With the advance of social networking and 'virals' fast becoming the news, is curated content online a dying art form?
These days, it seems to be once-off videos that "go viral" - i.e, amass a large number of views in a short amount of time.
'Viral videos' have become the new 'human interest' pieces on news broadcasts and online, with videos like 'Devil baby terrifies shoppers' being played on Sky News only this morning, for example.
Jimmy Kimmel released the short video 'Twerking FAIL' as an experiment, and, sure enough, the video made all the major news channels in America without any promotion or push from Kimmel or his team. The host then outed the hoax live on his show, proving that the formula for virality is now so well-known that it's almost simple to get your content viewed by millions.
However, this isn't the case for curated content. Well-thought out, longer, planned content doesn't appear to do as well as the off-the-cuff events and animal clips. 'YouTubers' who create content for a living are seeing their views consistently dropping as people are bombarded online with shorter, more random clips.
The problem could be that there is too much 'shareable' content on the web. Anything longer than five minutes and with a script is often discarded in favour of sharing the dog that sounds like he's talking.
'Vine' is having a serious hand in the death of longer content. The 6.5 second videos are short, snappy and often hilarious - sparing the user any wasted time setting the scene or working up to the punchline. Hundreds of Vine users have over 1m followers on the mobile app, which only made it to the desktop in recent weeks.
Vine is detrimental to YouTube in that it's making very short, very precise clips popular. On YouTube, a video can only be monetized once it's longer than 1 minute, which puts YouTube creators at a disadvantage in a world that needs their content to get straight to the point. Monetization aside, it's becoming more popular to share Vine and Facebook videos due to sheer simplicity - one click to revine, two clicks to tweet and two clicks to share Facebook video as opposed to three clicks and a pop-up window to share YouTube videos on both Twitter and Facebook.
The competing platforms have made it so easy for their respective apps (Vine and Instagram) to embed onto their sites that YouTube videos almost look out of place. The way they appear on Facebook in particular is becoming more and more clunky compared to the slick integration of the linked platforms.
The ease of which users can share Vine videos, in particular, presents a particular problem for longer content creators. This problem manifests itself mainly on mobile - where the majority of social traffic is coming from during the peak hours. Why click a YouTube link on Twitter which will take you out of Twitter and into the YouTube app, when you can play a Vine video right from your Twitter timeline? (As an aside - Instagram missed a huge opportunity to compete with Vine with their limitations on sharing video.)
The market is also now flooded with 'viral' marketing clips. For example, the 'devil baby' was a promotional clip for a horror film, as was the 'Carrie' cafe prank. Some of the earliest viral videos were marketing clips, but less obviously so - Terry Tate, Office Linebacker and Old Spice being two of my earliest memories of sharing videos.
While hundreds of thousands of people are picking up cameras thinking 'I can do this too', the sheer amount of competing content on the web is reducing all of it into noise, and requires that each user wade through the noise to find content they want to share. This means promoted content with paid seeding strategies and 'Guerrilla' campaigns rises to the top, resulting in manipulated 'viral' content trampling all over original content merely because it's all that can be easily found.
This problem infiltrates news media too. Long opinion-pieces or information-laden news pieces are being pushed out of the spotlight by shorter, lighter content, often involving a viral or Twitter element. As 'clicks' rule the internet, we are becoming slaves to what is popular.
*spoiler alert if you have not seen Anchorman Two*
The situation reminds me of (one of the) turning points in Anchorman Two, where Ron Burgundy questions traditional news values. "Why do we have to tell the people what they need to hear? Why can't we tell them what we want to hear?"
The problem is that in news, the aim is to continue to tell people what they need to hear but ultimately, in terms of what pays the bills, what they want to hear is becoming more prevalent and ultimately unavoidable.
When people comment on stories and ask 'How is this news?' - it's news because thousands more people are reading it than the latest story on Syria. It's an unfortunate vicious cycle - the more clicks and shares content receives, the more stories like it will appear. The same on YouTube - it appears the shorter and stupider the videos get, the more views and shares it receives.
As both a writer for an online Trending section and a YouTube content creator, I survey this infinite loop with awe. It seems that the formula for virality is as simple as shareable content - but the definition of what is shareable seems to be changing every day.
Well-established YouTube content creators are struggling to compete with the short clips of puppies falling over each other. It seems that the longer you are creating content, the further removed you are from creating the content that resonates with people. Perhaps it's that having a million subscribers on YouTube makes you lazy - or that knowing you'll get a guaranteed 100,000 views makes you create only what appeals to you, and not what appeals to those you're creating content for.
However even those creating great content with no advertising budget are being lost in the sea. If a video of a biker being washed away in a flood is posted to an unknown YouTube channel, it would not get as many views as it did when it was posted to to the Go Pro channel, a YouTube channel with an established marketing budget, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter presence and following.
Vine allows the user to filter the content they like and to find new content easily. They class the vines into sections - comedy, weird etc. The user can then look at the most popular Vines in that category or at the newest Vines in that category, opening up the whole world of Viners to them in one swift click. Vine is beating YouTube for comedy and even for news - Journalists have been breaking video news via Vine video rather than attempting to upload a YouTube video on their phones.
YouTube appears to be making it harder to find new content to watch - only recommending that which is already popular on the platform. This makes it harder to be the 'first' to share something, which is an idea that would appeal to many users in this 'race' to good content. The one remaining ace YouTube holds is that they pay their creators, whereas Vine doesn't. Popular creators are creating sponsored Vines in order to supplement income and this is leading to a 'de-purification' of the formerly one true content platform. Some users are even compiling their Vines into longer YouTube videos in order to benefit from YouTube's monetization, which shows that there will always be a place for YouTube monetization.
I predict that Vine will not kill YouTube as long as paid content creators continue to attempt to make a living from the platform. They will continue to create content and there are people who will continue to watch it. However, as their views decline they might migrate to Vine and therein lies a big issue for YouTube. As sharing and embedding Vines gets easier and easier and the app becomes available on more an more devices, YouTube is going to be looking at a serious contender for it's long-held video crown.