What’s significant about an 18-second-long YouTube video of a man at the zoo blabbing about the elephants behind him? This video was the first piece of content uploaded to YouTube by co-founder Jawed Karim 10 years ago last month. In the decade since YouTube’s debut, digital video has evolved from a desktop-only viewing experience to a multi-platform, interactive, storytelling tool.
Viewers are now watching more and more video from their smartphones and tablets, sharing their favorites on social media, and using innovative apps to tell their story. And with the way technology continues to quickly advance, creating and publishing video content online is increasingly easy. Though we might take it for granted today, think about the steps you had to take ten years ago to shoot a video and put it online. We know it required some patience, and it definitely wasn’t as easy as whipping out your phone, shooting with its 8-megapixel camera, and uploading it on the spot within seconds.
And while it’s no shocker that posting a video online today is a lot different from a decade ago, to ensure you’re not stuck in the past with your video content, we thought we’d lay out a list of what we think are the five most important trends in online video since YouTube’s 2005 debut. If you pay attention to these key trends, there’s no doubt your online video efforts will pay off.
HTML5 OR BUST
If you’ve watched any online video in the last decade, you’ve likely experienced crashes, incompatible browsers and devices, and other annoyances. You can thank Flash for that. Flash, which has long been the standard platform for playing embedded video, only works if you can install a plug-in, making it often a clunky experience.
HTML5, however, represents a huge step forward in many ways, starting with the ability to integrate videos directly into your website’s code. Like a static image on a webpage, and HTML5 video doesn’t require a plug-in or special player. In the same vein, HTML5 videos can play on any platform – desktop, tablet, smartphone – and on nearly every web browser.
Using HTML5 for your video is no longer an option or a “nice to have.” If you’re not building HTML5 videos, you’re already behind. Troy Drier of OnlineVideo.net says it best: “Do brand marketers need to know about HTML5 video? Only if they care about having their videos viewable by every potential customer on every device.” And who doesn’t want that?
MADE FOR MOBILE
We know mobile wasn’t top of mind when Karim published his zoo video back when we were still excited by a 3-megapixel phone camera, but mobile should be a priority now. With each year, video viewing continues to shift from TVs and PCs to mobile devices. Thirty-four percent of all video plays in Q4 2014 were on tablets and smartphones, according to Ooyala’s Q4 2014 Global Video Index report.
And with 69% of the global population (5.2 billion people) expected to be mobile users by 2019, it’s imperative that companies ensure their videos can be played on multiple devices or risk missing out on the opportunity to reach increasingly mobile consumers.
Within the next four years 72% of mobile traffic will be video content, according to a Cisco study. That’s not exactly surprising. Both Vimeo and YouTube report that half their views are on mobile devices, and YouTube’s mobile revenue increased by 100% since last year.
As much as we stress the importance of mobile in online video, you’d be surprised at how many people still produce online video with mobile as an after thought. Believe us, it’s much easier to take the extra step to create for mobile in the beginning than it is to try to make it work on mobile after the fact.
Social media is no longer just a platform for sharing YouTube videos of cats on Roombas. If you look at Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other platforms, video is everywhere. Social media has played – and continues to play – a huge role in online video growth. The percentage of shares for brand videos in its first three days of launch nearly doubled between 2013 and 2014 from 25% to 42%, according to a study by video company Unruly.
In fact, according to ComScore, Facebook surpassed YouTube’s desktop views by about 1 billion for the first time last year. Sure, one could attribute this growth to Facebook’s autoplay feature; but it also shows how much video has integrated with social platforms where it can easily be shared and liked. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told analysts last week that the company “reached a new milestone of more than 4 billion daily video views.” And to continue beating the mobile drum, 75% of global Facebook views happen on mobile.
Smart content creators will continue to reach their customers in creative ways using video campaigns created specifically for social media platforms.
If your audience consists of any millennials, you’d be remiss if you weren’t reaching them where they hang out most – on their smartphones (and, more specifically, on the apps on those smartphones). In the last year or so, brands have started reaching out to their customers via Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, and other video sharing apps. And then there’s the proliferation of video sharing apps like Meerkat and Periscope. Consumers are drawn to them because of their amusing concepts: disposable content (Snapchat), extra short, looping videos (Vine), and live-streaming capabilities (Meerkat and Periscope).
All of these apps are tightly integrated with social media and are a great way to reach a new audience. It’s not only imperative to stay on top of the latest apps, but, to succeed, you must create content exclusively for those apps. Take a leaf out of the book of this year’s Shorty Award winners: GoPro and Expedia both won for their creative Instagram campaigns, and Lowe’s won for its Vine campaign that helps viewers with home improvement projects.
FROM LINEAR TO INTERACTIVE
The Internet introduced us to a new way to sort and navigate information – search, menus, links, etc. The mobile web took that functionality and put it into the palms of our hands, driving intuitive interfaces, and making it easy for us to quickly and easily navigate to what is specifically relevant to us as individuals.
Consumers – specifically millennials – are used to limitless access to information and data. And interactive video brings the power of the web to video. It puts control into the hands of the viewer (in web-speak, we might call this “increasing user relevance”), and by making content more relevant, you increase user engagement.
With HTML5, videos can incorporate interactive elements, allowing viewers to choose what they watch and even decide how the story plays out by clicking on-screen prompts. You can see this in action in this interactive video for Philips, in which viewers help the main character trace events from the previous night. What Philips has done here is take all of those web-like functionalities and apply them to video storytelling.
THE FUTURE OF VIDEO
All of these developments – HTML5, mobile, social, and apps – affect each other and shape the future of online video. As the number of digital natives wanting to do more than simply watch videos continues to grow, so does the demand for interactive video. According to Forrester Research senior analyst Ryan Skinner, interactive video ads outperform traditional video by up to 1,000% in click-through rates. Add mobile to this mix, and you have what Skinner calls the “app-ification of video” – custom online video experiences in the palm of your hand (and the perfect example of how our five online video trends meld together to produce engaging content).
Whether or not the founders of YouTube knew it when they first posted “Me at the zoo,” they were setting a trend that remains today: publishing video content in a central place where many will see it. Ten years ago, that meant posting on a standard website to be watched on desktops. Today, and moving forward, we’re not only watching online video on desktops but also interacting with it on handheld devices and through apps and social media. Online video will constantly evolve; the question is whether your content will evolve with it.