On Thursday afternoon, the world watched as the media reported that a small boy had floated away in a homemade weather balloon. Later, of course, everyone learned that the boy had been hiding in the attic the entire time... and the story went into overdrive. As the drama of whether or not the whole thing had just been a massive hoax, related video clips were hitting the Web and spreading rapidly.
The Blitzer Confession
Since the story first broke, over 400 videos about the 'balloon boy' -- as the social media world came to dub six-year-old Falcon Heene -- have already been uploaded. These videos span news clips from every cable news network, to the original video of the balloon flying away, to Falcon getting sick on The Today Show and then confessing to Wolf Blitzer that "We did this for the show," to a Balloon Boy music video, to commentators, to the sheriff announcing the possibility of bringing charges against Falcon's father, and on and on.
So how does this all add up? To date, the Balloon Boy story has generated over 7 million views (!!), with the "confession" interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer and young Falcon's barfing during his interview with Meredith Vieira attracting the most attention. Overall, the story has inspired more than 50,000 comments.
For a sense of scale, the Balloon Boy scandal has already driven more online video views than A-List celebrity David Letterman's recent on-air confessions about his staff indiscretions. On October 1, the late-night host announced that he was being blackmailed for sleeping with several members of his staff. While the scandal has driven over 150 clips, 3+ million views, and 15,000 comments, it pales in comparison of Balloon Boy's performance.
Hoax or not, Balloon Boy has shown us the potential performance of a capitivating story in online video. And with criminal charges hovering above his parents, there may still be more to come.
The data used in this post was collected from our Viral Reach Database, a constantly growing video repository of analytic data on 100+ million Internet videos from 150+ video-sharing destinations.
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