As Streaming Video 'Sites' Turn Into 'Channels,' Is Language Telling Us Something?

Things that once would have been called online video sites are starting to be called channels, and they’re likely to be on YouTube, not on a separate site. We’re sliding right into that language. YouTube, after all, is in the channel business.

One of the latest is Teen Vogue, launched by Conde Nast earlier this week. It starts with five “channels” within the brand. The interesting thing, if you think of existing brands branching into video, is that savvy brands aren't necessarily launching them as Websites. I think that’s a hard concept for some established publishers to get their heads around, though not for Conde Nast, which now has video channels for several titles including Vanity Fair and the grown up Vogue, too.

In fact, if you go to the Teen Vogue Web site, the first story is a tip sheet about how teenaged girls can start their own YouTube channels. It’s virtually pointing you out the door, so to speak.

StyleHaul is the clothes-conscious gorilla in the YouTube space, with thousands of fashion and beauty channels, and the Kin Community suite of channels is doing that for a 18-49 year old community of women what Teen Vogue no doubt hopes it can do for a younger demo.

Dawn Ostroff, the president of Conde Nast entertainment, formerly headed the young-adult centered CW network and before that was the programming chief at the Lifetime cable network. She knows from channels.       

So in almost every demographic category, there are now channels of itty-bitty programs, and using that word—channels—is a significant morphing of language as online video continues its own march into becoming TV. That move is not absolutely the best thing, I don’t think, for the future of content. Bigger has usually meant dumber, right before it has meant mindless. (Example: The movie business now keeps itself busy remaking comic books. That’s entertainment.)

I begin to wonder what happens if the stuff we once watched on a more or less personal device is made with a bigger, broader, more general audience in mind. No doubt, that’s where the audience can be led, and pretty easily, because for a large part of their lives, that’s where they’ve already been.

But it’s different.

Karl House, global head of sales and business development for Global Head of Sales and Business Development for DECA (Digital Entertainment Corporation of America) , the company that runs Kin Community, says one of the radical differences between YouTube and a separate Web video site is that YouTube, by its nature, invites user interaction.

That’s what it’s all about. That is not what big-honkin’-screen TV is about, hardly at all, but particularly for advertisers, that intimacy is a huge selling advantage for Internet content providers, or could be.

AN ANECDOTE I COULDN’T FIT: The struggles of one advertising medium to keep its distinct advantage has been fought before. Thinking about the drift of media, I was reminded of an utterly marvelous 1965 ad promoting the impact of radio advertising, written and performed by the incomparable satirist Stan Freberg.

“On television,” Freberg, the radio cheerleader, explains to a skeptic, “your tube goes black for a minute just before the commercial comes on. That serves as a warning device for millions of people that they’ve got a split second to get out of the room.”

His interrogator says, “But can’t you still walk out when a radio commercial comes on?” Freberg responds, “Not at 60 miles an hour.”

The spot ends with this jazzy tune, “Who Listens to Radio?” sung by Sarah Vaughan and arranged by Quincy Jones. It’s Friday, and it’s a great way to end your week, and who knows when you’ll ever get a chance to hear this again?  

I’m gone, on vacation, until Aug. 7.  Some excellent guest blogs will be in this space next week.

1 comment about "As Streaming Video 'Sites' Turn Into 'Channels,' Is Language Telling Us Something? ".
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  1. Paul Calento from TriVu Media, July 26, 2013 at 1:25 p.m.

    There's still a disconnect between how advertisers can target (with data) and interact with their target audiences vs. how they think they can target (not at all or by demo only). Domain or content-owner driven buying is so 2009. In this new multi-channel world, channels are essentially groups of like content, even for premium. But, curating these available advertising opportunities isn't as simple as picking a content provider, nor would that be the right approach anyway. Plus, there's scale in aggregating these micro-channels and the user interaction creates a performance metric that old-school broadcast TV can't match.

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