This is part three of a series on the future of content on the Web, and some of the startups shaping what the online vision will be going forward.
What we see is often what we believe. Actions speak louder than words. In some ways, we are witnessing those old adages come to life on the Web, as there has been a movement toward highly-visual mediums, versus traditional words-on-paper (or on screen) that used to be our main means of exchanging information.
Some examples lie in highly sought-after photography apps.
With the billion-dollar purchase of Instagram by Facebook in 2012, we saw a social network reach out to a rapidly-growing photo product and buy into a community of photographers, both amateur and professional, and a new sort of network, where people display their lives in perfect, little squares.
Then there was the newness of short-form video. Instagram recently added video to its platform, and we’ve seen the rapid rise of Vine, the short-form, 6-second video application initially released in January of this year — specifically created for an average user to quickly post tiny videos.
Video has also played a keystone role, not only in social arenas, but increasingly in hard news.
“We recognize this is very important for audiences and recognize we’ve got to change the perception of The New York Times as a place you just read to a place you watch,” Denise Warren, the Times executive vice president of the Digital Products and Services Group, said earlier this year in an interview.
The Times took their videos outside their paywall, as readers have come to expect a video experience, alongside the stories.
Elsewhere in the news business, the Associated Press’ Head of Global News Sandy MacIntyre has said that live user-generated video is something the business needs to get its arms around.
Legacy media properties are looking to bring real-time news to mass audiences, as consumers have become used to (and even crave) real-life, live snapshots of breaking news situations.
Then there’s the idea of the temporary.
With the rise of mobile app Snapchat, we’ve seen a nod to the idea of the fleeting. Part of Snapchat’s ethos is that “there is value in the ephemeral,” as their product allows for the sending of a photo or video that self-destructs in 10 seconds or less.
Voted as one of MIT Technology Review’s Top 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2013, in the sector of temporary social media, Snapchat was heralded because “the ability to be candid and spontaneous is the essence of friendship, individuality, and creativity” and for its possibilities to increase privacy online.
This esteem allows one to think of the app beyond sexting, and brings the social-mobile application into an arena of future communications. Like a day of your life — perhaps the phantasmic medium is something that more accurately reflects time itself (you have it, and then it slips away, and there’s no way to keep it).
Nick Bilton recently wrote in his New York Times column that we’ve almost created a new language online. Through transmitting images over social media channels we are “talking” without words — sending simple pictures to one another, versus writing out paragraphs about our days.
The book “The Rise of the Image, The Fall of the Word” by Mitchell Stephens (Oxford University Press), underscores this idea. Though published in 1998, the book foretold an era in which visuals would be our preferred means of communication versus words.
He writes, “Moving images use our senses more effectively than do black lines of type, stacked on white pages.”
“Stations, networks, schedules and sets may all go the way of rabbit-ear antennas. However, if humankind’s preferences over the past half century are any guide, whatever screens and services do find their way into our homes in coming decades are going to be filled not so much with words or still graphics but with moving images.”
YouTube’s success with billions of views and multiple multi-channel networks being built on top of it — very clearly display video’s importance in our daily consumption, search habits, and entertainment. As well as the money-making opportunities in video overall.
Stephens wraps up part of his book, writing:
“When I talk of the video revolution, I mean video as content, not any particular size screen or variety of box. I mean that, by whatever improved means, we are going to continue staring at those magical moving images and obtaining more and more of our entertainment, information, art and ideas from them.”
It’s likely we’ll only see a deeper connection to video and to visuals on the Web in the next few years, as more startups make smarter plays in the arena of video (especially where it is enabled on mobile devices, offers real-time narratives, and the option for audience participation).
Who will build the next YouTube is still to be determined. But whoever can do that would be creating a next-generation platform that may trump television or at very least give the box (or flat screen) in your living room a run for its money.