NewFronts Becomes Online Video's Daily Corporate Selfie

Buzzfeed produced a short video titled ‘Weird things all couples fight about.”

Here’s the list:

How to fold towels properly;

Loud chewing;

Putting toilet paper on the spindle;

How to put toilet paper on the spindle (over/under);

Bogarting the leftovers;

Indecisiveness about where to order take out;

The proper way to put utensils in dishwasher;

Discovering your partner surreptitiously already saw the movie;

Putting a dirty dish near, but not in the sink;

Disagreements about identifying actors;

Putting shoes away;

Squeezing the toothpaste incorrectly;



and, arguing about “Why are we fighting about this?”

That video has been seen 3.6 million times on YouTube, and at its NewFronts presentation Monday, CEO Jonah Peretti actually said-- though I don’t think he actually meant --that BuzzFeed is mindful of “what kind of impact we have on people’s lives.” He said little videos like that one leads viewers “to larger conversations about their lives.”

I would like to say, with all due respect: No it doesn’t. It is just a fun little video. Like a lot online, it's a cute, little digestible thing, a little joke. You wonder, how many dumb jokes have "gone viral"? Is that meaningful?

The annual NewFronts are upon us, filled with stupendous hyperbole that everybody knows is just over the top. So when Joel McHale, star of (now) Yahoo’s “Community” asked that NewFront audience, “Are you excited to hear how excited other people are?” the joke was on all the other excited Yahoo executives, and also on every presenter on every NewFront stage everywhere.

But over a couple of years, content providers have gone from a tentative, “We are changing the world” chant to taking their role in the new social order very seriously. It’s sometimes hard to handle, especially since, really, we’re just talking about selling stuff in and around three-to-eight minute long videos which people consume relatively indiscriminately.  

At today’s Maker Studios NewFront presentation, it announced a new show it will do with ABC Family called “I Am Maker,” which is, essentially a corporate selfie that could be titled: “Maker’s Salute to Maker.” The series will feature  “an unprecedented look at what it takes to become a YouTube star today. Inspired by the roots of Maker, the series is an aspirational docu-series that follows a group of content creators who live together and are mentored by the biggest online talent,” namely other Maker talent.

It sounds inspiring. In fact, though, Maker does make video that seems especially close to the young people it speaks to. 

Chief Content Officer Erin McPherson, and just about everybody who came to stage, spoke with missionary fervor about Maker’s current mission for advertisers and viewers: Who Are You? Maker is asking. As content watchers--that’s you--become content creators--Oh, it’s you again!--the whole media industry gets upended. In one of the neater historical references, McPherson noted that Walt Disney himself created a version of YouTube magic when, way back, he thought of “The Mickey Mouse Club” in which kid fans, not adult talent, would kind of run the show.

“The desire by young people to connect with their peers remains,” she said, but now they don’t like the same old media messages from advertisers. They want  brands to become more like someone a typical New York-area media-saturated millennial would like to hang with.  

Over the next five years,” McPherson said, promotion goes from presentational to personal. What do you stand for? Now who you are is more important” than the products you’re selling.

A remarkable thing is that the product these people are selling--video content---is changing, perhaps as radically as how advertisers are positioning themselves.

BuzzFeed particularly, but Yahoo and Maker Studios, too,  are now all centering their gaze on “distributed media,” the idea that where you see the content they make--on Facebook or Twitter or somewhere else it was shared--often makes it more valuable than seeing where it actually originated. Buzzfeed’s new POUND analytics (Process for Optimizing and Understanding Network Diffusion) takes a very, very deep dive into where and how BuzzFeed’s viral masterpieces get around.

In fact, the diagrams Publisher Dao Nguyen flashed to the crowd looked more like tie-dyed designs than anything else. Where the distributive model might have a hierarchy of branches, BuzzFeed’s  “are a forest, not a tree.” They go in so many different directions it’s hard to understand why it matters at all.

But like BuzzFeed’s Paretti said about that video about what couples argue about,  where people see what will certainly be leading to some larger conversations down the line.

Next story loading loading..