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Football + TV + Vine = 2015’s First Viral Video

We don't have jet packs but we are really, really good at this kind of thing now.

Vine screenshot
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

It’s January 2nd, and some of you are “working.” Many of you are not.

Which is probably the only thing you need to know about 2015’s first viral video. It’s a Vine from last night’s Alabama-Ohio State game, and as I’m typing this it has now passed 23 million views. I’m not very good at math but I think that means the Internet has spent a collective really, really long time* watching this:

What’s that? You want more context to explain why this is popular on the Internet, beyond the fact that we don’t have anything else to do right now?

There’s theoretically a mystery here about the Ohio State fan caught absent-mindedly massaging another Ohio State fan, and what relationship those fans may or may not have. But you don’t really care about the story. You just like the clip.

Much more important: There are now many Internet mechanisms built with the explicit goal of sharing things on the Internet. These perpetual motion machines are really good at what they do, and need almost no supervision or maintenance. Just pop in some ephemera and off they go.

So at some point after “DJ Sourmilk” grabbed this from his TV set (something he appears to do quite a bit on his Vine feed) it apparently made its way to Digg, and then to Reddit, and from there to the many places that now rely on Reddit for free fast popular things.

Uproxx, for instance, is a site owned by Woven Digital, a Web publisher that few people have heard of prior to last month, when it raised $18 million because of its “expertise in developing and selling high-quality content, along with [its] innovative content management technology.” Uproxx picked it up today, and so far its users have shared it 6,800 times on Facebook, which is pretty good (but not as good as “There Is Nothing Grosser Than Watching This Guy Pull A Year-Long Ingrown Hair Out Of His Face” which went up earlier in the week and has hit 11,900 likes).

It’s also a big hit at Gawker Media, which is flooding the zone with the clip: If you don’t see it on Gawker, perhaps you’ll catch it on Deadspin, or Jezebel. Or maybe Gawker again.

Then of course there’s Facebook, which is seemingly purpose-built for spreading six seconds of time-wasting fun on the day after New Year’s Day when you may be required to be at work but may not be working very hard.

But bear in mind that while Facebook has become very, very interested in video in the last few months, Facebook is very interested in video that runs on its own rails, not ones controlled by rival companies like Google or Twitter.

And Vine, of course, is owned by Twitter. So while this one is big on Facebook, it isn’t nearly as big on Facebook as it could be. Sorry, semi-mysterious Ohio State fan, you’re no ice bucket.

Meanwhile, ESPN, the people who actually own the footage we’re all watching on the Internet when we’re supposed to be working but probably aren’t, doesn’t seem to be participating at all — even though the network has a deal with Twitter that’s supposed to let it make money when people watch its clips on Twitter. I’ve been poking around all day, but can’t find any hint of it. Maybe they’re busy doing something else.

* If you care about math and stuff, bear in mind that Vine’s “loop counts” include autoplays, so the number of times actual humans have actually watched this is overstated to some degree. Still: Big!

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