Each year, right about now, my credit card company sends me a report detailing all the charges made to my credit card during the previous 12 months. It organizes the charges by category into a colorful pie chart. My wife and I can see how much was charged to the card last year for gas, groceries, entertainment, apparel, etc. and what percentage of total expenditures each category represents.
I always find this profile of our “year in spending” surprising and a little alarming, but ultimately helpful. Surprising because the allocation of spending across categories is never what I would have expected. Alarming because there are inevitably one or two categories on which I had no idea we spent so much. Helpful because I always put the report down with resolve to change my habits.
The report does not reflect who I thought I was; how I liked to think I spent my money. But it helps redirect my efforts toward being less (or more) of the consumer I want to be.
As publishers of online video, we spend a lot of time thinking about consumer behavior and viewing habits. A lot of user data is collected and crunched in the effort to direct recommendations and programming decisions. We use this data to serve viewers, to market video products to them based on the kind of viewers we know you are. Like it or not, some cookie somewhere will know them from their viewing habits.
But how much do we really know about our own viewing habits? All of us can name a couple of our favorite shows or web [video] sites. We can see what is in our Netflix queue.
So I see my credit card history. But I have no access to my consolidated online video viewing history. Fragments of the record exist here and there, but there is no handy pie chart.
That is too bad. I would like to be surprised, alarmed and even appalled by a summation of my own video viewing history.
My viewing is very much of interest to those who would like recommend videos to me or serve me with contextual advertising. I would like to see what they see. On what data they are basing their decisions? The last video viewed, or the last two or three videos? Is there a Myers-Briggs personality profile for video viewers? Am I a light hearted crime drama watcher or a serious Big Fail, You Tube kind of viewer? Is that the kind of viewer I claim or aspire to be?
The shelves in the study and now my Kindle serve as an ever present reminder of the books I have enjoyed reading over the years. I would like the opportunity to reflect on what I watched in the past year as well as what I read; and not just from Netflix or from the iTunes store. I would like look back, recall and reflect on ALL the movies, TV shows and clips I enjoyed or abhorred. Even if just to confirm that yes indeed I did see that.
There is good that could come from taking a minute each year to look back and find out just what the heck we watched. As video providers, we should encourage this. There may be a video I enjoyed months ago, had forgotten about, but would like to see again or that would prompt me to find another video by the same director. There may be some noticeable gaps in my viewing that need to be addressed. No documentaries? I am a non-fiction kind of guy. Show me some documentaries!
An App that gathers and catalogues the meta-data from all the videos we choose, viewed cross platform, from any provider, via any player could be helpful. According to Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” We spend so much time consuming video today. Maybe our viewing habits merit a little self-examination.