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Tubular Labs on what went viral in 2015

Puppies, pranks and ball pits dominated digital - and, according to Tubular and What's Trending, brands are winning over viewers with clever content.
December 22, 2015

What on earth do toddlers, animals and ball pits have in common?

Besides a recipe for serious fun (and outright mayhem), these are some of the ingredients in the year’s most viral videos, according to Tubular Labs, which, together with What’s Trending, has released the top online videos, trends and stars of 2015.

In keeping with the theme, the rankings were presented via a digital video hosted by What’s Trending’s Shira Lazar and YouTuber Bart Baker, and, for the first-time ever, include hits from YouTube and across streaming platforms, including Vine, Facebook and Snapchat.

Among the 2015 highlights:

  • Viner King Bach, with more than 14 million followers, was named the Viner of the year, while Lele Pons was crowned the most viewed Viner of 2015 (with more than 3.1 million views).
  • On Instagram, singer Taylor Swift was crowned the top celebrity (5.7 million followers on the platform) and National Geographic was the top brand (37.8 million followers).
  • Buzzfeed was crowned overall video brand of the year for its 18 million cross-platform followers and 7.1 billion cross-platform views); and
  • The infamous blue and black dress was deemed the viral trend of the year, with 73 million views on the original Tumblr post and 10 million mentions in one week on Twitter.

Allison Stern, co-founder of Tubular Labs, told StreamDaily the rankings were based not only on view counts across platforms, but also on other forms of engagement such as shares, re-posts, likes and comments — all increasingly important metrics in measuring online success.

The reason for such a wide array of credentials lies in the growing variety of platforms and how users interact with them.

“A view on YouTube is not the same as a view on Facebook is not the same as a view on Vine,” said Stern. “Because they all specialize in videos of different lengths, have different default settings for auto-play, different search functions, we can’t compare apples to apples, so we use a number of variables.”

It’s also a sign of the rising popularity of streaming platforms beyond YouTube.

When Tubular Labs was founded three years ago, Stern said most of the internet’s video views took place on the Google-owned platform. But that’s changed.

“People are harnessing different platforms for different uses. With Facebook, it’s got broad reach. With Vine, it’s more mobile, you can watch a lot of videos at once,” said Stern.

That said, Stern said YouTube is not going away any time soon.

“There’s no other platform with the kind of search power it has, and it’s the only platform where you’ll really see videos that are two years old still getting hits.”

Much like the recent YouTube Rewind montage, the Tubular list found a growing number of corporate videos and branded entertainment among the year’s viral hits — such as Buzzfeed’s “Puppyhood” video, 2015’s most-viewed comedy video with 8.5 million views on Youtube.

Prankster Roman Atwood’s crazy ball pit prank (viewed 58 million times on YouTube) was also sponsored, in this case by Nissan.

Stern said it’s a sign that brands are learning how to grab the attention of online users, without disruptive or pre-roll advertising (techniques deemed unappealing to millennials and Gen Z viewers).

“Advertisements are, by definition, interruption,” said Stern. “They’ve decided that they don’t want to be interrupting the content people watch, they want to be the content people watch and they’re very smart by pairing with publishers like Buzzfeed to make videos that are actually really engaging.”

According to Stern, there is still an appetite online for less-polished and more personal home videos — you’re just more likely to see them on Facebook, than YouTube.

“YouTube is more professional and highly produced, but those smaller videos still have a place,” she said.

The full list is available below:

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