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Company's Secret Weapon To Make Videos Go Viral


Maybe you think you could create a video that would go viral. Just film something silly happening, post it to the Internet, all your friends would share it, and all of a sudden you're the most popular person online. Well, it's not that easy. KPCC's Jacob Margolis takes a look behind the curtains at the people who decide if a video is going to go viral. First, a heads up - there's some crude language here since crudity often defines what takes off online.

JACOB MARGOLIS, BYLINE: To those who think viral fame is easy and painless, meet Jared Frank.

JARED FRANK: So as far as how many views I have, its right under 37 million views right now. As to how I got kicked in the head, it's kind of a longer story.

MARGOLIS: A couple of years ago when he was traveling through Peru, Frank was taking a video selfie in front of some train tracks. And he didn't realize it, but a train was coming by pretty fast. A guy leaned off the side of it and planted a boot squarely on his head.


FRANK: Wow, that guy kicked me in the head. I think I got that on film.

MARGOLIS: It looks like one of those slow-motion videos of someone getting punched in the face. His entire head looks like it's wrapped around this guy's boot.

FRANK: I kept it for a very long time before sharing it 'cause I was - I was going to delete it, right? As soon as it happened, I was, like, ready to just press the delete button because it was embarrassing.

MARGOLIS: But that video he was mortified by, people started to watch it. And even though it only had a couple hundred views, he started to get offers from companies to buy it. He didn't know it at the time, but these companies wanted to make his video go viral.

FRANK: And at first, it's one of those things where there's somebody on the Internet saying that they're going to give you money. So it's like how real can this possibly be?

MARGOLIS: Real enough that he ended up signing a deal with Jukin Media. They're an online video licensing company. What do they do? Well, say you see a viral video play in an advertising campaign or on an MTV show about viral videos.


ROB DYRDEK: This dude - this dude driving that train is, like, enough with this selfie [expletive].

MARGOLIS: Every time these shows play clips like Frank's, they have to get permission from video owners. And if Jukin Media owns the video, they say to the shows no, you can't play it for free. Pay us $200 to a couple grand for the rights to broadcast it and Frank and Jukin can get a cut. At the same time, Jukin's always saying to shows hey, check out this clip. This is something that's going to go viral. The clips are short, but they're great fodder for commentary, so they're good for filling time, which is gold in broadcasting land. So how's Jukin finding these videos? Well, they've got a secret weapon. His uniform - a T-shirt and jeans. He's got two computer screens in front of him, and he's in the middle of a huge office packed with 20-somethings watching YouTube videos. He has a Post-it note on his computer reminding him to buy Cheez-Its. His name is Nate Granzow.

NATE GRANZOW: So a kid went down the slide and pretty much went head first into the side of the slide. And it was really funny, so I'm going to accept it.

MARGOLIS: All day long he goes through hundreds of different videos like this. If he likes them, Jukin will reach out to the creators and offer them a deal, but not everything meets his standards.

GRANZOW: One guy tossing another guy in the air, kicks the dog, but it was kind of off camera, so - going to reject it.

MARGOLIS: What whets Granzow's appetite? What makes a good viral hit? Let's ask his boss, CEO Jonathan Skogmo.

JONATHAN SKOGMO: For us, it's got to be short.

MARGOLIS: Ten to 120 seconds long.

SKOGMO: It's got to be shareable.

MARGOLIS: But part of it's just about that gut feeling.

SKOGMO: We do know that a guy getting kicked in the nuts is a guy getting kicked in the nuts and that's going to hurt anywhere.

MARGOLIS: It's a pretty good deal for Jukin. Someone else is creating the content, but how'd everything end up for Frank?

FRANK: There isn't a single country in the whole world that hasn't viewed my video at least once, and North Korea has got three or four views. I think 3 views, which I joke with my friends that it was just, like, Kim Jong Un and, like, his two, like, lieutenants or something that watched the video or something like that.

MARGOLIS: After nearly 37 million views and licensing deals around the world, he's made more than $30,000 off of the whole thing, which he says he's using for his education. And for that, he says it was worth getting his head smashed in. For NPR News, I'm Jacob Margolis in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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