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UT's video of Dolly Parton's 2009 commencement address was featured on the front page of YouTube

When YouTube went looking for the best videos of commencement speakers available on its site they found Dolly Parton’s speech to the 2009 graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The Parton video was one of four commencement videos featured on the front page of this past Sunday. The exposure on the highly popular site (the third most trafficked site on the Internet behind Google and Yahoo) resulted in a huge spike in the number of times the video has been watched. Before the front page exposure, the video had been viewed just over three thousand times. By Monday morning, that number had swelled to over 160,000 viewings. It is now closing in on a quarter of a million views.

“Everyone wants to be featured on the front of YouTube,” said Erik Bledsoe,  assistant director of Creative Communications and the leader of the Web team for UT Knoxville. “We didn’t campaign for it. We knew we had a great video of an engaging speaker; we put it out there and it got noticed.” The exposure has had a substantial spillover effect on the other videos posted on the university’s official YouTube channel, with most of the videos tripling the number of their previous viewings in just over 24 hours. The number of subscribers who are automatically notified when the university adds a new video to the channel also increased dramatically.

“It’s great exposure for the university,” said Bledsoe. “They may have come to watch Dolly, but they are also watching videos about our students, our professors, and the great research being done here.”