A digital media company came to Hunter to discover if there were ways to plan, craft, and predict viral videos based on what teens and young adults wanted. The company had produced videos with millions of views, but could not say definitively what it was about their videos that struck such a chord with their audience.
To get into the mindset of “Digital Youth”, the study began with online journals where the participants tracked what they watched each day, on which devices, and also which videos stuck out to them (were salient). After two weeks of these journals, we met them in pairs at their homes for interactive ethnographic interviews. “Game-ifying” these interviews resulted in higher engagement from our participants, and allowed them to think about their behavior in creative ways, eliciting deep descriptions of their viewing behavior.
Based on this data, a predictive model did emerge—at a high level, youth were responding most obsessively to content that either resonated with their lived experiences, or served as an ironic/absurdist counterpoint to them. This allowed the client to focus on specific forms of content as well as present themselves as audience experts to potential advertisers.