Short mobile video a la TikTok now dominates the work of Internet creators

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new era of short-form video is sweeping the web, forcing creators of all kinds—from podcasters to photographers to publishers—to adjust their media strategies.

Why is it important?: There have never been more opportunities to create content online, but business incentives are driving all kinds of creative individuals and businesses to follow the same viral trends.

Be smart: “It’s an addictive platform with TikTok, Instagram Reels and some other new platforms,” ​​said Sasha Kaletsky, co-founder of creative economy investment firm Creator Ventures. “The user is not looking for a specific creator, he wants to have fun” Axios said on stage last month.

For creatorsthis means a wide transition to fast, cheap behind-the-scenes videos.

  • television journalistsAs linear TV dwindles, eager to build a new audience, it leans toward “get ready with me” videos showing morning rush routines.
  • Photographers they post before and after videos of their photo shoots and dramatic photo edits.
  • Podcasters they post videos of themselves interviewing guests in recording studios that they hope will attract users to their shows on Spotify or Apple.
  • Meme creators even tried posting meme images as short videos on platforms like Instagram to boost their rankings in the app’s algorithms.

By the numbers: A new report from mobile analytics firm says users spend an average of 3.1 billion hours globally streaming user-generated content daily on mobile native, short-form video apps like TikTok and YouTube.

Shrink it: Almost all of the user growth among online teenagers is going to short-form video apps. This means that the best way to get an audience is for creators to tap into viral video trends – even if they’re not video professionals.

Data: Pew Research Center;  Note: The 2014/2015 survey did not ask about TikTok or YouTube, which launched globally in 2018;  Chart: Nicki Camberg/Axios
Data: Pew Research Center; Note: The 2014/2015 survey did not ask about TikTok or YouTube, which launched globally in 2018; Chart: Nicki Camberg/Axios

How we got here: TikTok’s explosive rise during the pandemic and growing concerns about user data privacy have prompted nearly every major social media company to overhaul their content distribution strategy.

  • Meta said in July that it would emphasize recommending Facebook content to users based on what’s going viral over increasing content based on social connections — a change that would make the app feel more like TikTok.
  • “It’s only natural that social networks will probably gravitate toward recommended media in the near future, because if social networks support ads, the most engaged content will be the one that gets the most ad revenue,” said Michael Mignano, a. Creative economy investor at Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Yes, but: When Instagram began rolling out these changes — an app built for photographers, artists, and other creative professionals — users revolted.

  • “A lot of artists have a lot of trouble with displacement,” Kaya Yurieff, a reporter for The Information, which focuses on the creative economy, told Axios. “But they accept video because they don’t have many options anymore.”

National Geographic, the publisher with the most followers on social media faces that pressure. “Our incredible social reach is based largely on our strength in Instagram, which is based on our strength in photography, which is great,” National Geographic’s new editor-in-chief Nathan Lump told Axios last month.

  • “But obviously, we know that video drives a lot of engagement on social networks, and that’s a lot of growth in terms of engagement, users and social platforms. So we need to focus more on that.”

Between the lines: Social media platforms have a lot to gain in the long run from leaning towards short form video. But so far, user adoption of short-form video has outstripped the business opportunity for creators.

  • In a note to clients earlier this year, analysts at MoffettNathanson wrote that “in short, the ad load for video products remains low as platforms prioritize incremental engagement over monetization at this point.”
  • BuzzFeed blamed the dynamicsin part because it had to lay off 12% of its workforce earlier this month.

What’s next: There are more people creating new content than ever before, and some observers believe the advent of generative AI tools like Dall-E, Stable Diffusion, and ChatGPT will make it even easier for newcomers.

  • “The way I think about AI right now is that it’s a way to allow people to create more and express themselves more, but it’s not a replica or a replacement for real human creativity,” Lightspeed’s Mignano said.
  • But many artists don’t trust generative AI. They object to AI firms using vast amounts of data, including some copyrighted material, to train programs. And they fear that new tools will make their hard work even harder.

What they say: “There’s been a shift from mass-produced content to one-on-one, hyper-personalized content, which is getting easier and easier with AI tools,” said Anushk Mittal, co-founder of generative AI avatar startup Circle Labs.

  • “I think this is an emerging area that we still need to explore,” Mittal said. “My point is that we look at art all the time and that’s how you get inspired to create new art. It’s the same thing, but instead of people doing it, it’s a machine.”

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