This year, YouTube looked at "views, shares, searches, parodies, remixes, and responses" to identify 10 videos that everyone was watching and talking about.
Turns out, the majority of this year's top 10 were not advertisements, they were videos that touched viewed on an emotional level to the point where they were compelled to share them on their networks.
Another striking difference between this year's list and others is that professionally produced videos outshined amateur clips.
"Almost everything on the list this year was created by professional or creative talent for an online audience," said Kevin Allocca, YouTube trends manager, following the release of the list this week. "It's different from years ago, when homemade videos or random, funny stuff from smartphone cameras were the hits."
YouTube is also seeing a shift in how videos are being consumed -- with smartphones, tablets, and social media networks becoming preferred viewing methods over say the desktop computer, according to Mr. Allocca.
The most-popular videos are also longer than they've ever been: this year's longest was a documentary running 31 minutes. Also, more are gaining worldwide attention. Consider Gangnam Style. While most viewers have no idea what the lyrics mean, the eye-catching music video was shared across the planet.
More than four billion hours of video are watched every month on YouTube. It's a number that's hard to ignore and you really shouldn't. If you have a business and want to create original video content take note: it's not about hard selling, it's all about creating and posting content that people want to share... and, if it's produced professionally, you'll have a better chance at success.
The proof is in the numbers:
- YouTube’s Top video of 2012 should come as no surprise: PSY was 2012’s YouTube star as Gangnam Style approached 1 billion views, earning the title of YouTube’s most-watched video ever, in just 6 months time.
- Canadian band Walk off the Earth, created this cool and unconventional take on Gotye’s single , becoming an international hit, taking the top spot of music ‘cover’ videos.
- Back in March, the most-shared video in the world was a 30-minute doc from a non-profit, which drove unprecedented traditional and social media discussion. Kony2012 was reported to be the first cause-based video to make YouTube’s annual list.
- This Call Me Maybe lip sync video kicked off a trend that helped make it 2012’s song of the summer.
- Epic Rap Battle’s Season 2 earned 250 million views as one of the many videos we watched during the U.S. election season.
- One of the most popularly watched ads was TNT’s launch in Belgium, accompanied by this epic stunt.
- Emmanuel Hudson teamed up with Spoken Reasons, producing 2012’s most entertaining commute.
- Lindsey Stirling’s unexpectedly awesome combination of dubstep and violin helped launch her onto this list.
- Early in 2012, this extreme look into family relationships in the social media age sparked a storm of discussion on and off social media platforms.
- Finally, Felix Baumgartner’s epic jump from space was one of the most viewed live events ever with millions of viewers tuning in live or watching these highlights .
Want to go through 2012, month by month? Check out the year's defining moments in this nifty interactive timeline . Just use the arrows to scroll between months, and click on the thumbnails to watch the videos. With this, YouTube invited a number of YouTube 'stars' to play a role in this mashup of culturally defining moments of 2012 .
To recap: it's all about the 'content'. This year's list also further supports the thought that professional is also way to go when it comes to web videos that pack the most punch - which is good news for businesses that maybe felt their stories had no place amongst all the cute cat videos.
Special to The Globe and Mail