I don’t know if you watched Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking freefall to Earth this weekend, but I did, and what an incredible achievement. If you really didn’t know what happened, he jumped out of a capsule 24 miles above Roswell, NM, broke the sound barrier, and free-fell for 9 minutes before landing on his feet safely in the New Mexico desert. The jump itself is an incredible achievement that broke three world records, but there’s one record he broke that had almost nothing to do with the flight and fall itself: Most Simultaenous YouTube viewers.
The entire event was live-streamed on YouTube, and notably, did not have a television broadcast in the United States. The livestream broke YouTube records, attracting 8 million viewers and a record number of comments. I know I watched live on YouTube.
The magnitude of this event is huge in the world of social media. With this event, it seems like YouTube has been able to completely unseat television. I know my grandparents were glued to their television during the moon landing just as I was glued to YouTube 43 years later. The implication is huge: Our social media sites are starting to replace traditional pathways of consuming media. For instance, I don’t remember the last time I watched anything on cable, but I’ve been watching Modern Family regularly on Hulu+.
I think this means that in the very near future, the advertising firm you see in a show like Mad Men will be completely replaced by social media marketing companies. Magazine ads and TV commercials are being gradually replaced by Tweets and YouTube commercials. It’s been happening gradually and consistently over the past few years, but the realization that Red Bull eschewed a TV broadcast (at least in the US) to go for YouTube exclusivity was a glimpse at a very-near future, and it was astounding.