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The most watched digital content is... what?
November 24, 2012 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Is Gangnam Style the most watched "piece of digital content" in human history?

This article or post states that it is, and the wording is bothersome. Other places such as The Guardian are stating that it's the most popular YouTube video.

It could be argued that, though viewed 800+ million times, most of these are probably multiple views by the same people, so the number of distinct viewers is only a small fraction. Other "digital content" e.g. the first moon landing, the Olympics opening ceremony, the Beatles final performance, might have been viewed by more individuals. Complicating this is that "digital content" can reside in multiple places, even multiple instances on YouTube alone. And "digital content" extends to much more than just videos.

Google searches cloud the issue further. Basically, what is the most watched, viewed, examined or listened to (in terms of numbers of unique people) piece of "digital content" in history?
posted by Wordshore to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are we counting things that predate the digital era, e.g. The Zapruder Film? Just as a clarification - are we talking strictly digital?
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 10:14 AM on November 24, 2012

Emperor SnooKloze: Good point. I don't know. I guess that's been converted to digital and watched by many more people (or has it) than watched the analog original?
posted by Wordshore at 10:19 AM on November 24, 2012

And what about digital content that's been converted to analog for broadcast? E.g. presumably the "The 2011 Cricket World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan [which] is reported to have been watched by about one billion people by The Guardian" (Wiki) included digital graphics as part of the broadcast. The 2008 Summer Olympics Opening ceremony woud also seem to be a candidate.
posted by Jahaza at 10:32 AM on November 24, 2012

It's the YouTube video with the highest "number of views" number. That's all. Not the video with the most 'views' from this week, but rather the highest number of total 'views' during the entire time that it's been on YouTube. This counter is easy gamed of course, and means little beyond estimating how many advertisement impressions were delivered with it.

The typical "simply, then exaggerate" 'journalism' algorithm is how we got from "the YouTube video page with the highest visit counter" to "most viewed piece of digital content in human history".

Sorry, I don't know what the actual most widely experienced piece of digital content could possibly be.
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:49 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

It really depends on what you mean by "content". But if you're willing to accept sounds made by machines that are not strictly functional, then the answer is likely the Nokia tune.
posted by Jehan at 11:15 AM on November 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

It really depends on what you mean by "content".

Also, "watched." Some things that are clearly content and digital (current pop songs for example) might have been "heard" many more times than watched.
posted by Jahaza at 11:27 AM on November 24, 2012

But if you're willing to accept sounds made by machines that are not strictly functional, then the answer is likely the Nokia tune.

Interesting point. Guess in terms of most listened to (the most number of times) then this compilation has to rank highly.
posted by Wordshore at 11:31 AM on November 24, 2012

I know I personally have heard these sounds more than either the Nokia tune, the Windows sounds or Gangnam Style.

The answer to your question seems impossible to calculate.
posted by looli at 12:05 PM on November 24, 2012

If we stick to video, I'd think any of the movie production house theme videos would be up there due to DVD/Blue Ray sales and digital cinema, like Fox or Warner Bros. Box office sales for Warner Bros. centers on 200,000,000/year, so a few years worth combined with home sales and pirated content should be higher than Gangman style, even after repeat viewings are removed. Think of the Disney and Pixar intros too.
posted by jwells at 2:27 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Basically, what is the most watched, viewed, examined or listened to (in terms of numbers of unique people) piece of "digital content" in history?

Simply framing the issue this way makes it impossible to determine an answer. Any numbers you put forward would be subjectively based on the definition and themselves subject to numerous upstream factors that by their nature are difficult to measure or even clouded by self-interest.

For similar reasons Hollywood does not try to measure movie success by tickets sold or people in seats, but simply on box office gross. There are too many variables otherwise.
posted by dhartung at 5:51 PM on November 24, 2012

Think of the Disney and Pixar intros too.

...or the green band trailer intro, depending on how much we want to break things into discrete parts.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:03 PM on November 24, 2012

Exactly how are we defining "digital content"? Along with the "nokia tune" observation, think about things like tv commercials ( the "intel inside" tune must have been around and playing in tv
commercials for almost 20 years),
the windows start up theme, the
NBC tone. Even if you limit it to video I would imagine things that play on, for example, Chinese national television channels would beat Gangnam style in one fell swoop.
posted by banishedimmortal at 8:37 PM on November 24, 2012

I really like the Nokia tune as an answer for digital sound heard. A computer start-up sound is something you only hear if you are at or near a computer; that's incredibly common to a MeFite, but much less so in a developing country, where a cell phone can be heard anywhere people use them. Nokia in particular has had massive success with bare-bones phones in places like sub-Saharan Africa and India. The only way a TV jingle has even an outside shot it is if it's a product that's advertised everywhere - maybe Coca-cola uses the same jingle globally, but there are few other brands of that scope.

For a digital visual, it depends on how tightly you want to define it. The Olympic rings have been digitally transmitted in a variety of formats, and shown pretty broadly. If it counts, though, I would suggest the "battery life" icon.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:33 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

If we are going for any digital content, my money would be on the sand timer cursor animation. I swear to glob, I've spent half my fucking life watching that thing.
posted by Jilder at 12:24 AM on November 25, 2012

The number of cellphones in the world dwarfs the number of broadband connections. The most consumed piece of digital content is probably a song by an African band we've never even heard of, especially taking into account that, without connectivity, people probably listen to their favorite playlists over and over again.

Also, if we're taking just the Internet into account, you gotta remember that 1/3 of it is porn, so it just might be something featuring Sasha Grey.
posted by Tom-B at 6:52 AM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

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