YouTube users upload tens of thousands of clips every day, and only a select few go on to become true viral success stories. But what’s really going on when videos that feature things like a dog on a skateboard, otters holding hands or the evolution of dance go viral? Two Switzerland-based scientists have analyzed the popularity of nearly 5 million YouTube videos over a period of eight months to find out.

Riley Crane and Didier Sornette of The ETH Zurich found that 90 percent of all YouTube videos never get any significant bump, but instead just attract a steady flow of viewers. Meanwhile ten percent of them, according to the study that was just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences magazine, exhibit “herding behavior,” meaning that the clips either become viral or get a spike in views because of being featured on YouTube or elsewhere. Further, viral videos tend to get more views on average than featured content or one-hit wonders. Continue reading on

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