It seems that every major media outlet online is scrambling to jump on the video bandwagon that YouTube built. YouTube, a video sharing site, landed a $1.65 billion deal with Google in 2006. Major media outlets are trying to catch up and keep up with the homemade video trend.
With video, everyone with access to a video camera can record news, and even be the news. When TV shows start covering Internet video, you know something big is going on. Rather than create their own content, news media are now making news out of homegrown videos and news.
The video movement has revealed a number of interesting cultural trends in the U.S.
Major Media Outlets Have Lost Their Monopoloy on the News: Envy and Greed
With the growth of video sharing online, major media outlets have lost their monopoly on the news.
The major media outlets are scrambling to keep up because this trend also shows a disregard for the former integrity and authority once reserved for major newspapers and TV news broadcasters as the sole reliable sources that disseminated information.
As major media outlets turned more and more toward Tabloid-type news and infotainment, they set themselves up. With the realization that “the news” was not giving them anymore than they could discover or create themselves, coupled with the affordability and availability of technology, people realized they too could make news.
Even the broadcasters see the trend. There are entire shows now dedicated to Internet videos, including VH1’s “Web Junk.”
Power to the People: Pride
What happens when the power to publish and broadcast is in the hands of the people? Are we seeing more and more news of significance? Using video on the Internet is a great way for the people to take back the airwaves, so to speak, from the commercial-minded and agenda-driven broadcasters.
Except, what are we using that “power” for?
Feeding Voyeurism with Vanity: Lust and Vanity
What is this obsession with video? Are we that desperate for entertainment that we turn away from our digital cable and video on demand to watch total strangers and unknown people doing the most inane, mundane and insane activities instead? Or Are we that bored?
The video sharing sites are filled with vain exhibitionist videos fulfilling the desires of anyone who will click and watch. Check out the top videos on some sites. Videos in the top 10 often have nudity or at least a suggestion of it.
Maybe it’s just our society’s evolution towards our more voyeuristic tendencies to watch others. Or our vain tendencies believing everyone wants to watch us. Unfortunately, it seems as if we’re right.
A Move Away from the Written Word?: Sloth
Another trend, which seems more alarming, is that we as a culture are moving further away from the written word. It is possible to research a topic online, find what you believe is an article or web page with valid information, only to be brought to a video clip. For the people that prefer gathering solid information and details through reading, and not through watching, this is not a positive movement.
The difference in how we prefer to receive information could be generational, it could be gender-based, or it could be simply an individual preference. In one example, a couple was looking for information about a new house buying service they heard about on the news. The next day the woman looked up the information and found the complete transcript of the broadcast. She emailed the link to her significant other. He was not satisfied with the information, and thought for sure there would be more to it. Instead of reading the whole transcript of about five paragraphs, he instead watched the video. It was the same exact information.
He preferred to receive the information by watching and listening, and she by reading.
A Natural Evolution: Anger
If the Internet is taking a natural evolutionary turn from a place of information to a place of entertainment, this will cause some anger amongst those who do see the Internet as an invaluable source of information. It is also annoying to come up with a video when seeking “real” information.
Or is it a natural evolution of information dissemination in a visual culture?
When the Internet first moved from being an educational resource to a commercial resource people in the academic community were concerned that the validity and importance of the information on the Internet would somehow become tainted, or, disappear from the public interest.
We moved from .edu to .com. Did educational sites suffer because of the dot.com crash and boom? Not really. While this did not happen, the commercialization of the Internet did change the webscape forever.
It is, however more difficult to find educational sites amidst the commercial sites if you don’t know where and how to look. Will the same thing happen with video? Will the search results be filled with video links instead of text links?
The move toward video may also simply be a natural evolution, as people find a different way to absorb information and entertainment.
The current state of video on the Internet may be just the beginning. We, culturally, as a whole, may simply be behaving like a child with a new. Videomakers are still exploring, still experimenting, and very much testing the limits. One can hope the video revolution will move us in a more positive cultural direction rather than a negative one.
Or is this trend the end of the Internet as we know it? Will Video kill the Internet or just turn it into a high-tech and interactive television set?