Hyperlinked Society: [adult swim] v. YouTube

At the Hyperlinked Society conference, it was suggested that hype over new technology often outstripped real audience numbers.

The challenge came from Jack Wakshlag, from Turner, to Jeff Jarvis, of BuzzMachine and other climes. The example given was that it was stupid to talk about the “immense popularity” of YouTube when the audience numbers were still miniscule compared to new cable offerings. Adult Swim, the current #1 total-day delivery for young adults (esp. males), was given as an example. Any success of YouTube would need to be measured against this, and the implication was that it wouldn’t come close.

According to the link above, the delivery to adults 18-49 was a bit over half a million. April Nielson//NetRatings pegs the audience of YouTube at 12.5 million, coming out of nowhere in the last year.

On it’s face, the audience of YouTube appears to be 25 times that of Adult Swim. Now, I’ll admit, I’m not sure how they collect numbers on both: it appears the ratings are daily draw and the web numbers are unique hits over a month, but even so, you would have to do some serious extrapolation (e.g., that the average viewer only watches Adult Swim once a month) to be able to suggest any parity.

And yes, I realize that [as] is available online and now via iTunes which increases its audience. But the point here is that YouTube is really big, even when you consider it in comparison to the hippest of traditional cable delivery.

Someone suggested that it was nice that the conference drew on numbers and empirical evidence. Yes, I suppose it did somewhat, but I was a bit surprised at some of the weaknesses in this area as well. I would have liked to have seen a bit more aggressive engagement in some of these issues, since it didn’t seem that there were enough disagreements that could really be tackled.

That’s not to say it wasn’t a good conference: it was a great opportunity, and there were some really interesting folks there. If I were to change things, it would have been to really structure the panels as debates, with clear lines of contention, and maybe provide a bit of run-up (position statements?) to encourage drawing out those lines. In the end, some of the more contentious issues–IP issues, ownership, power law, ethics of linking–didn’t show up as much as they might. Some complained that there was too much talk of blogs (not surprising, IMHO, considering the attendees), but not enough of tagging and social networking sites.

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  1. Jack Wakshlag
    Posted 6/13/2006 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    The numbers you provide here are very different in that Adult Swim’s numbers are viewers for an average minute while myspace is total number of different visitors over a month. You can convert one metric to the other with enough information. When you convert adultswim numbers to monthly reach they far outstrip myspace. This does not mean it will always be so or that there not important trends here. Both, in fact, are growing spectacularly. Nevertheless, the point is each is successful but should be considered in scope and scale to other emerging communication phenomenon. We will know more, and be less subject to hype and emotion, if we first get the numbers right.

  2. Posted 6/13/2006 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    FWIW, that should read “unique visitors” above, not “unique hits.”

    I guess the question is whether Adult Swim pulls in a similar number of audience members (12+ million) a month. They may–it seems that most college students are well versed in their Family Guy–but given the breadth of content on YouTube, it’s drawing in more than that demographic.

    In the end, the problem is that it really is comparing apples and oranges. Folks end up “on” YouTube through embeds in blogs, etc., and often for something like a two-minute clip. They make use of cable television (for now) in very different ways. For example, I doubt much of the YouTube use is as “background noise,” but I know from college campuses that this is some of Adult Swim’s use.

    I guess I’m concerned that we miss the forest for the trees. The numbers tell us a lot about the next few months, but very little about the next few years. I suspect that one of the reasons Adult Swim is popular is because the shows are closer in length to what you see on YouTube.

    I’d bet the killer app here is those who manage to combine existing media with the new: cf. Battlestar Gallactica.

  3. Posted 6/14/2006 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    This does seem like a comparison of apples and oranges to me unless I’m misunderstanding what’s being compared. Users go on YouTube (or as you note, perhaps don’t even go onto the Web site) to view one of many many many videos at any one time. In comparison, TV channels just offer one program at a time. So if you have x number of people watching a channel at one time, you know they’re all watching x content. But on YouTube, they are watching lots of different things, both in terms of the core content and any possible attached ads. So what does it mean to compare these various numbers.

    By the way, Alex, I agree with you that there wasn’t as much talk about empirical evidence at the conference as would have been helpful in some cases.

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