Looking back, it’s clear that theories got it all wrong. Technology doesn’t drive storytelling. The same content formats have existed for 75 years, since TV’s early days.
The Internet’s technological capabilities had no effect on storytelling of online video content. After 20 years, I hope it’s clear that users don’t want to choose the camera angle or the end of the story, and cats returned to their historical role in “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and didn’t become a genre.
However, a change has occurred. “House of Cards” wouldn't have been a success in the 1960s or the 1990s (try to think of Dick Van Dyke, or for that matter, even President Bartlet killing their dog in the first episode), and "Gangnam Style" wouldn’t have been a global hit in the 1970s (nor last year’s Norwegian YouTube invasion).
This begs the question: What did revolutionize video content?
Let’s evaluate video/TV content’s major revolutions:
The 1980s saw video clips shift to the mainstream and news became a full-day event.
The new millennium saw the emergence of reality formats and targeted niche shows like “Queer Eye for The Straight Guy” or recently, the bizarre trend of "factual Entertainment" shows (such as “Duck Dynasty”). These indicate that storytelling didn’t change; it just became more segmented, better targeted to specific audiences. The template (storytelling) of the show didn’t change -- the way we fill the template has changed.
This echoes significant change in the technological sphere. During the '80s, we transitioned from terrestrial broadcast with one to four channels per country, to analog cables with 10-20 channels. Then digital channels appeared, which opened hundreds of channels, and in recent years, the Internet generated unlimited channels.
With only a handful of channels per country, it was risky to present video clips throughout the day, but once there were 20 channels, it made sense to create a teen channel dedicated to video clips. Documenting the life of birdy rednecks several hours a day might’ve been a bold experiment with only 10 channels, but with 100 channels, it makes sense. With unlimited distribution and no borders, let’s create the most extreme shows and market Norwegian and Korean content.
Thus, the great change-maker of the video content industry is the distribution method.
We need to revolutionize content distribution over the Internet. We currently still imitate the broadcast model. Through “broadcasters” like Hulu, Netflix, or YouTube, we choose what we want to see. Here, we lose the advantage of the Internet as a new distribution model, as we still think in the context of channels. I can create an infinite number of channels, but people still need to enter the channels, and Netflix’s content search algorithm still requires entering a specific site (Netflix).
My idea is that we devise a method of “content searching for people,” not “people searching for content.” With vast advertising knowledge, it’s easy for us to understand which show a person’s interested in watching. Why should Warner Brothers wait for that person to enter Hulu and choose their channel? Let’s build a wide network of partner sites, enabling them to locate the person interested in a specific content, and present the relevant content on that very site.
You may say it’s hard to do such an ecosystem -- but actually it’s easy if you try…