February 21st, 2012

Hijacking YouTube for Fun and Profit

There’s this YouTube user pronunciationbook that is most definitely printing money right now in exchange for a modest amount of effort over the past 18 months or so.

With a little Helvetica, not-awful audio and a lot of cultural intelligence, pronunciationbook is teaching the world how to avoid embarrassment at hipster parties by saying something like “dead-mao-five”.

A dilettantes dream! And a valiant community service effort. Turns out mad people look to YouTube for idiomatic language learning. Put another way, while maybe not the best place to learn the difference between its and it’s, YouTube is extremely valuable for that next-level of language learning that includes sometimes useless cultural references.

But then.

This is the internet. The game couldn’t go on for too long before someone figured out that ad revs on 200k views PER VIDEO were probably somewhat significant. And anything cool will almost always inspire someone to create a parody account.

Enter Pronunciation Manual, the sinister stepsister of pronunciationbook. Using the same Helvetica and the same highly-optimized video titles, P.M. made a series of videos with terribly wrong but kind of hilarious versions of the same words, and a few of its own.

Bon ee-vare is now bun-Lovell and uh-oh which one is actually right?


The best part of this heart-warming tale of YouTube entrepreneurship is that the new flood of videos is great for both creators because people can’t tell who is who and the view counts are through the roof on both videos. Not only that, but the parody account has far eclipsed the original account in terms of views, despite the fact that the original pronunciationbook has around 4 times as many videos. Yet another example of shameless internet copycatting, or genius cultural parody? That’s up for debate.

What is clear, however, is that the entire effort has been rendered completely useless as a learning tool. After all, when funny 5-second time-wasters are pitted in a jousting match against actual utility, you tell me who wins.


Here are three of my favorites, side-by-side:







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  • Angry type nerd says:¬†pronunciationbook does not use Helvetica. He uses¬†Akzidenz-Grotesk. Examine the angles on the ends of the 'e' and 'c' letters to differentiate.

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