TORONTO - Lewis Hilsenteger typically hopes to get at least 200,000 to 300,000 views after posting videos to his YouTube channel Unbox Therapy. If the tech product he's profiling is really buzzy, he might strive for 500,000.
He smashed his own expectations in September when he bend-tested an iPhone 6 Plus in a video that would go on to hit nearly 60 million views.
That video went verifiably viral and has claimed a place on YouTube's year-end most-popular charts. It ranked No. 4 in Canada among non-music videos and No. 5 globally.
"It's not something that I predicted would've happened at the beginning of the year," says Toronto-native Hilsenteger.
"I've been doing this for a few years and I've had great success, I had a million subscribers before this ever happened ... this was just kind of like a bonus on top of that."
The most-viewed videos on YouTube are typically music videos. This year's Canadian list was topped by Katy Perry's "Dark Horse," followed by Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda," Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" and Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off."
Among non-music videos, uploads by late night TV talk shows claimed slots No. 1, 2 and 6 on the Canadian list.
Emma Stone's lip sync battle with Jimmy Fallon on the "Tonight Show" was in first, a mean tweets segment from "Jimmy Kimmel Live" was second, and another Fallon clip with will.i.am, in which they dress up as teenage girls for the comedy song "Ew!," was sixth.
Hilsenteger says his viral video was posted just before the hysteria around the so-called iPhone 6 Plus "bendgate" controversy, in which a small number of users were reporting their pricey devices were bending in their pockets.
"There are certain videos like drop tests and stuff that everyone expects but bend tests — they probably will be a thing now — prior to my video I don't think there was anything quite like it," Hilsenteger says.
"There was a point it was accumulating like 20 million views in a day, it was reaching far and wide. I think my video helped to accelerate the process of people finding out about (bendgate)."
Hilsenteger went on to create a number of followup videos, testing the bendability of other smartphones, and racked up another 20 million views combined for those uploads.
Knowing the economics of YouTube ads well, he wasn't afraid of potentially destroying his iPhone 6 Plus — which he paid for himself, he notes — since he figured the video's revenue would have a good chance of paying for a replacement.
"I didn't expect the video to go as viral as it did but I sort of knew it would probably be at least enough to support the cost of the device," he says.
"For me it wasn't really a risk at all. Anybody who's familiar with the economics of YouTube understands if you're going to go out there and answer a question that people have it's probably going to be worthwhile."
He also thinks the video did well because many YouTube viewers were looking for content that ran counter to the typical hype that surrounds every Apple product release.
"It was almost like a reality check, kinda like: Wait a minute, this thing I wanted so bad might not be perfect. And this thing that everyone's lining up for might not be the greatest one they've ever made," Hilsenteger says.
"I think throwing a twist into the usual narrative meant it was the kind of thing that your average user wanted to share."
Google Canada's year-end list for YouTube: http://bit.ly/1D3GhW0