Opinion: Video killed the, er, video star. There's an overwhelming amount of video on the internet, but have we entered into a phase of viewer fatigue? And how will the current video usage trends impact future productions?
Video is, apparently, the fastest growing aspect of the internet. This is hardly surprising given the sheer number of videos of dancing cats, cute puppies and people falling off skateboards uploaded each and every day. Type a search into YouTube and you are bound to find something on the subject you are interested in. As a result of this, YouTube is second only to Google as the largest search engine available.
The figures are pretty astounding. Apparently, between 300-500 hours of video are uploaded to the service every hour, with over 6 billion videos viewed every month, with 1 billion unique visitors and over 3 billion search requests.
These are figures that any website owner would likely die for and it is something that businesses have taken note of in droves. Ranking in Google isn't enough. But ranking in YouTube requires an extra step. You need to have a video produced, which, if done well, means bringing in people who knows what they are doing.
Having video produced for individual websites (and hosted locally) is another way to engage people. Whether you host in this way or via a streaming service such as YouTube depends greatly on your end goals. But if you want any sort of ranking presence, YouTube should be a primary consideration.
We know that video is a great communicator. We know that it can deliver complex messages in a simple way. We know that it can engage attention in a way that the written word cannot. We know these things because we are told as much. There are various pieces of research about viewer behaviour when watching video. Depending on who you cite, customers to a website are over 70% more likely to buy a product if there is an information video, for example. Or they might stay three times as long on a website.
Putting aside problems, such as clients not using the video properly or failing to push it to an audience in an effective way, is video really as effective as we think it is? And if it isn't, what can we do about it?
I think about this a lot, mainly because of my own behaviour when perusing the internet. Video has one drawback that the written word does not. Video takes time to watch, whereas the written word can be very quickly skim read. Because there is so much audio-visual content out there right now, it can be fatiguing to watch each and every slightly interesting video I come across. Even when I find an informational video about a product I am interested in (or maybe interested in buying), I quite often find myself ignoring it.
Sometimes the text and stills give me all the sales information that I need. If I don't have time or I am comparing a number of different, but similar products, I won't watch the video. It has to be something really attention grabbing for me to watch. In other words, I need to be sold on the idea of watching it first.
This can either be through someone else telling me how good it is (either the video or the product) or through the website design compelling me to see it. Either way, I quite often need persuading in some way. I don't automatically reach for the play button.
This sort of conundrum poses risks, not just to the company paying for the video, who may not get the ROI they are after, but the demand for video production people for this type of video.
Will the smaller producer lose out?
The popularity of video has become such that many companies do, in fact, now employ their own qualified people to produce in-house for smaller projects, while still leaving the bigger jobs to the marketing companies to sort out. I was surprised to find that even some NHS hospitals have their own little production suites for certain types of video.
For smaller producers, this may not be very good news in the long term. But the bigger question concerns viewer fatigue. Just like with some forms of product choice, when we have too much to choose from, we often just switch off entirely.
Have we seen a peak for video usage on the internet or will content and the demand for it continue to grow? For entertainment purposes, there is no doubt that the internet will, at some point, consign traditional broadcast methods to the historical dustbin. It may have already happened. We have already reached a point where many people are simply watching the latest TV shows via Netflix, Amazon and, in the UK, services such as the BBC iPlayer and 4OD.
There will always be a demand for top class entertainment. But it is how this explosion of content across the board affects viewer apathy for other types of video that is in question. If we spend our time watching the latest TV shows on demand as a matter of course, will we choose to watch any other type of video content willingly? And are audiences already showing signs of fatigue when it comes to video content on the web in general?