The online video of Susan Boyle’s singing performance of the reality TV show “Britains Got Talent” has reportedly set online viewing records. In a little over a week after being posted on YouTube, the video has been viewed more than 30 million times, and “according to Visible Measures, which tracks videos from YouTube, MySpace and other video-sharing sites, Boyle’s audition has generated 66.3 million views.” (figures which are bound to be already out of date)
There would no doubt be many multiple viewings in those numbers, but it is still a huge figure. The story itself has become a story, and there would be many millions of extra viewings of the multitude of stories about the overnight popularity of the video.
I think this episode will quickly become a textbook example to demonstrate how false the dichotomy is of a battle between ‘old’ media and ‘new’ or social media (blogs, online photo/music/video sharing websites, social networking sites, etc). This quite extraordinary phenomenon shows that new and old media interlink and reinforce and impact on each other.
With mainstream media moving more and more towards prioritising an online presence, social media will effect the way this evolution of traditional media develops.
And for all the earnest – and valid – talk about the potential of new media as a vehicle for improving democratic processes and public knowledge of information and issues that affect them, the Susan Boyle story also shows that entertainment and human interest will almost always be far more popular than policy and political issues.