Blog The Vote, Day 8: The case of the mysterious YouTube views

February 7, 2013 8 Comments »

It appears that since Tuesday morning, when Vivek Prabu’s campaign video had a total of 3,537 views, the video has been watched over 11,000 times—more than the total number of voters in last year’s record-setting election.

I was first made aware of this sudden leap in exposure last night, when at around 11:00 p.m., campaign team member Andrew Potter tweeted at the Gazette to question our numbers in an infographic published yesterday.

I replied, saying that at the time the graphic was produced, at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, those numbers were correct. At that time, Prabhu had the fewest views, while Team Whelan’s video had 3,987 views and Team McGuire’s video had 6,664 views.

At the time of the tweet, about 36 hours had passed and Team Prabhu’s view count had climbed to 14,495, while the other two had increased by only a few hundred.

That’s nothing if not odd. I sent another tweet to Potter expressing my curiosity. He didn’t reply, and then I realized he had deleted his original tweets. However, I took a screenshot in TweetDeck before they disappeared:

 

This series of tweets was deleted soon after being posted.

This series of tweets was deleted soon after being posted.

My replies:

My response to Andrew Potter's tweets

My response to Andrew Potter’s tweets

 

When asked about the tweets in an email, Potter replied, “I deleted the Tweet as I assume there is a yet to be determined error on YouTube’s end. I’m not willing to make any sort of on the record comment on behalf of anyone at the moment.”

This, of course, is one possibility, but it wasn’t the answer I expected from a campaign team member—that the spike in views was legitimate.

Then I noticed something else—despite the huge spike in views, Prabhu’s video still only had 17 comments. For comparison, Whelan’s video has about 4,200 views as of this writing, and it has 12 comments. Comments are disabled on McGuire’s video. Additionally, the number of “likes” on Prabhu’s video hovered around 50, a comparable number to the other two, again despite the apparent discrepancy in exposure.

Logic would dictate that a video with several times more views would have several times more comments and “likes,” yet Prabhu’s does not.

I happened to be pulling a late night last night, so I kept up with the view count out of curiosity. Between midnight and 5:48 a.m.—not exactly primetime—the view count on Prabhu’s video increased by 160.

A screenshot I took at 12:00 a.m. this morning

A screenshot I took at 12:00 a.m. this morning

A screen shot I took at 5:48 this morning.

A screen shot I took at 5:48 this morning

For comparison, between 12:30 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. today, a time period more than twice as long, Whelan’s views had increased by only 61 and McGuire’s increased by 86.

A simple look at the public viewing statistics of the video would show us exactly when this increase of 11,000 views in a 36-hour period occurred. However, unlike the other two candidates, the viewing statistics for Prabhu’s video are private.

I will not speculate on a reason for the sudden spike in views, because I don’t know how or why it happened. What I do know is this is extremely unusual, and Potter’s reaction to my question—and the hasty deletion of his tweets—struck me as overly defensive.

Why would the least popular campaign video suddenly gain more than triple its total views—a week after it had been uploaded—in the span of only 36 hours? There was no huge social media push that I’m aware of beyond the normal day-to-day campaign promotions. Isn’t that weird?

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