The video revolution will NOT be televised, because it’s boring.

OK, I officially don’t get it.  Don’t get all this talk about how online video is the next big thing.  Perhaps more accurately I do get it, but don’t understand why so many bright and well connected folks don’t seem to understand that there is a very important challenge with video that makes it far less significant of an online force than most of the early adopters seem to understand.     Online video has a role to play in the information landscape, but it’s not nearly as significant as many seem to think.

Here’s a BBC story about the very clever Loic Lemeur and his clever SEESMIC project.   We’ll see more of these stories over the next few years as mainstream press slowly figures out that the early adopter online community is very enthusiastic about videos, video blogging, and pretty much any moving pictures that you can pump online.   Seesmic is a combination of video and community and thus offers the killer combo if you buy into the idea that the online world is going to revolve primarily around two key components: social networking and video.     

I’m very skeptical.   Not about the internet, which continues to rule.   Not about social media, which clearly has become and will remain a key driver of online life.  The internet has always been about people far more than technology, and the best definition of “Web 2.0” is an internet driven primarily by people and their needs rather than technology and its constraints.   But I’m very skeptical about online video, and I think the early commercial challenges of companies like RocketBoom, PodTech, and YouTube are an indication that it is very difficult to build a business or a community around video, let alone create a highly profitable environment that will drive future innovation in this space.

The biggest single challenge to video is obvious but overlooked by most of the sharp folks I see working that angle:  Most video clips are very boring.   Unlike a wordy blog entry you can quickly scan for the quick info buzz, and unlike pictures which you can review at the speed of an eye blink, with a video blog entry of video clip you’ll need to pay a lot of attention, and take up much of your attention span to glean the nugget or two of interesting content you’ll be lucky to find.     

Video online enthusiasts often agree with this, but then suggest the answer will be better video indexing services – applications that chop up the video into dialog chunks or “ideas” that are then indexed and easy to search and easier to surf.    Sure, that is an improvement, but if I want the goods I’d rather have a transcript and/or a few still pictures than a video any day, because unless you are a very slow reader a transcript is going to be easier to deal with efficiently than a video.

So, is there any room for video online?    Of course, it’ll continue as a major force for cheap little entertainment bits and perhaps even could become a minor social force as tech enthusiasts use tools like SEESMIC to communicate in a more robust and intimate fashion than you can do with writing.      However the lack of monetization potential combined with the fact that 99.99% of all video clips will bore to tears means that ultimately video will NOT create the kind of sea change in internet focus many have been waiting for.  

In fact, the video revolution is so boring it’s not even online yet, and it may never be.

10 thoughts on “The video revolution will NOT be televised, because it’s boring.

  1. Joe, you hit that on the head. With something like Twitter (for example) you can scan hundreds of posts very very quickly for the interesting posts. With Seesmic you can’t – you have to watch them all in their entirety. Not there yet – but I live hope that it will get there one day.

    I hope you don’t mind but I’ve cross posted to my blog with a link back here. Great posting.

  2. It’ll come. The biggest problem right now is that most video isn’t that great to watch. Either it’s boring or it’s not produced well enough to actually be able to watch.

    But that will change as technology gets better and people become better at using it. Give it time.

    I do a web show at my blog, and it’s hard to do, very hard.

  3. Comparing text to video in this way is not comparing like with like. I blog, and I video blog. I also write and make videos in a traditional, more old fashioned way. My writing leads me into video, video making leads me into writing. I like both for different reasons.

    So what if you can’t scan videos (actually you can, I do – there’s a fast fwd which I use) video delivers information on a different level to text. The benefit is in the differences, and I appreciate both.

    Your language reveals your bias. “cheap little entertainment bits” to you are moments of great joy to others. Just because a video isn’t a three hour film doesn’t make it a worthless or a lesser form.

  4. Thx for the thoughtful comments folks. Paul – thx for the mention at your blog!

    Jim – I know video is hard which is one of the reasons I think it will continue to struggle. People want a quick hit of info, and doing that with vids is very hard. Even at their absolute best they are not digestable nearly as fast as equally clever pictures and words.

    Deekdeekster – I am making a value judgement here, focusing on whether we’ll see a big shift from current mixed info formats to video info formats, and predicting no because video formats tend to suck. I don’t understand how you scan videos for the relevant quality info – scanning does not give you the words. Sure there are videos like the clever “Web 2.0” bit by a professor that convey a lot of info very quickly, but that’s a total exception to the normal rule of 10 to 1 or worse noise to signal in videos.

  5. You might want to check out netflix. I’ve watched several movies and entire TV shows (Pan’s Labyrinth, Jeremiah, old movies). The quality is excellent and it is easy to use if you have a PC. Now there is no limit.

    They are adding hundreds, even thousands all the time to their selection. At first there wasn’t much but now there are ones on their watch now list that are actually on my movie queue.

    Once they get TV shows on there that are closer to when they are shown for the season and most new release movies I will stop my dishnetwork altogether. I’d rather pay netflix 20-30 a month for the few things we do watch than dishnetwork $60.

    I see this as huge.

  6. Dickey45 I agree that downloading videos will eventually come to largely replace DVDs and change how we relate to our TVs in very important ways.

    My point is that online videos won’t come to replace text chat/email/blogs. Certainly online videos will replace offline videos – that is happening now.

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