As 2016 draws to a close, Sangeetha Aiyer, Vice President & Head Marketing - A+E Networks I TV18 talks about social media giant Facebook’s Newsfeed being one of the biggest game-changers and its far-reaching consequences on content consumption.
This year’s most promising medium for content delivery is also the deadliest. Facebook’s Newsfeed is easily the most challenging environment for any form of content in the history of content creation. Think about it… as a content creator, your video on Facebook is competing for attention with his girlfriend’s hot-party pictures uploaded five minutes back and below his best-friends grad ceremony video. While scrolling, the video starts and it has exactly 10 seconds to catch his attention.
When seen from the prism of time, this is a bit insane: from theatre to movies to TV, in the past content has always been consumed in isolation and with a captive audience having enough time to view, get acclimatised and judge it in its entirety. Facebook is huge and so is its potential. There is no way any of TV channels, music labels, film studios or any other content creator can afford to ignore this.
Given its scale, I believe that the newsfeed will not only be one of the biggest game-changers but will also have the most far-reaching consequences beyond Facebook and the Internet, on content itself. Let me explain.
In his seminal work Understanding Media, NY, 1964, Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message” because it is the “medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action.” The message he explains “is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs.”
An example here would help. When MTV was introduced in the ‘80s, it got an entire generation hooked on, completely transforming patterns of consumption. One of the biggest changes is the reduction of attention spans it caused. MTV a yuppy channel of fast paced music videos introduced to the youth was so successful, it changed the nature of content itself. Post MTV, every frame in every movie, TV series or music video reduced to one-three seconds. This explains why we find the movies of the 60s and 70s ‘slow’. MTV was McLuhan’s medium and its message of reduction in attention spans was the “change it induced in human affairs.”
Coming back to Facebook’s Newsfeed. I think it will also cause interesting changes in viewing patterns probably more profound than MTV. Think of the type of byte sized information you consume: a Hollywood movie trailer for instance. The objective of the trailer is to start slow, build momentum and in the end reach a crescendo. The idea is to leave you gasping for more so you rush to the nearest cinema and spend for the entire flick. With music too the pattern is a bit similar. Take a typical symphony of Beethoven for instance where the pace is built slowly but surely and then reaches the inevitable crescendo in the end.
All of this won’t work on Facebook’s Newsfeed as well as it does elsewhere.
Because of the narrow window of 10 seconds in a hostile environment, the high point of any content on FB must be at the beginning. The crescendo I mentioned earlier cannot be at the end but must be at the start. This seems ok enough but when you start executing you realize how counter intuitive it actually is. Think about it. If you start with a crescendo, the rest of the video will have to play catch up to the high established at the start.
We (at History TV18) started custom-making our videos for Facebook around eight months back and when I look back at the 70 odd short form videos we’ve put up on Facebook I realise how different it is from the ones on-air and on YouTube. The most successful of them start with a bang. History TV18’s India page generated 24 million, mostly organic video views in October far more than Yash Raj, T-Series and other traditional media houses! Of course this depends on various other factors, in my humble opinion, one of the biggest is the fact that we tweaked the memento of the videos and custom-made them for Facebook.
This also explains why Vidooly’s list of Facebook publishers is different from that of YouTube. I find it difficult to fathom how most content-creators still haven’t woken up to the fact that this medium works very differently.
As an entire generation grows up with Facebook, I think this simple change will have a profound effect on our content and on us. Every short video, music label or short form content would need to be tweaked for the Newsfeed and eventually become the default system.
McLuhan would certainly approve.
The author is Vice President & Head Marketing - A+E Networks I TV18.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com