Veteran entrepreneur and investor Mark Suster recently blogged about how online video will disrupt the traditional television space and this evolution with online video will extend beyond television to disrupt many industries, including social media and games. Suster describes how the Harlem Shake video on YouTube started as a skit launched 20 January that generated about 10 million views, was then popularized into an Internet meme by text from an Australian team, and then Maker Studios turned it into a video that has generated more than 17 million views. What is exciting about Harlem Shake is that it has effectively been produced by tens of thousands of people, creating 50,000 versions viewed 200 million times.
Suster makes the point that Harlem Shake is an example of the disruptive potential of a world filled with millions of people who can create great content and now have the resources to do so. Specifically, Mark Suster shows that with smartphones and tablets able to capture video, cheap or free post production tools (Instagram), cheap local and cloud storage, available bandwidth, easy sharing and social commenting and virality, people can now create the media rather than just consume it. In fact, media that is created by users is more compelling as consumers do not just want to watch a video; they want to participate in it. People feel a stronger bond to media that they create than what is created for them in Hollywood. Just as games are a more compelling media than TV or film because they are so immersive, user-created media takes it to the next level. (Mark goes into much more depth about how online video should disrupt television and events like the Super Bowl but do not want to plagiarize his entire post, so I strongly recommend you read it.)
Suster’s focus is on how this phenomenon is going to disrupt television but it has even broader implications, potentially disrupting all entertainment and even other new tech spaces. As I mentioned above, user-created video is more compelling and immersive almost by definition, since the people consuming it created it. Content will go from one-way (designers creating an experience for users) linear stories to giving people the ability to interact with and change the content.
Game companies are not just competing with other game companies; they are competing for the entertainment mind share of consumers. Games for years have trumpeted how they are pulling people away from traditional media, but if television becomes untraditional, and thus more compelling and immersive, it will in fact pull consumers away from games.
This trend goes beyond gaming and television, as there are thousands of companies all trying to get the same eyeballs. Even newly emerging industries like massive online open courses (MOOCs) will have to compete for the same user’s time. A one-way approach that Coursera takes will have trouble competing with content people are creating themselves, interacting with and building in a non-linear form.
Part of the answer will be for companies to include their customers in creating the content and interact with them continually. Game companies will have to go beyond using gimmicks for user-generated content to allowing players to use the tools available to create new content and move the game in the direction they want to go. MOOCs will have to expand from the traditional lecture to allowing users to not only create instruction but build on what is there (taking the Udemy model to the next level, allowing people to collaborate in creating instruction). Overall, user participation leveraging the new tools available will have a huge effect on how people spend their time.