Susan Boyle – bigger than the Beatles (for this week at least)

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 (figures which are bound to be already out of date)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.

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4 Comments

  1. Oh come on Andrew. Why are you jumping on this bandwagon, and then distorting it with some ludicrous, half baked political grandstanding? Read the last line of your comment. And I don’t know much about you and your politics, but I would care some if you told us how you felt about such an interesting story without dragging it into the catacombs of mundane, small town, banal pollie speak.

  2. Yes, it seems you don’t you know much about me or my politics Austrailarod.

    And I don’t know much about what you’re talking about.

    It’s just a blog post, not the Gettysberg address.

  3. I agree with you Andrew – her performance on the show was carefully set up … there is not way that the people who organise the show didn’t know that she’d got a very good voice, and that her outward appearance would shock and galvanise the audience. The resulting applause (fully deserved in my view, though I know nothing about music) was bound to be translated onto You tube, with Paul Potts’ precendent setting teh scene. I don’t begrudge her any positives Susan gets out of it, and I am glad a few people have been led to think about Appearance and how it can Mislead us into making Shallow Judgements, but in fact the big side of this is how quickly it has spread, once on You Tube to Facebook, etc, and apparently she pipped Obama on You tube … quite a feat given how carefully crafted HIS appearances are. I’m on a couple of non-music discussion groups, one on hobbies and one on politics … and Susan has been referred to several times in the last few days via those groups … the ability of ‘the public’ to spread something that catches our eye is quite awe-inspiring, and thought provoking! Good to remember that it is indeed all a result of planinng … and to wonder what else is planned that way. “Children Overboard” barely rates a mention on youtube, partly because its potential was only just being grasped, and partly becuase of our tiny population … but watch and see what happenes at the timeof the next election.

  4. There is a very interesting article in yesterday’s Age about why Susan Boyle has gained so much notoriety. And I think that it hits the nail on the head.

    The Cinderella tale swerves into another fairy tale, a tale of trial and testing. There are three judges of this quest, two men and a woman. The woman is very beautiful. And young. She says little and looks embarrassed. The men are about Boyle’s age, late 40s, and each with a dizzying self-confidence.

    The disrespect ingrained in their carelessness even to try to disguise their disdain for this middle-aged woman who strides onto the stage has made every woman of sensibility who has seen this want to reach for her pearl-handled Smith and Wesson 640. Boyle’s stride, so newly learned, so patently fake, signals bravado at every step. “Go back,” you want to scream. “Save yourself!”

    She is nervous, but she’s used to men treating her as a joke. However, like every heroine there ever was, she knows she can rely on her secret, the golden voice. So she opens her mouth and out it pours; a voice so true that the air which carries it trembles.

    If Boyle was a beautiful sexy 25 year old the reaction would have been different. People of course would have been impressed with the voice but it would have been somewhat consonant with her looks. Let’s say that I don’t think that Boyle would have gone far on a show like ‘Pop Idol’ (the British version of American/Australian Idol) where looks and youth are important.

    I

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