A little over a month ago we set out to write a blog post about the popularity of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. However, along the way, we learned that John Oliver and his team are really masters of content in a social media world.
The team at Last Week Tonight has managed to get long form content shared more than almost any outlet we’ve ever seen and it showed us that content can come in many forms and lengths, but the key to getting it shared is really what’s inside the content.
Check out the lesson we learned from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that quickly became one of our staff favourites of the year.
This post was first published on November 11, 2014:
You can debate back and forth for days on whether Last Week Tonight is a news program or a comedy and entertainment show… or even both. But one thing you can’t debate is that John Oliver has been instrumental in opening the eyes of his viewers to subjects that they should probably know more about.
And when we say viewers, we don’t just mean the people who watch his show live on HBO, we mean everyone that has seen the numerous clips from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight since it debuted at the end of April this year.
Yes, the show we’re talking about is an HBO program, which means that viewers need to subscribe to HBO through their cable company to see the show live as it airs on Sunday nights. However, what John Oliver’s show has done that not many other shows do, especially ones on premium cable subscription channels, is found a way to make his interesting content very sharable by putting all of his segments up on YouTube.
And this is why we say that John Oliver gets it. He knows that if you want your content to spread it has to be three things; interesting, entertaining and sharable. Last Week Tonight is all three of these, which is why it got so popular so fast.
Since Last Week Tonight debuted at the end of April this year, the show’s name or John Oliver have appeared in over 818,000 social media posts. Mentions have appeared in 14,496 blog posts, 17,346 online news articles, 26,152 forum postings and 760,222 tweets.
There has also been, over the same time period, 11,973 videos posted that have John Oliver or Last Week Tonight mentioned in their titles or descriptions. And, to add to that, only 83 of those videos come from the show’s own YouTube channel.
While the number of mentions that John Oliver and Last Week Tonight have received since their show debuted is by no means an astronomical number, it’s really what was in those posts and how many people saw them that mattered. And what was in them, was videos from their YouTube channel.
You see, John Oliver and Last Week Tonight knew that not everyone has an HBO subscription. So they made their content easy to find and share somewhere else, the world’s second largest search engine, YouTube. And it’s been working for them.
We pulled up some of the stats from the Last Week Tonight YouTube page. What we found that the channel has over a million subscribers. Even better though is that the 83 videos posted to the channel have amassed over 150 million views. That’s not bad since the channel has only existed for just about 6 months.
Even more impressive is when we looked at which of his videos were the most popular. The top five most popular videos from the channel weren’t the short funny little two minute videos. All five of them were the show’s longer form feature stories that average around 14 minutes in runtime.
Even more interesting though is when we go back to the social mentions of John Oliver and Last Week Tonight we started talking about. When we look at those mentions on our popularity chart, which plots out the mentions over time, we can see a bunch of large spikes in conversation. All of them, including the largest spike on August 18th, happen on Mondays, the day after the show airs on HBO. People would literally be waiting for the videos to go up the next morning so they could see them and share them.
So, what can you learn from John Oliver and Last Week Tonight?
The main take-aways we see here is that there is no magic length for how long a blog post or a video should be to optimize how much your content gets shared through social media. Your content should be as long as it needs to, as long as you can keep it interesting, entertaining and make it easily sharable. If you can do that, people will be anxiously waiting for your content so they can see it and share it.
And now, just for fun and so those of you not familiar with the show can understand what we’re talking about, here’s one of our favourite clips from the first season of Last Week Tonight (of course it has to do with the internet):