A youtube's worth a thousand words

December 1, 2008

     By Duncan Green     

My kids introduced me to youtube, mainly through happy family moments watching unfortunate things happen to cats. But now Oxfam’s amazing audiovisual team have boiled down 500 pages of ‘From Poverty to Power’ into a 2 minute video.

The team is led by film maker Sandhya Suri, who made an award-winning documentary about her family, ‘I is for India’, an extraordinary insight into the human reality of migration.

The video gets hard boiled aid professionals choked up by reminding them why they are in this business – all too easy to forget sometimes. It also makes a great last slide addition to the ‘From Poverty to Powerpoint’ presentation, which I can now deliver in my sleep. And it’s the first thing I’ve ever been associated with that gets rave reviews from my kids.

However, our interactive gurus tell me that even two minutes is probably too long for it to ‘go viral’ – the phrase for youtube videos whose number of hits suddenly leaps from hundreds to hundreds of thousands, as people add them to their social networking sites, circulate them etc (I’m a little vague on the details). The secret here seems to be one simple, shocking message, 90s seconds or less – have a look at Amnesty International’s video on waterboarding or Greenpeace on palm oil and deforestation (both nearly half a million hits). World Vision’s great video on dirty water (15,000 hits and counting) shows promise too. Would love to hear about other examples of youtube on development, human rights and environment that have got big numbers.

They’ve all got a long way to go to match the talking cat though (10 million hits on various sites). If we could just train a cat to talk about development…..