One of the unique attributes of online video is that its entire existence is built on experimentation that once would have been impossible because of the expense.
Unlike established entertainment and informational media, online is perpetually a blank slate. Ideas come and ideas go, rapidly—so rapidly that it’s easily possible to trace back where an idea started, then accelerated, and then began to fall apart. MySpace.com is everybody’s story. Legacy media in the future might mean sites that have existed a decade or so.
That said, the real shape of online video will probably take form a few years from now when young people who have really grown up with it take over the business.
To realize how new online actually is, I was reminded of it by Sam Gutelle for TubeFilter, who wrote recently about a brief, astute “pre-history of online video” put together by Hank and John Green for their Vlogbrothers YouTube channel. It’s brilliant, and it’s the kind of long view of short-history that no doubt led the brothers to organize VidCon. They connect the dots so well.
The cost of entry online is so cheap it allows the new to happen, horrible or brilliant. Now more than ever, there’s money behind it, too. Disney Accelerator, working with the tech biz incubatior Techstars, has just picked several start up companies that will get assistance from the Mouse suits about product launches and marketing campaigns and long term strategy, plus some dough—as much as $120,000 according to Stream Daily.
Those include Buzzstarter, which calls itself the “world's first scalable programmatic content marketing platform;” Jogg, a social video editor that helps people swap and share videos; and Cogo.tv, a video monetization site. You wouldn’t be expected to know much about any of them and it’s safe to say—well, I think it’s safe to say—that five years ago, they wouldn’t likely be getting money or advice from Disney. The attitude about online video is rapidly changing, as evidenced by Disney’s $500 million investment in Maker Studios.
Likewise, when Dreamworks bought AwesomenessTV last year for $33 million (and significant sweeteners), everybody knew the company was buying its way into the YouTube channel universe in a big way. That’s now manifest in its own DreamWorksTV channel. It looks a lot like Nickelodeon, except, so naturally, on YouTube, which is where kids 6 to 11 are now seeking out content. It’s those kids that Disney and DreamWorks are courting, the same way Netflix and Amazon are fighting over children’s programming.
“This is the first online network that was built specifically for YouTube with original programming," Beth Greve, AwesomenessTV chief revenue and partnerships officer, told Adweek, a statement that might get some pushback from Maker and a few other YouTube content purveyors. But the idea is clear enough, as is the path and the youthful target. They’ll learn. They’ll grow up. And then something else will happen.