The Rise of Online Video

How often do you watch television? And I mean actual, one episode a week, cable television. I know I only watch maybe one or two shows regularly. But how about Netflix? Or YouTube?

The medium with which we view media is constantly changing. What was popular fifty years ago is most likely dying out by now (think of print newspapers as an example) and what’s popular now is unlikely to stay that way for too long. That being said, we are in the middle of a technological revolution. We’re starting to see the end of traditional cable television and the rise of online video.

When people think of YouTube (or online video in general) they typically picture short funny cat videos, or things like Charlie Bit My Finger. Though videos like that are still around, they have their own sites (Vine for example), and they simply aren’t the norm. YouTube has become its own place, with entirely unique content specifically designed to suit the new medium. Videos are generally shorter than the average TV show, with a typical video falling between 5 and 10 minutes. Most channels prefer to release content on a weekly schedule, though some simply release videos sporadically whenever the content is finished.

Online video caters to a whole new form of content. It breaks down the barrier between creator and audience, to allow for interactivity. Because of that, online video often forms tightknit communities among fans. These communities can translate into real life friendships, group meet ups, and community-wide projects. YouTube even has a couple conventions dedicated to the medium: VidCon and Playlist Live. Television-based communities simply don’t have the same level of connectivity, and they don’t allow for projects that are created by and largely done by the community.

One example of a community surrounding online video is the YouTube community surrounding the Vlogbrothers channel. The channel was originally started by brothers John and Hank Green as an experiment. They video blogged (vlogged) back and forth every week day for an entire year, forming a community that has dubbed itself “nerdfighteria”. Now the community is tens of thousands of people large, and spends the majority of its time donating to various charities and raising awareness for important causes.

Another advantage online video has over television is the variety of content available. Television content is a lot of the same, and it’s so heavily influenced by the desires of advertisers that often times brand new types of content simply cannot thrive in that environment. Online however, pretty much any type of content can take off if done properly. YouTube houses everything, from channels devoted to teaching (Crash Course, HealthCareTriage, SmarterEveryDay), to fictional stories adapted from novels (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Carmilla, Frankenstein MD), to news and social issues shows (PBS Idea Channel, TestTube), to channels that are so unique they are just their own category (AVByte, CGPGrey).

Online video is becoming more and more connected to television as well. Many youtubers go on to either have TV shows as well as their channels, or purely transition to a television career. For example, popular youtuber Grace Helbig recently made the news after it was announced that she will star in an upcoming talk show/comedy show with E!.

YouTube still has a while before it even comes close to the popularity of television, yet if current trends continue we could be seeing the beginning of the end for TV.