There’s a good theory that says if you want to earn a living as an artist (or writer, I presume), you need 1000 true fans. If these 1000 fans will purchase everything you produce, you can make a full-time living.
The trick is connecting with these 1000 fans. The Internet makes it easier than ever to do so, but what really amuses me is the people who seem to think there’s some magical formula to it. I see Twitter spam promising it, I see blogs promising it, and of course there are scads of email messages circulating that promise everything from search engine optimization to astroturfing to traditional marketing will send site hit counters through the roof (without really telling you how to capitalize on those hit counts, but that’s a subject for another day).
Tell me something. Do you really think there’s a formula to explain something like lolcats?
If there is, I imagine it contains a lot of Latin and pentagrams. You just don’t know what’s going to click with people. Brian probably isn’t far from hitting 1000 true fans, if he’s not there already, but he did it the traditional route with a simple blog and lots of production. He’s certainly no Technoviking.
Some big dude dances around in front of a camera and boom, it’s a viral hit. Over four million views on one copy of the clip alone, and almost 10,000 comments. Some of us would kill for numbers like that. The question is, is anyone making money on those hits? It’s arguable as to whether or not YouTube/Google is, given the bandwidth costs four million views of a four-minute video are going to generate.
And that doesn’t take into account the remixes. The Technoviking gets subtitled, and itself earns 72,000 hits. It’s not four million, but it’s not traffic to ignore. Any money in that? No. He can even get over 100,000 hits dancing with M.C. Hammer and not generate a dime for either of them.
But wait! It gets better!
Sometimes a remix just isn’t enough. Sometimes you must take two memes and combine them into one. Behold as the Technoviking laments the disposition of his beloved hobbits:
By the way, my body looks like that, ladies. I just cleverly conceal it under a thick layer of padding…
I digress. This little gem has over 300,000 hits. Again, it’s well shy of four million, but it’s substantial for something so simple.
The formula for real Internet success is the same as anything else: hard work and a product people are interested in buying. Everything else is just another example of everything that’s both wonderful and wrong on the Internet.