It was a lazy sunny afternoon at home when I decided to do a little fact checking. I started searching the web to see what comes up for the search terms “Adventist” or “Seventh-day Adventist”. I searched in Chrome. I searched in Safari. I searched in Firefox.
While YouTube has been taking over the world have we been preoccupied by the media of yesterday? Maybe. But no more.
And then I went over to YouTube. I pulled up the “most views” filter and began my search again. I was astonished. Then I searched “Sabbath”—and that? That pretty well blew my socks off. When I tell you the results you’ll see why. But before I get to that it’s worth noting why YouTube matters.
YouTube’s growing like Clostridium perfringens. During the past three years its viewership has increased 50 per cent per year, every year. If our Church grew that fast it would take less than 15 years until every single person on the planet is an Adventist! Though it may take quite a bit longer until everyone is a tithe-paying Adventist . . .
YouTube’s managing to grow rapidly even as it has become enormous. It hit more than 1 billion individual visitors per month all the way back in 2013. Remember the good old days of 2013?
And YouTube reaches the young. It has more viewers than any major US cable channel among people under 50. And it’s not just in the US. Today 80 per cent of YouTube viewers are outside the US. Why does reaching young with media matter? Ask advertisers—the young are more malleable. And once you’ve got them doing what you want, you have them for a lifetime. A little scary but that, in a nutshell, is the art of advertising.
YouTube’s advertising revenue in 2015 was $US67.39 billion—almost twice what it was in 2011. Do you think you know how to reach people better than the most sophisticated advertisers in the world? No? Me neither.
All of this put together makes YouTube a pretty big deal. At least for anyone in the business of sharing ideas. Anyone like, say, us.
Which leads me back to the top 10 most viewed Adventist YouTube videos.2 Four are compilations of hymn singing. Well, hymns are good so that’s nice, isn’t it? One involves Ben Carson’s political ambitions. There is a terrifically animated debate between an evangelical and an Adventist in the Philippines that’s worth a look even if you, like me, can’t understand a word of it. And then there is Oprah being schooled on the Sabbath. That leaves three more videos—including the second highest viewed “Adventist” individual video in history. And that’s where it got really surprising. At least for me.
Why? Because I was involved in all three of them. For two of them I contributed to the script, arranged the filming and organised the talent. The third video I was able to acquire after working long and hard with the staff of the talent. That I was involved in three of the top 10 is, to be honest, not good news at all. I assumed a televangelist or General Conference president or maybe some really off-the-wall college kid would have come up with something that broke the internet for our Church. Not yet.
But it gets far worse when I searched for “Sabbath”. No, I didn’t get an evangelist expounding on Exodus or Acts. What I got was a British heavy metal band from Birmingham. In fact, the band dominate the most viewed “Sabbath” videos, I tired of scrolling through the search pages before coming upon anything remotely related to God’s Holy Sabbath day. Lots and lots of very loud, very low quality music. No God. Not good.
We could blame the Brummies1 for this but I wonder if we should focus our attention a little closer to home. While YouTube has been taking over the world have we been preoccupied by the media of yesterday? Maybe. But no more.
You’ll see a series of short videos designed for YouTube and social media sharing coming out from our team over the next six months. I’ve written a series of scripts myself. I hope you enjoy them. I hope you share them. But more than that, I hope you make your own. I hope that somewhere between us we can find a way to outdo the echoes of yesterday. Apparently cute cats are a good place to start . . .
1. A Brummie is a person from Birmingham, England.
2. The list is dynamic, so varies slightly from day to day.
James Standish is editor of Adventist Record.