Last week the news outlet Mic became the latest player to join the trend of laying off staff as part of a (clears throat) pivot to video. [genuflects] As Peter Kafka notes at Recode, there are a few common factors publishers cite when doing so, the biggest being the desire to tap into the pool of ad dollars everyone things is shifting from TV to the web but which hasn’t yet.
It’s not just publishers, though. Reddit last week announced a native video feature and LinkedIn has introduced video creation with select users as we speak. Facebook recently launched Watch, a portal for original entertainment programming meant to lure creators away from YouTube, which has its own original content things in Red. Snapchat has just announced it has plans to do likewise in the near future. In short, as eMarketer sums up, there’s a massive movement on all fronts to get more and more of the video marketplace, capturing more of the audience’s attention and the advertising dollars that hopefully follow.
Apple has put aside $1 billion it plans to spend on original entertainment content, reportedly interested in making as many as 10 prestige shows a year. Netflix plans to spend $7 billion on original content in 2018 to continue seeding its streaming service with attractive programming that lures people away from HBO. Amazon and Hulu are doing likewise, as is Crackle and a number of other services.
And all that doesn’t even get into the shift by media companies to create their own OTT subscription streaming services. Disney has one in the works which is why they announced they will be pulling much of their library from Netflix, with recent surveys saying 19% of Netflix subscribers would cancel their accounts as a result and about a third of Millennials saying they’d sign up for Disney’s service. CBS has their own service coming and is stocking it with original content like a new “Star Trek” series.
It’s About Attention
Put aside for a second the idea that more than a small fraction of people are going to subscribe to more than one or two of these streaming services. That’s a whole other question that has been discussed by others who have pointed out that once you subscribe to three of the available options you’ve undone whatever savings seen by cutting the cord on cable. Suffice it to say I doubt those surveys mentioned above, particularly the one saying 19% of Netflix customers will ditch the service because they can’t watch Disney movies.
No, the dollars issue doesn’t interest me as much as the question of attention. To my mind, people will make the decision on which services they want to subscribe to based on the amount of attention they have to give more than the dollars they have to spend. So the choice to not subscribe to YouTube Red has less to do with the cost than it does the fact that all of someone’s time is already taken up by Netflix and Hulu. They’ll bypass the videos they see on LinkedIn because they spend so much time watching what’s posted to Facebook, where Watch shows are already seeing some success due likely to the preferential treatment they’re given in the News Feed. They’ll forego Snapchat’s productions because they’ve prioritized Apple’s original shows.
Video Is About Right Now
The main problem with video is that it’s immediate. Text stories and blog posts can be easily saved for later without much impact. But video demands your attention right now, lest you miss out on something important. Not only that but unlike audio, including podcasts, it’s not something you can catch up on effortlessly while in the car or otherwise occupied. If you’re not watching it, you’re missing out.
There are already too many options for people to pay attention to, and the list is only going to grow from here. Eventually, there will be a shakeout and some players will fall by the wayside as winners emerge, chosen by the priorities people give to what deserves their attention just as much as what deserves their cash.
For the time being, though, all these companies and others will be chasing those online advertising budgets, hoping to wind up at the top of the pile. Meanwhile, the audience will be choosing where to place their monetary and attention-based bets, influenced by costs, the influence of their own network of friends and more.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.