In 15 years, there has been a cataclysmic shift in how content is delivered to an audience. Content that was once created by a small group of people is now produced ubiquitously.
In 2006, The New York Times wrote about a new video streaming website:
Skinny guys with moppy hair in modest houses have officially staked their claim to the latest medium for short, loud adolescent messages: YouTube.”Virginia Hefferman, New York Times
At the time, the most-watched video was a spin-off of the Pokémon Theme Song. It had 6.8 million views. Since then, the world became hooked on video content. Today’s most-watched content on YouTube is “Baby Shark” with 7.80 billion views. Billion, with a B!
Digital Cameras Advance Content
In the early 2000s, technology had just started to become advanced enough that everyone could afford a nice camera capable of recording video digitally. Digital cameras became the catalyst of the perfect content storm, as users could now edit and publish their own video content.
I can remember vividly working at WJAR-TV in Providence, RI, during 2007. We had just undergone an innovative approach. We became the RI market’s first TV station broadcasting with an innovative tapeless system.
At the same time, local YouTube creators just started to begin creating digital content. I remember our chief photographer scoffing at YouTube creators’ and found the quality of their content to be quite poor. News photographers often thought our training and quality were far superior, and we were the only people capable of producing TV content. (Bad take #1.)
In 2007, cell phones started being developed with low-quality video cameras. Viewers would send in their vertical cell phone video, and engineers would refuse to broadcast the footage. “There’s no way we’d broadcast this garbage on TV. It’s unwatchable!” an engineer would say. (Bad take #2)
The Decline of Local Television
To stay relevant and competitive, In 2008, WJAR-TV started their first youtube channel and laid off a large population of staff. Local news viewership has since plummeted, and for a good reason. Social media, paired with technological advancement, has made content creation far simpler and effective. To compensate, journalists have begun reporting information in real-time through social media for free.
Why would anyone wait until 6:00 pm to hear about a local news story that was reported on social media at 10:00am?
A New Media
Suppose you’re curious how TV stations used to get their information in the early 2000s. Companies and brands would send the station a press release pitching their services, accomplishments, and products. Most often, TV stations wouldn’t broadcast the information. Now, TV stations broadcast the company’s content once it has gone viral, without much prompting from the company.
After YouTube, cellphone technology ushered in a new social media era. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter became transcendent, transferring the power of content strategy to everyone. Companies quickly latched on. Now, brands and companies don’t need to rely on a TV news station but could create their own message, on their own terms, directly to their audience, and at little cost.
The way companies and brands have used content has also changed. Now, most create highly targetted and designed specifically for the interests of the audience. Brands are now using storytelling and social justice to resonate with their audiences.
Cellphones: The Penultimate Content tool
Today, we’re actively undergoing a new transformation. Overwhelmed with companies and brands, Teenagers, a major demographic for many companies and brands, are leaving social media platforms at unsustainable levels. In addition to a mass exodus on social media platforms, cellphones can now produce 4K footage and post content instantly to millions of followers. Apps like TikTok are currently disrupting the once-innovative strategies companies used on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
TikTok is a social media app that uses a highly adaptive algorithm to deliver content to millions of people instantly. Once a user views a video, many similar videos are added to a queue and are played the moment it’s over. People are arriving at TikTok by the millions!
It probably won’t surprise you, but TikTok’s algorithm can make anyone “TikTok Famous” overnight. There’s a TikTok video of a man skateboarding, drinking cranberry juice set to the Fleetwood Mac “Dreams.” It has 12 million views. For Ocean Spray and Fleetwood Mac, this user-created content is a godsend. They didn’t have to pay for its production, and both were rewarded with a massive audience boost.
Brands and content producers are now flocking to the platform and finding new ways to engage potential audiences. Geico recently released a #GeicoLipSync Challenge, and the challenge has garnered 2.6 billion views!
Oh, I should remind you, all of TikTok’s platform is vertical video. Remember my WJAR-TV engineer friend who saw no value in a vertical video? (Bad Take #3.) It appears no one in the early 2000s had any indication how much would change in a small amount of time.
The future of content is here! I can only imagine what content will look like in 10 years!