In my first post on the online video industry (and the slow demise of television), I discussed how the web has led to a proliferation of video and a widening access for aspiring video creators and viewers. While the effect of the internet on quantity of content is obvious, the effect on its quality is far more subjective.
A prevalent model in the world of online video is being able to stream content for a monthly fee (eg. Netflix) or for free (eg. Youtube). This models spans across other types of content too eg. Spotify and Pandora in the music industry and Kindle’s ebooks in publishing.
The Demand Side: Changing Consumption Patterns
When unlimited videos are served up to us in on an affordable (or free) digital platter, the way we consume and perceive it is inevitably going to change. A key change is that consumers now want to watch more videos on demand rather than when the broadcaster dictates.
But unlimited access has also brought about a greater desire to discover everything imaginable. This has positives and negatives. For example, Netflix making insightful film recommendations is broadly a good thing whereas going on a rampage through cute cat videos on Youtube is a distinctly less productive use of time.
It seems that it’s up to the consumer to make the most of what technology can offer. It seems that our insatiable appetites for video may go one of two ways: Either people benefit from the breadth of interesting content on the web or opt for the instant gratification of vacuous viral videos (with ruinous effects on their attention span).
A small selection of the many cute cat videos on Youtube
The Supply Side: Are Video Makers Just Maximizing Clicks?
One argument against video quality on platforms such as Youtube is that the barrier for entry for content creators is set too low. While universal access has meant a flood of poor quality videos, this shouldn’t matter since ultimately the consumers decide which ones to watch and share. This democratization also allows people, who otherwise would not have the chance, to express their opinion.
A second argument against online video is the risk of turning video into purely a vehicle for advertisers by focussing solely on maximising clicks/views/shares. This is very much falls within the Buzzfeed School of content creation, in which data is used to ‘engineer’ content and drive traffic.
The verdict is therefore still out on what is happening the quality of content. The very definition of quality is subjective. But it's important to step back and evaluate just how much technology is affecting the way we access and engage with information on the internet and how we can improve it.