So Internet Video Is in the Stone Age? What's Wrong with Raw?

It’s one of those quotes that often fly through the air at industry conferences. Slow it down, put it in print and it makes you wonder.

At a CES conference sponsored by Variety, Vevo’s Rio Caraeff stated, “We’re at the stone age of creativity when it comes to what we can do on the Internet.”

 I’m sure, had I been there I would have nodded and applauded.

His point, more or less, is that most online video could have been created for television.

But we can stop right there and say, “Not true!”

Most online video wouldn’t last long on television, when you consider that a lot of online video is made up of stupid, narcissistic little bits from YouTube, or some really, really bad movies, or some penis humor or, how-to videos like the one I watched last summer that helped me fix the starter on a Briggs & Stratton lawn mower.

Well done! But it sort of belongs on the Internet.  

Caraeff’s point was more touchy-feely/woo-woo than that. He thinks the Internet’s online video is not quite “there” yet because it still isn’t as close as it could be to individual viewers or their own particular situation, or touching the environment where their visual head is, yada, yada.

Do you buy that? I did at first because I like to like critics. But the more I think of it, the more I think he’s almost totally wrong. Some of it may be really, really bad (as noted above; I’ll stop dwelling on it) but a lot of the Internet’s best moments are all about relating to its viewers, one to one.

Lately, I’m been watching more of Grace Helbig, who, if you haven’t heard, has left YouTube’s My Damn Channel where she hosted “Daily Grace,” with 2.4 million subscribers to start her own YouTube channel, “It’s Grace,” where she only had few hundred thousand so far, but millions and millions of views. So, you don’t think the Internet’s videos talk right to you? Look at this.

I was just talking about her yesterday to a guy who will be going out NATPE, the once-big confab for television syndicators. I was wondering why the Internet stars that are mobbed atVidCon aren’t wooed to syndicated television more often, or why a combination of TV and Internet never seems to work.

Both of those branches of show biz have the same kind of crap shoot mentality. But the Internet is so much more lean forward that someone like PewDiePie can get millions of viewers just watching him play video games. Talk about the new slackers. Man, they’re growing them on the YouTube game channels that let you watch people playing games but somehow involving you too. On lean back television, you’re just a bystander watching “Judge Judy.”

But to Caraeff’s point, online video is awfully intimate, and as personal as a selectively mass medium can be. Take a look at Style Haul YouTube channels. There are so many of them that when you ask their PR people it’s almost as if they make up a number. But let’s agree it’s about 2,000, in 50 or 60 countries, most of them hosted by youngish men and women who talk about beauty and fashion, often from the bedroom in their parent's home—and have gathered over 100 million subscribers since way, way back in 2011.

According to Variety, StyleHaul is developing syndicated programming with Fremantle Media, the company that is behind “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent.” But for all the star power appearing in Internet’s videos, they are not just an acquired taste, but a personal taste. And fleeting, Man, last year if more than five millennials got into a room at the same time a “Harlem Shake” video was sure to be popped out an hour later. Online video is real and raw or self-consciously polished, and it’s stone age "quality" is what makes it different.  It’s simple.

2 comments about "So Internet Video Is in the Stone Age? What's Wrong with Raw? ".
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  1. Rio Caraeff from Vevo, January 10, 2014 at 9:54 a.m.

    PJ, Thank you for covering the panel that I was on at CES. I just wanted to write and clarify what I said as it seems to be mildly misconstrued.

    When I said that we are at the "stone ages of online video", what I meant was that most videos that are made available online from a structural perspective are merely repurposed from other screens and are no different than videos that could have been on television 20 or 30 years ago.

    Case in point: Most videos that we produce and/or distribute could have been on television in 1983 and we all are merely putting them online and making them available via a new distribution medium.

    So the video that is being created, distributed and consumed today for the most part is not inherently aware that it is on a 2-way communication platform and is not "inherently native" to the web. It was not created with the sole and express intent of being experienced via an interactive IP network.

    To make a simple point, what I said was that the online video of today does not know whether it's raining out, whether it's dark out or whether the stock market is up or down. Perhaps a new generation of artists and content creators could find creative inspiration if they had a standard means of authoring and distributing these next generation videos.

    I believe that in order for online video to truly evolve forward out of the stone ages, it needs to take on some element of consciousness and be adaptive, responsive and potentially interactive (with some additional modality of passiveness if that is what the author and viewer wish for).

    There is an exciting company out of Israel called Interlude that is working to make this type of vision possible and we have similar aspirations to help evolve the medium forward.

    That's all that I meant to say. Thank you for listening and taking the time.


  2. pj bednarski from Media business freelancer, January 10, 2014 at 10:32 a.m.

    I know up above I wrote that I decided you were "almost totally wrong" but hearing you amplify it, I get your point more clearly than before. But wow, I think that's a high bar to get over. Of course, I guess, that also might be your point. Thanks for writing.

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