Watch out cat videos, flash mobs, and Frozen hair tutorials! Here comes a viral YouTube channel that’s not only informative, but also captures its audience’s full-attention…for 15 whole minutes! Clips from John Oliver’s show, Last Week Tonight, get millions of views each week. His comedic approach on controversial, important topics spark the interests of YouTube viewers everywhere.
How does a comedian/newsman do it? Oliver cleanly weaves a web of serious topics and comedic writing, while maintaining journalistic integrity. He touches on anything from student loans, to U.S. military’s drone use, to the Miss America pageant. His approach to these topics is one that isn’t being vocalized on mainstream media (props to being on HBO). He’s asking the hard questions that viewers never thought about, but we want answered! And all the while, he’s cracking us up along the way.
This is a classic approach to making tough topics more approachable – balancing the tension of uncomfortable topics with the relief of laughter. Another important characteristic to note is Oliver’s consistent pace throughout his lengthy rants. He maintains his energy while providing more and more information. This keeps the viewers interest peaked, and therefore keeping up with him longer.
Oliver’s videos are contemporary and relevant, helping to not only capture the audience’s attention, but also staying viral. He releases clips from his show each week, providing pertinent and relevant information to his audience. He draws from mainstream topics while craftfully inserting core, important stories that usually our too-busy-just-show-me-what’s-trending audience would typically ignore.
What John Oliver and his team do each week is nothing short of admirable. They are providing the masses with important information that, it turns out, we wanted to hear. In his video about drones, Oliver says that his team was “trying to find some concrete answers to basic questions, and it’s surprisingly difficult.” His team is doing the research for the questions we never knew we wanted answered. Oliver’s long-form approach is capturing our attention, our thoughts, and probing us to think for ourselves – something that has been taken for granted in a growing fast-paced, mass-media-fed environment.
So how is it that John Oliver manages to keep the attention of online audiences for an astronomically long 15 minute span? By first capturing the audience’s attention with controversial topics, then hooking them with humor. This formula can be applied to a variety of media and content, and even branding efforts. When it comes to capturing the attention of the attention-deficit online audience, humor goes a long way. Especially when you manage you combine heavy-hitting topics with tasteful humor, the combination can be downright irresistible for an online audience.