According to YouTube executives, there are two different paths a video can take to become viral. First is the classic viral curve-which is more in the shape of a bell or steep mountain peak. In this case a video is posted and at some point (perhaps after sitting on the site for quite a while) is "discovered" by a popular individual and takes off. There is a very fast, massive spike in views. The views reach their highest point very quickly and then fall off just as quickly, mostly vanishing.  The second style of viral video is that which has remarkable staying power. It may rise to popularity much the same way but then remains popular for months and even years, getting hundreds of thousands of views every day.

Only a small number of videos ever meet either of these scenarios. And news, which by its nature changes day to day and even hour to hour, has an even harder time. Still, certain news events have broken through. The Japanese tsunami fit the classic viral spike. The top Japanese earthquake-related video received about 1.8 million views a day during its first week. It remained a top-viewed video for the three weeks that followed. Then it declined to an average of 16,000 views a day over the subsequent 15 months. The death of Osama bin Laden also followed this classic curve. Combined, two versions of President Barack Obama’s speech