There’s so much about 2014 to figure out, and in the video business so much is sometimes delightfully transitory. What has happened in 2013 was old news as soon as it happened. But here’s where we are now as 2014 comes into view: Video is now becoming the focal point of the Internet, and at the same time, the people who create it and sell it are still close to clueless about the way it's all going to shake out. They aren't sure how to make it work for consumers or advertisers, or I guess, the betterment of mankind.
The business still doesn’t
know the best ways to present advertising, or to make sure it's actually viewable. It doesn’t know how to monetize “quality” content. And there is the content: The Internet is
filled with amateur content that at once gives it its largest audience, creates its image of cute kitties and novelty musical videos--and keeps it imprisoned in unimportance. It also gives the world
unexpected gems, but a lot of what is on the Web is there to capture eyeballs and with no greater purpose than that. And, as a pretty brilliant piece on The Washington Post's Wonkblog points out, the Quest for Virality can result in lots of page views of ...nothing.
It may indeed be true that the neatest things in online video are the long form ads.
The rest, more than anything else, is deliberate low spark. “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee” is nice and Jerry Seinfeld is a genius, but this is really the kind of content that, if there was no Internet, you would just find to be a pleasant diversion as an in-flight featurette on American Airlines. In fact, the new retro Acura ads designed for “Comedians In Cars” and created by Seinfeld and director Barry Sonnenfeld, have far more thought built into them than the show they will appear around.
I don’t mean to say the online video world thinks that little Crackle comedy show is the greatest, but it seems Seinfeld is smart enough to have figured out the Internet attitude--indulgent creativity encouraged by very small audiences with even smaller expectations. If “Seinfeld” was the show about nothing, the bulk of online content, sorry to say, is very often repeating that theme.
Because broadcasting grew up with limited bandwidth and a government mandate to serve the public interest, in its formative years it strove upward. It did news broadcast because it
thought that was necessary. (It actually thought the FCC would lift licenses.) The Internet grew up with no such imposed high-mindedness and no lack of outlets; in fact it has so many places to see
video and so many places to put advertising it is this hot medium that seems to have no real flame.
But it won’t always be that way. At some point as this online video business is growing up, it’s going to have to change its voice. And the most logical stakeholders to help that happen are the advertisers who can pay to create the environment they want their ads in. In fact, right now their ads are the content, be it in native ads or whole channels like Red Bull’s YouTube videos. Good advertising finds good content, or creates it, and as video advertising grabs a bigger piece fo the pie in 2014, the stuff it will be advertising around has got to be better to support it. We can hope for that.