Kendra Moriah is a singer. I can’t tell you whether or not she’s a good singer because I’ve not heard any of her songs. She’s probably fantastic and this post is not intended to denigrate her in any way.
The only negative thing that I can say about Kendra – and this isn’t really a negative comment at all – is that I had not heard about her until this morning. And nor had many other people. At the time of writing this, her Twitter feed had 94 followers. I predict that this will rise considerably in the coming hours.
Why? Well, earlier this month she uploaded a 29-second video to her Instagram account of a puppy pulling at her bikini on a beach. Instagram doesn’t record how many people have seen the video; but 37 people have liked it. Around the same time it was posted to Kendra’s YouTube account where it has attracted 3,464,073 views with 1,870 thumbs up votes and 442 thumbs down votes.
But now the video has come to the attention of the world’s media; and a number of news outlets have copied the video to their own websites; often with very little accompanying text to explain why it’s on there.
The Mail Online describes it as one of its “most watched news videos” without much of an explanation to explain why it is news; except to say that “Singer Kendra Moriah’s music video on YouTube went viral with almost 30,000 views because a clip of her trying to keep her top from a puppy got over 2 million views since being posted this month.”
What does “gone viral” actually mean? Is it a measure of how many people have seen something online? If 100 people see something, has it “gone viral”? Or does it have to be seen by 1,000 people, 5,000 people or 10,000 people? What’s the threshold?
Surely, “viral” in the internet sense simply means that it can be or has been shared: in the way that “available in newsagents” explains how newspapers are distributed. It is a word that describes a method of propagation rather than the success, or otherwise, of the propagation.
I am at a loss to understand why so many news organisations are sharing it. In addition to the Mail Online, the video has been shared by the Daily Mirror and it’s sister paper in Scotland, the Daily Record, Entertainment Ireland, the New York Daily News, AOL Travel, MSN Lifestyle, the Hollywood Gossip, and even the Malaysian Chronicle.
In a bid to inject some newsy adventure and risk into the story, the Mirror and Record tells us that “Kendra yelps in fear”, albeit “with a smile on her face”, as she is dragged “down to the sand.” But fear not: the papers tell us that “we can rest easy” because “she got the bikini back.”
I’m all for light-hearted entertainment and whimsy, but I just don’t get why newspapers fall over themselves to share videos like this which, in the cold light of day, just aren’t that spectacular. Presumably it is for the hits that they will generate. But if the news media are going to concentrate on the popular, and on those things that generate hits – like videos of pretty girls in bikinis frolicking on a beach – then we might as well close the news organisations down and accept defeat: journalism has died.
There are plenty of sites out there where people can find such videos. This one, afterall, had already been posted online by Kendra Moriah on her own social media sites before the newspapers adopted it as their own. Surely the news media needs to offer more than just girls in bikinis. The counter argument is that by posting popular content it draws readers into the less popular more serious stuff.
This was the way television used to work before we had so many specialist and niche channels. Growing up as I did in the ’70s and ’80s, we would watch (for example) the occasional Proms concert – or parts of it – because they were on before Not The Nine O’Clock News or whatever we were waiting for. Now, they are shoved away onto BBC Four where we don’t have to worry about them. It also means today’s kids don’t have to listen to classical music unless it’s part of a tv advert or the introduction to European football matches.
But online is different. People don’t hang around anymore and search for what else is being offered on a website. Increasingly, even sites like BBC Online are having people “land” on specific pages that have been shared online before returning to the platform – Twitter, Facebook, or even Email – where they saw the link. Homepages are becoming less important because people aren’t visiting home pages anymore; merely specific content that has been shared.
And this is true for Kendra Moriah. In a comment on her 3-million-plus viewed YouTube video, she urges “fans” who are enjoying her struggle with her dog and bikini to watch some of her music videos. The responses are crude, but inevitable: “The only reason it went viral is because a bunch of horny, lonely, teenage/middle-age males thought there would actually be some bare tits in this video,” said commentator Mike B, “Sadly, you’ll just be a speck of dust in the wind in a few weeks. Nice rack though, seriously.”
Others made the point more succinctly and crudely: “no, I dont want to see shitty music, just your tatays” said user elmexicanitoborracho; this was echoed by Khachik2003 who said “tits will trump shitty music every time“; and by CSKN who said: “Just get your tits out coz your music is shit“.
The user kraig7777 had some sage advice: “Uh, so you untied your top and let the dog start playing with it, then started filming and called it Bikini Fail with Cute Puppy, and now you’re complaining because nobody wants to see your stupid band videos. And the band is a folk duo. Let me give you a tip: people looking for boob videos don’t care about folk duos.”
His comment was directed at Kendra Moriah. But it is advice that editors of newspaper websites might want to consider too: videos of girls struggling to keep their bikini on might generate tonnes of hits to the web page it is on; but it is unlikely to do anything to raise the awareness or interest in original journalism or the rest of the content on the website.
What it will do, is skew future content as the publisher’s bean counters see that a page which cost very little – if anything – to produce is generating millions of hits; while an expensive page of original journalism, carefully crafted and expertly investigated; generates far less interest. The bean counters then demand less of the latter and more of the former.
If that continues, then my dire prediction will come true, if it isn’t already too late: journalism will die.
And on that happy note, as you’ve read through to the end, here’s a video of a pretty girl on a beach struggling to keep her bikini on.
And, because Kendra Moriah asked so nicely, here she with her band, Dirty Little Blondes, singing a cover of the Disney song Part of Your World.