to answer for? gotta love morality coming from a cia analyst come to jesus kinda guy. get a grip, mcgovern.

      I’m really sick of other people telling me I have to beg for forgiveness. the point is self reflection, folks. if ones wants to or feels the need. we wish more people did, but realizing that doesn’t come from highhanders like mcgovern. sheesh, go have dinner with your family.

      • Leen says:

        I think his point is that Biden should acknowledge that he made a mistake voting for that 2002 war resolution. Of course we know that Palin would have voted for that same resolution if she could have.

        I liked Edwards response to this (and I believe it was sincere) that he had made a SERIOUS MISTAKE voting yes on the 2002 war resolution and that he would never support another warmongering resolution.

        Biden could follow Edwards lead on this one and say that Congress was given even more faulty intelligence than the public was endlessly being pounded with by the Bush administration before the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq.

        Of course I think that this is lame because all you had to do was turn on the Diane Rehm show before the invasion and hear Scott Ritter, Ray McGovern, and many other questioning the validity of the intelligence and the sources for the intelligence. Could not figure out why they could not have simply delayed that vote until after the mid term election

        Oh and let’s not forget El Baradei in early March 2003 telling the world that the Niger Documents were false. Have you noticed not one person has been held accountable for that false intelligence

        Biden did learn and voted against the warmongering Kyl Lieberman amendment last fall.

        ####anybody else notice how Lieberman is now standing behind Palin during several news events.

      • 4jkb4ia says:

        Which is why people are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to accept requests for forgiveness from people who ask it this time of year. I hope DovBear has gotten rid of the commenter who wrote, “Your words are empty. Your agenda is apparent.” when he made a post asking for forgiveness two years ago.

  8. Leen says:

    Palin and McCain are going down the “tubes”?…..09,00.html

    Obama builds widening lead – poll

    From correspondents in Washington

    DEMOCRAT Barack Obama is building widening leads in battlegrounds Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, in new polls released today in the trio of states that could be the key to victory on November 4.
    New surveys by Quinnipiac University found Obama boosted by his performance in Friday’s presidential debate, the sliding popularity of Republican John McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin and his handling of the economic crisis.

    “It is difficult to find a modern competitive presidential race that has swung so dramatically, so quickly and so sharply this late in the campaign,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac polling institute.

    The surveys show that Senator Obama leads McCain by a gaping 54 per cent to 39 per cent after the debate in Pennsylvania, compared to 49 per cent to 43 per cent before the debate.

    He is up 51 per cent to 43 per cent in swing state Florida, compared to a 49 to 43 per cent lead before Friday’s first of three high-stakes presidential debates.

    And in Ohio, Senator Obama is up eight points, 50 per cent to 42 per cent, after having led by 49 per cent to 42 per cent before the clash in Mississippi.

    ### Folks here in Ohio and college students are pumped up I mean pumped up to vote for Obama. They will trump the Palin/bubba vote if the students show up. No need to spend time on Ohio Universities campus for Obama there are 5-10 people out everyday. I have seen this on the five campuses I have been on pushing for increasing registrations. These young folks are on fire. I really believe the only way McCain can win in Ohio is if they illegally shave off the votes like they did the last time.

    • klynn says:

      Agreed. And when I talk to undecided voters it is so easy to hit the mark on issues and win more Obama votes.

      McCain is trying to win a grassroots signage campaign. Now people are putting two McCain signs in their yards (opposite corners of front property) to make it appear like two McCain homes when it is one.

      • Leen says:

        Let’s keep pushing hard. The light bulbs are going off in Ohio’s voters heads.

        Leonard Cohen

        I can’t run no more
        with that lawless crowd
        while the killers in high places
        say their prayers out loud.
        But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
        a thundercloud
        and they’re going to hear from me.

        Ring the bells that still can ring .

        Ring the bells that still can ring
        Forget your perfect offering
        There is a crack, a crack in everything
        That’s how the light gets in.
        That’s how the light gets in.
        That’s how the light gets in.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Keep talking!
        McCain goes back a long way, and low info voters still think of him as a “Maverick”.
        Obama still a confusing cipher to some.

        Keep talking… it ain’t over yet.

  9. Neil says:

    broadcast is no longer the dominant media for forming political influence.

    Certainly true with the broadband-enabled demographic. I don’t know how large the not broadband-enabled demographic is but it’s substantial.

    I send links and YouTube embeds in e-mails to friends and family. They appreciate it which came as a surprise. Apparently, seeing is believing (even if its misleading).

    A YouTube video is how anti-Palin protests in Anchorage, two of them so far, can be effectively communicated to friends and family who have an interest in this race.

    Campaign ads, political satire from Stewart, SNL, Olbermann, Maddow, clips from CSPAN are effective ways to communicate with friends and family on political topics.