Technology constantly changes. It's designed to make our lives easier, or so they say. As consumers, we're obliged to own the next best thing. Of course, we've entered the digital age in a blink of an eye. 10 years ago, the YouTube generation began. (Man, I feel old!) YouTube was the first of its kind. No other platform offered individuals the opportunity to independently broadcast video content easily. A year after it's launch, the video sharing website was bought by Google for $1.65bn.
The freedom to produce and post an independent production is the backbone to it's success and it's USP. Professor of Twentieth Century Art and Film at Maryland university, and author of 'The DVD Novel: How The Way We Watch Television Changed The Television We Watch' (2012), Greg Metcalf agrees;
“YouTube is an entire library’s worth of content, except it’s a library made for you, so it has many things that a library will not have, and you don’t have to read it, you can watch and listen. (Including listening to recordings of books you’ve been assigned for classes and, increasingly, movies of the books you’ve been assigned for classes.) But it also will teach you things that you want to know how to do, not just things adult think you should know how to do.” He says.
There are few limitations to content on Youtube. It’s a win, win situation for the platform because convenience is what matters; it’s a premise that lies deep within it's roots. “Youtube wants you have a voice!” Metcalf believes.
The use of the Internet has allowed convenience to be the norm for the new generation of consumers. Without generalizing it too much, digitalisation in my opinion is genius, because of the ease of use!
“You can always find something you’d be interested in watching on YouTube and it’s available at any time and almost anywhere you might be."
As I mentioned earlier, Youtube presents individuals with endless opportunities. It’s an all access pass to the American Dream. All you need is a Youtube channel.
In five years PewDiePie has become a mainstream name on Youtube. His unique flare for gaming and playthroughs, with the addition of comedy has earned him a total of 35,834,530 subscribers. Why shouldn’t he be a prime example?
Justin Bieber’s star shone bright when he sang covers and posted them onto Youtube for the world to see. Love him or hate him, he's now considered a mainstream pop star.
All things considered, does this mean content we find on a digital media platform like YouTube is far superior than a TV broadcast? Well, not necessarily, according to Metcalf;
"I would argue it is as unfair to compare YouTube programming with television as it would be to compare a Hollywood blockbuster like The Avengers with a Derek Jarman film like Wittgenstein or Blue. They are trying to do different things, they shouldn’t be judged by the same standard..."
"One of the key things about it is that it largely removes the “gatekeepers” who determine what is good enough to get on television or into film theatres..." Metcalf explains.
He continues and starts to unveil the supposed democracy behind Youtube.
"The key to YouTube is it is democratic (well, democratic within corporate restrictions and copyright takedown notices)."
Thus, the consumer suffers. Content production is on a budget, which equates to low production value, not to mention poor quality. This results in low advertising revenue and undervalued content creators who are penalised for their efforts, when they don't fit certain guidelines. It honestly feels like a game of rock, paper, scissors!
"...The YouTube generation has learned – not just from YouTube – that anything online should be free..."
Audiences now have the luxury to watch what they want, when they want. Therefore, it wouldn’t be fair to compare Youtube’s content to television broadcasting because ultimately, Youtube needs to follow the marketing strategy of competitors like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Blinkbox. Youtube is at its best when it offers snippets of our favourite content.
Metcalf says it all; “…Television is trying to be more like YouTube and YouTube (and Netflix and Amazon) are trying to be more like television. …of course, Netflix and Amazon have gotten into full production of television series – some much better than most broadcast television – House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Bosch, Alpha House – and some not so much…So far, YouTube’s attempts at quality television-like content has continued in the model of profiting from content it doesn’t have to pay for, focusing on creating premium channels where creators pay for their own content for the possibility of a cut of the advertising revenue later on down the road.”
Metcalf describes the Youtube generation as something that’s constant, convenient, satisfactory and instant.
“…Only highlights make for good YouTube but weak narrative. There are several television shows I dearly love of which I have never watched an episode. Instead I watch clips of them on YouTube when an aggregation site posts a link and tells me to check out the best part of the show.”
So, what happens next? Well, it all comes back to content creators being undervalued and underrated.
To conclude, we’re rapidly moving to what I like to call ‘contactless content’. Technology has made the impossible possible! inevitably, media will continue to use this instant digital platform to engage with and enhance the experience of consumers.