25 December 2012, 13:27

Year of the Gangnam style

Year of the Gangnam style
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So during the last broadcast I talked extensively on the international phenomenon known as Gangnam style – a viral music video which has transcended it being just a clip and become… I’m even sure what it did become - Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon called it a "force for world peace", for instance.

So during the last broadcast I talked extensively on the international phenomenon known as Gangnam style – a viral music video which has transcended it being just a clip and become… I’m even sure what it did become - Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon called it a "force for world peace", for instance. Whatever it is, it’s pretty much everyone – it was even used as the driving idea behind the YouTube summary video “Year in Review”. But let’s see what other videos Russian users liked, shall we? Well, apparently our users really appreciate domestic entertainment – a rare sight these days. A popular children’s cartoon series “Masha and the Bear” which is, incidentally, is often watched by adults, and not just those who have children, is the leader here. It’s even more popular than Gangnam Style – I mean here, in Russia. The cartoon, or rather, one of its episodes entitled, “The Great Wash”, has amassed 36.5 million views. The second spot goes to, yes, Gangnam Style and the bronze goes to a music video on the song “Create Your Dreams” by signer Vladi of the band “Kasta” – his clip has over 10 million views. The video features numerous Russian celebrities – probably that’s one of the reasons so many people actually wanted to see the video and not just listen to the song. Fourth and fifth spots are occupied also by musical numbers. Number four is quite an odd – at least for a Russian viewer –sort of a rap battle from Azerbaijan. It’s called ‘meyhana’ – a traditional vocal performance, as I’ve said, could be called basically Azerbaijani rap for those not interested in the specifics. While it is quite traditional the video is not – apart from using the native tongue, participants lay down the rhymes in Russian, which makes it easier to understand for the mass viewer. Rough translation of the title of the eight and a half minute clip is “Who the heck are you? Get outta here!” – incidentally, this is the line used as the punch-line by each performer with the first few lines specifically insulting someone – I mean, it kind of does follow rules of a rap battle – at least those rap battles shown on TV and in movies. Anyway, I guess it could be said that this clip became a mini-Gangnam style phenomenon in Russia. Almost 8 million views this year, the video has been spoofed several times and the punchline has become a staple of pop-culture, used the same way it is used in the video – to depict one’s dissatisfaction with someone. Alright, number four – “Buranovskiye Babushki”, translated as "Buranovo Grannies”. Basically, its and folk-pop band containing eight elderly women from Udmurtia – the band represented Russia at the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 - and it’s their performance that takes the fifth spot of the most viewed clips in Russia this year – specifically, they have a little under 8 and a half million views – now, you can say that this is more than the contestant number four – but the views are international and the rankings concern popularity strictly in Russia. Moving on. Number six – a flash mob set to the song of Puttin on the Ritz which took place in a notable Russian landmark – Vorobyevy Gory. Probably the clips popularity is explained by the rarity of well-executed flash-mobs in Russia as well as the fact that this one had people dancing in winter – when generally you don’t see happy people on the streets of Russia. Although I have to say, some people believe it to be a political stunt. I mean, Puttin’ and Putin, then presidential candidate – do sound quite similar, don’t they? The video was released February 28th – right before the elections. Coincidence? Another thing – despite this video rankng only 6th, it has over 11 million views – that means that a significant number of ‘viewers’ come from other countries. Seeing as how flash-mobs are somewhat outdated in the rest of the world, these numbers are sort of suspicious – rumors of politicians ‘tweaking’ social network stats through the magic of fake users and bots are not uncommon in Russia. Anyway, let’s have a look at the last two in the top 10. Number nine is an episode of a series of video reviews of other YouTube videos. I know, it sounds kind of ridiculous, but this format is quite popular – perhaps you’ve heard of Ray William Johnson, a guy who became an internet celebrity by finding funny or weird videos and adding his commentary to them. Basically, think of it as “America’s Funniest Videos” – only shorter and, dare I say it, funner. Anyway, this particular video review channel is called “This is Horosho” – translated as “This is Good” – a guy named Stas Davydov presents new videos with viral potential a couple of times per week. Kind of funny, I guess, if you’re into that sort of thing – and judging by one of the episodes being in the top list for 2012, I would say, a lot of Russians are into that sort of thing. And number ten, finally – Slim, a rap performer, and the music video on his song “Girl”. Don’t have anything special to say about that, really – just a music video, in my opinion- albeit a very popular one here – 4 million views in less than half a year. An official comment from Google noted that this year it seemed Russians were more interested in music and less in comedy – unlike in 2011.

Remember I mentioned Futubra was going down? Well, it’s not alone. Just like small independent stores can rarely withstand the pressure of mighty corporate chains, smaller websites can’t compete with those who rally millions of users. Selling something? Ebay or Craigslist. Buying something? Amazon. Watching something? Netflix or Hulu. Feeling chatty? Facebook. Need to share a mini-thought? Twitter. There is little place for smaller websites catering to the same needs of the same audiences as the larger ones. But the key here is, of course, audience. Some of the sites providing the same capabilities actually target different people – in case of Facebook, it has some strong rivals in various countries – despite it becoming more and more popular in Russia, national social networks VK and Odnoklassiki still are the most popular networks here. Perhaps it has something to do with them reaching critical mass before Facebook became known in the Russian part of the cyberspace, perhaps simply when having to make the initial choice, the majority of users opted in for a Russian site with a Russian interface. Not all national projects can boast such resilience as VK or Odnolassniki, though. If we look at Futubra – its failure was probably inevitable right from the start – it tried to be a mix of Twitter and Tumblr, targeted Russian users but could not provide a hook to reel users in – people simply didn’t care for it.

Then there are other examples – some sites, formerly household names, fade away, cracking under the advance of international web services. One such example is One.Lv – a Russian language social network located on a Latvian website and satisfying the social needs of Russian-speaking residents of the Baltic region. Just like VK, the website became locally popular before Facebook. Unlike VK, it was actually launched before Facebook. The site itself, as a web portal, went live in 2000. Four years later it decided to expand its capabilities and became a bone fide social network – although, perhaps, not as convenient as the modern versions. Long story short, for several years it held the title of the most popular social network for Russian-speaking locals in the Baltic zone. According to TNS Latvija, in November of 2012 One.lv was visited by 76 thousand people users per day – while it’s a significant amount, I guess it’s not enough to consider running the social network a good idea – in January of 31st it will be no more. And, back to my metaphor with little shops being overrun or bought out by corporate giants – One.lv offers its users to migrate to a “friendly” social network of Odnoklassniki – this one, by the way, unlike VK, is enjoying a more pronounced presence in abroad – although mostly in the countries which were former members of the Soviet Union.

Oh, and as long as we’re talking about all things ending, end of the year lists and all that, let’s have a look at some figures provided by Yandex regarding the apocalypse which was supposed to commence last Friday. According to the statement released by the company, Russian users jumped on the bandwagon as early as October. “Since then the interest to the event was only increasing. Starting mid-November and up to mid-December users of the Yandex search engine asked about the end of the wold over three million times”. 40% of queries were general – “end of the world”, “news on end of the world and such”, whereas 30% were more specific, wondering whether it would happen and if so what would it be. 7% want to know when the world was going to end – like, to the minute. 5% used queries, such as “end of the world 2012 cancelled”. The rest – about 15% were mostly clutter – search for things that have end of the world in the name, such as movies and TV shows.

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