As The Guardian‘s head of media and technology Dan Sabbagh reminds at the end of his brief but very fun summary of some widely disseminated upside-down coverage of Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment being stripped of billions of YouTube channel views, “partial facts + total conspiracy = extra Web traffic.”
His main target is cross-town rival The Daily Mail, but there are dozens of other outlets that also got the story wrong. This despite that fact that on December 21, Billboard reporter Alex Pham laid it all out as plain as a Rihanna–Chris Brown NBA courtside sighting. There were no “fake” YouTube channel views; rather, the reason the music labels had their counts adjusted downwards was because of something much more mundane. Per Sabbagh’s wrap-up:
Universal and Sony have, since 2009, been moving their music videos away from their YouTube channels and over to Vevo, the music industry site the two companies own with some investors from Abu Dhabi. YouTube, meanwhile, thinks that is only right to count channel video views for videos that are still actually present on the channels – which means that whenever YouTube got round to reviewing the music majors’ channels on its site, a massive cut was always going to be in order…
Of course, the problem with this prosaic explanation is that it is much less exciting. Much better to attach a story about a fall in viewer counts to the most half-baked bit of conspiracy theorising.
Today’s Daily Mail piece has been massaged with a subsequent update. What’s most fascinating about this particular case of Internet hucksterism is that, as Sabbagh points out, it happened as a news cycle twice in the last seven days. Audio here.