I’m subscribed to the American Family Association’s mailing list, since I like to keep track of what they’re up to – I suspect many people are subscribed for the same reason. Today, they sent yet another riveting missive: “An unusual request from American Family Association”. My immediate impression was, wait a minute, everything they do is unusual by any rational standard. Like calling Home Depot the “Homo Depot”, which I’m sure is really amusing if you’re 12. Their latest cause, however, actually is pretty unusual:
With your help, YouTube has agreed to feature an AFA-produced patriotic video on their front page!
A few months ago, AFA commissioned Christian songwriter/singer Eric Horner to write a moving patriotic song to honor our national motto, “In God We Trust.”
Without any fanfare, we posted it on YouTube. The response was so overwhelming that YouTube called us to find out what was going on!
The fact is, the video is patriotic and inspiring, and it shares the message of faith. People love it!
YouTube has told us that if we can get 20,000 people to watch the video, they will feature it on their front page. That means that the tens of millions of people who visit YouTube’s website each day will be offered the opportunity to watch the video – a video with a Christian message!
Okay then. First of all, if your video currently has fewer than 20,000 views, YouTube is not going to be calling you about it. Maybe if it was 2 or 20 or 200 million views, but it’s still rather implausible that YouTube would actually call you to “find out what’s going on”. (YouTube, being YouTube, would likely have a better idea of that anyway.) It is possible that they would email you and invite you to enroll your video in the Individual Video Partnership revenue-sharing program so that they can run ads on it. But this is fairly common and part of an automated process – it isn’t that exceptional.
Getting 20,000 views on a video may seem like a lot, but in an absolute sense, it’s still not especially significant. For instance, an above-average video of mine might get 20,000 views. This has happened many times, and it’s not such an “overwhelming response” that anyone was calling me about it. Just for a sense of scale, here are a few select YouTube videos and their respective view counts:
- Benny Hinn: Let the Bodies Hit the Floor: 3,582,234 views
- Richard Dawkins’ answer to “What if you’re wrong?”: 2,280,500 views
- ZOMGitsCriss’ critique of Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort: 1,229,520 views
- Jane Austen’s Fight Club: 1,208,431 views
- Thunderf00t: Why do people laugh at creationists?: 1,039,339 views
- Christopher Hitchens gets waterboarded: 806,914 views
- Slayer Goes To Church: 559,400 views
- TheAmazingAtheist: God Sucks: 475,292 views
- cdk007: “Evolution IS a Blind Watchmaker”: 409,696 views
- AronRa: 1st Foundational Falsehood of Creationism: 317,160 views
- Dan Savage: It Gets Better: 312,200 views
- LiberalViewer: “Obama Wrong America Not Christian Nation?”: 273,753 views
- Me dissecting an Insane Clown Posse song: 128,131 views
- Me telling pre-teens it’s okay to be gay because there is no God: 127,922 views
- NonStampCollector: Jesus and the interpreter: 109,738 views
- Laci: “PERIOD SEX??”: 78,736 views
Now, as for their video being featured on the front page of YouTube if it gets 20,000 views, this is almost certainly false. That’s not a guarantee that it will appear on the front page, and that specific number likely has nothing to do with it. There are videos with both higher and lower view counts that are listed in the featured section of the front page, and YouTube has stated that featured videos are now selected by an algorithm, not manually chosen. As for including them in the spotlight section of the front page, it seems unlikely that YouTube would choose to place a controversial and partisan message front-and-center on the site. That’s something they tend to shy away from. And even if they were willing to do so, a threshold of only 20,000 would mean having to feature millions of other videos which meet that same requirement.
However, it’s quite possible that their video will be featured in general, which is distinctly different from being highlighted on the front page. According to a YouTube employee I met with, videos that are enrolled in the revenue-sharing program are automatically entered into the pool of videos that can be “featured”. Videos which are marked as featured aren’t necessarily featured on the front page; they can be displayed as featured at the top of the related videos on an individual video page, or alongside search results. Many of my own videos have been featured in this way despite having fewer than 20,000 views, often being placed atop the pages of people criticizing me – which they just love.
In any case, there’s no assurance their their video actually will be shown on the front page, and 20,000 views is a pretty low target to meet. It’s hardly an “overwhelming” response – for me, that’s just a decent day on YouTube. If anything, I’d expect their video to get more views from being mirrored on one of the many channels that ridicules tacky religious nonsense. Aim high, guys!