Gangam Style, the international smash hit by Korean pop-star Psy, was a cultural phenomenon in 2013, and for good reason. Not only was the catchy and quirky song the kind of unique mix of light-hearted hilarity that fosters sharing, it came to us in a medium that saw an explosion of activity, reshaping everything from content to marketing strategy. How did video achieve this extraordinary change? By cornering the market on information, stepping up its game, and replacing text in every way possible.
Video is the Gatekeeper
The age of the Internet was dubbed “The Information Age”, and, despite the ballooning numbers of Justin Bieber’s channel, that’s fair designation. Originally, the World Wide Web promised the spread of ideas and information at lightning speed, enlightening our society and providing answers to even the most complex questions. Text websites and databases of knowledge were established, particularly Wikipedia, with this aim in mind. But 2013 changed the game plan just a bit.
As more and more entities entered the fray, it became clear that not everyone would survive. Commercial success is dependent on page views and ad space. In this ecosystem, the most attention grabbing topics, features, and mediums reign supreme, particularly as tired readers become cut-throat critics, quickly vetting any incoming content for potential value.
To a degree, the Internet remains the harbinger of “The Information Age”, but with a bit of a twist. Counter to the highest ambitions of those developing Wikipedia and Ask.com, it was not the most compelling information, but the most popular information, that reigned supreme in 2013. What does video have to do with this? Simple. With users turning to video in droves, the popular YouTube accounts of the world were and are the ones spreading the information. Because of its digestibility, video has effectively become the gateway of information, teaching us that an iPhone can blend (“Will It Blend?), and that science isn’t as complicated as we think (Minute Physics).
Our Attention Spans Have Changed (Kind Of)
But while the format has risen to the top, it remains at the whims of our capacity to watch it. Internet readers are scanners, skimming through content looking for material of value, and video is not exempt from this rule. But the effective and entertaining nature of video has changed our attention spans just a bit. The average length of the top three videos of 2013 was 1 minute 36 seconds up from 35 seconds in 2006, showing that, while we weren't watching Citizen Kane on a regular basis, we were at least willing to sit around a bit longer to get to the punchline.
What does this indicate? On the one hand, it does show that we, as human beings, changed a bit. But the more likely answer is that information on the Internet, and video in particular became more compelling. Content producers and marketing agencies working harder to grab viewer attention upped their game, and the resultant videos captured our attention better than ever before.
Marketing Will Never Be The Same
If anyone experienced the effects of these changes more than others, it was business. With eyes consuming more and more video per day, firms who wanted to make an impact were forced to adapt. How big was the change? Businesses are projected to spend $7 billion on video advertising this year, up from $2 billion in 2011.
The change wasn’t driven just by viewership numbers. The migration to the format was fueled by the recent revelation that video has the unique capacity to engage customers. Video adds a human face to your organization, whether you publish how-to segments or quirky viral videos, building reputation and fostering conversation in the process. Coupled with Facebook and YouTube comments and regular response to that feedback, marketing became a matter of active participation, all thanks to the unique nature of online video.
Video Beats Text
And ads weren’t the only venue seeing more video. In 2013, companies ranging from start-ups to conglomerates were getting rid of the website text that previously described their products and services in favor of descriptive videos. And the change makes sense: when you have a complex or subtle product, or even just want to add some branding to your presentation, videos do a better job of demonstrating how it works and communicating sentiment in the process.
The benefit of this approach in 2013 was increased sharing. While buzz-worthy articles have their place in the world, the top 10 most shared videos in 2013 generated 28.8 million shares up 52.1% from 2012. Social traffic was up, search traffic was down, and video was the medium that saw the most sharing. For businesses wanting to make an impression, the situation was a no-brainer, and the momentum generated by 2013’s revelations will carry marketing strategies and web design into 2014 with fervor and direction.
The net result of all this is a society now driven and enabled by video. With YouTube numbers exploding and more brands discovering the potential of the format, ad spending is rising, barely keeping pace with the rise in viewership. As the efficient and entertaining gatekeeper of information, video isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and 2014 will likely see that trend continue. Whether your business adapts to this changing reality, however, is for you to decide.