As my colleague Garance Franke-Ruta noted, a Rick Perry Iowa television ad went viral on YouTube yesterday, but not in the way that Perry intended. The video has been viewed almost 750,000 times and garnered 3,466 likes and 156,821 dislikes.
Traffic doesn't just flow to political campaign videos from nowhere. They get traffic the way any piece of content on the Internet does: links from popular sites and hits on social news platforms. While it's hard to know precisely which sites drive the most traffic to any given story, in this case, it looks like Reddit may have played a decisive role. From experience here at The Atlantic, we know that a single bit Reddit hit can drive six-figure traffic to a story. But we've never experienced something like what happened with this Perry video.
The way the site works, stories are submitted to individual subreddits like /video or /politics, these then accumulate points. At a certain algorithimically determined level, they go to the front page of that subreddit and then if they keep picking up momentum, they get splashed onto the front page of Reddit.com. That's when the traffic really starts to pour in.*
Yesterday, some time before 7:30pm**, two links to the Perry video went to the Reddit home page back to back, one from /atheism and the other from /video. Both were notably opposed to the video. The one submitted to /atheism read, "Rick Perry's new Commercial, and he's not ashamed to admit that he is a Christian," while the other was stronger in its critique, "Rick Perry's shockingly bigoted campaign video. Titled 'Strong'. Uh ...huh."