Viral Media

Case Study: Numa Numa and the power of viral media

The media and their messages are ubiquitous.  They permeate facets of our world we might otherwise expect to be isolated.  Music, politics, film, the list goes on and on.  The ever-evolving interaction between media and other societal institutions demonstrates a give and take, allowing the media to set the agenda for these institutions and vice versa.  But what does this agenda-setting function look like?  What better way to understand this dynamic than through the story of a woman who experienced it firsthand:


My name is Ana Peñalosa. I am 24. I am Mexican. I worked for six months in Bachajón, a town in the state of Chiapas, about 16 hours by bus from Mexico City. Bachajón is a town with a single street that leads to Yajalon from the highway to Palenque. Most of the people who live in Bachajón speak Tseltal and are of Mayan ancestry.

The day I arrived in Bachajón there was a market next to the ancient church that spilled over to straddle the one street. Some venders sold fruit and vegetables, some sold shirts and jeans, others sold music and movie CDs and DVDs. People were sitting and standing in small groups, some were talking, others laughing. A sound system blared music to the crowd. The song was “Numa, Numa.”


NUMA NUMA: American Gary Brolsma dancing and lipsynching the song on YouTube

“Numa, Numa” is an Internet phenomenon. First a song titled “Dragostea din tei” by the Moldovan band O-Zone went viral online when a heavyset American man filmed himself on his webcam lipsynching the words. He first posted to Newgrounds and then to YouTube. By the summer of 2007 it had been viewed 700 million times.

What does it take for a Central European pop song to get picked up by an American, then to be imitated all over the world by YouTube users, eventually to make it to a small town in Mexico, far from the bright lights of a big city?

Numa Numa shows that in an astonishingly short span of time the media can get a message virtually anywhere on earth.