'Exploding watermelon' video a big social media hit

The "exploding watermelon" video quickly gathered steam on Friday. At one point, more than 800,000 people were viewing it live.
The "exploding watermelon" video quickly gathered steam on Friday. At one point, more than 800,000 people were viewing it live.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • In an online world where viral trends can shift in an instant, the "exploding watermelon" video may have set a high-water mark.

The digital news site BuzzFeed on Friday showed just how quick- ly a mindless act can gain noto- riety, using Facebook's new live video service for an event in which its team placed elastic bands around the watermelon until it exploded.

The spectacle quickly gathered steam on social media and, at one point, more than 800,000 people were viewing it live.

"I want to stop watching so bad but I'm already committed," one Facebook user wrote.

"When my husband comes home and asks me what I did today, I'm not certain he will understand how I couldn't stop once I started," another said.

The live event featured BuzzFeed's Chelsea Marshall and James Harness in hazmat suits placing rubber bands one by one around the watermelon's middle, counting out each time.

On Twitter, #watermelon become a top trend.

"More people are watching this than CNN right now," one person tweeted.

With tension rising at BuzzFeed, the watermelon began spewing juice at 660 rubber bands until its top blew off at 690 to a round of cheers, followed by a partaking of the fruit inside.

But the buzz continued even after the live event.

As of yesterday, the cached video had more than 7.4 million views and generated over 318,000 comments on Facebook.

Analysts, meanwhile, looked for lessons for struggling news media organisations. "Livestreams are stories, just like any other content generated by a news organisation," said Mr Benjamin Mullin of the Poynter Institute in a blog post.

"At their best, they should have a beginning, middle and end - ideally one that elicits an emotional reaction from the viewer. And, if possible, they should include an element of uncertainty to sustain the audience's interest."

Mr Mullin said it is not clear if this feat can be duplicated, but that "newsroom managers might be wise to figure out how they can apply today's lessons to their own coverage".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 10, 2016, with the headline ''Exploding watermelon' video a big social media hit'. Print Edition | Subscribe