« Spreadable media » is a term introduced by Jenkins et al, denying the biological notion of « viral media ». Indeed the dimension of human’s choice in the process of popularization of one particular media is crucial since it relies essentially on the will of individuals to spread the content.
I personally have identified one particluar Youtube video that went viral two years ago, and triggered a lot of reactions among internet users. This video is the music video for the song Hotline Bling by Drake. It was posted on the 26th of October 2015 on the DrakeVEVO channel, and now have more than 1 billion views on Youtube.
The wide popularity of this viral media was first and foremost due to the pre-existing large popularity of the artist Drake since the 2000’s and the success of his media content, counting 7 millions subscribers on YT and more than 60 videos, with almost one quarter of that total reaching more than 10 million views.
However, the reason behind the viral dimension of the Hotline Bling video relies on something more : indeed, this video is the most seen of his YT channel. The second most viewed video is the usic video for his song « Started From The Bottom » which ‘only’ represent 330 millions views, that is to say 4 times lower than the Hotline Bling one. Why such a difference ?
The answer is clear : the video and its content has become what is known as a meme. A meme is a recurring figure on the internet, that relies on humouristic aspects t make fun of something, of a situation, using particular shared signs and symbols. In our case those symbols are embodied in the curiously-looking dance of Drake in the video. The dance move on 4:04 has been parodied an incalculable amount of time. The research theme « drake hotline bling dance » give more than 700 thousands results mostly consisting in parodies, making fun of the original video. It either consists in fake tutorial explaining the weird dance, or video editing showing drake throwing Pokeballs or playing tennis, as seen below :
If we refer ourselves to the comment section of the original YT video, we can obviously see that this « meme condition » of the video is obviously the first concern of the viewers, the top comment being « Drake dances like he’s a year old white Christian dad. », which is only one among the many examples of comments dealing with this particular aspect of the video that made it viral.
Visual detournament of the videos were also widely spread among social medias, on FB, Twitter, reddit and even among theChan community for instance.
The video had became more than a media content, it had become so viral that it eventually went from a music video to a meme, hence a symbol. The interesting point in this process is that it only had a positive effect for the media producer himself : indeed when we interest ourselves to the reaction bar of the video, we can see that it is overwhelmingly positive, with almost 100 times more likes than dislike. In the situation of a video going viral for a precise element being mocked or rather parodied, it is not an obvious conclusion. See for instance the music video for the song Friday by Rebecca Black which became also a meme (in a lower dimension) but ended up becoming one of the most hated video on the platform (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfVsfOSbJY0)
Finally, Drake’s Hotline Bling video obviously embodies the idea of spreadable media rather than « viral media », since the spreading dimension of the video’s popularity relied mainly on the fact that people reapropiated themselves the media content to give it their own meaning.
There really is this idea of transformation in the communating process : the « consumers » are « shaping the circulation of media content, often expanding meaning » (see Henry Jenkins : http://henryjenkins.org/2009/02/if_it_doesnt_spread_its_dead_p.html). Often what Jenkins describes as the « stickiness of the media » ,that is to say the maintaining of its original meaning, is lost during such a process. The spreadability of a media on the internet makes it hard to keep this stickiness criteria.
However and we have seen, what is billiant about Drake’s Hotline Bling is that it managed to spread widely to billions of people, who eventually found new meaning to the media, but without altering too much the essence value of it, that is to say the promotion of the artist and of the song, which as we saw earlier are both very popular, and maybe even more after this. The stickiness of the media has been preserved and its spreadability pushed to its extreme.