Key takeaways

  • Mobile video is forecast to become one of the next high-growth industries.
  • Aided by digital technology, younger generations are embracing increasingly visual storytelling methods.
  • By adopting new digital platforms, businesses can reach out to a whole new generation of users.

It has been a busy month for technology-tinged trends and projections. Mary Meeker – a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers – recently presented her famed Internet Trends slideshow at the Code conference in San Francisco. Closer to home, PwC’s anticipated Entertainment and Media Outlook 2016 was unveiled last week, launched as part of the Mumbrella 360 media conference in Sydney.

Whether by fate or coincidence, both reports aligned on several key digital themes: the rise of video streaming technology, the mixed fortunes of advertising across physical and digital media, and China and Asia’s increasingly important role on the global growth stage.

But another thread interconnects much of the data within both reports – the evolution of digital enabled storytelling. Bolstered by consistently evolving technology, the way (particularly young) people are communicating with each other and expressing themselves is fundamentally changing, presenting an early-mover opportunity for businesses seeking to connect with new audiences.

Video killed
the internet star

Both Internet Trends and the Entertainment and Media Outlook stress the ongoing evolution of video, especially as it continues its diffusion through the mobile space. In Internet Trends Meeker noted a meteoric rise in mobile video viewership in the US, buoyed by the ongoing success of YouTube and the integration of video into established social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.

Mobile and video is on the rise in Australia, too, says Outlook. According to the report, mobile advertising is predicted to grow by over 20% over the next four years, eventually accounting for 40% of total internet advertising by 2020. Video as a share of internet advertising, meanwhile, is poised to grow at an impressive 27.8% in the same timeframe.

It’s not an entirely rosy story for video advertising, however. Meeker pointed out that while the technology shows great potential for advertisers, the format is still undergoing efficacy problems. For example, more than 80% of US users continue to mute rather than engage in some video advertisements, while almost two-thirds of users reported frustration at having to watch un-skippable ‘pre-roll’ ads.

Streaming to you
live and in colour

A crucial element of the mobile video explosion has been the development of live streaming technology. As part of their wider video integration strategies, Facebook and Twitter both released live streaming products in the form of Facebook Live and Periscope.

Leveraging this new technology with pre-existing social media tools, Facebook Live allows users to publish live broadcasts to profiles or company pages. Periscope, meanwhile, is a ‘separate-but-integrated’ mobile app, similar to the other Twitter-owned video platform Vine.

By helping to unlock live video capabilities in smartphones, Facebook and Twitter have joined a new video medium, dubbed ‘Real-Live’ by Meeker. ‘Real-Live’ borrows from all of the previous video technologies that came before it, including terrestrial television’s live broadcasting, on-demand’s over-the-internet streaming and ability to download content for later viewing, and ‘Semi-Live’s (short mobile videos such as Vine’s six-second snippets or Snapchat’s ‘stories’ function) encouragement of creative user-generated content.

the filter

As these platforms jostle for position in the mobile video space, early experiments have been conducted with businesses to create sponsored content. Both Snapchat and Facebook have implemented purchasable ‘filters’ for their video platforms, allowing companies to provide branded imagery for users to incorporate into their amateur productions. These are often tied to local geographic events, such as sports games, concerts, or festivals.

One example from Meeker involved a sports drink manufacturer providing a ‘splash’ animation on Snapchat during the 2016 American Super Bowl. Videos using the filter were viewed over 165 million times, beating the event’s own television viewership of 111.9 million.

Importantly, Meeker noted how the ‘average Snapchatter’ cam spend up to 20 seconds interacting with sponsored filters, whether they used it to create content or not. This shows the filters to be effective even if not implemented.

internet trends

In May 2016, American fast food chain Taco Bell partnered with Snapchat for a ‘taco lens’ to celebrate the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo.

More art in
the art of storytelling

This new era of mobile video is only going to go become more consolidated as the art of storytelling continues its visual and mobile-first orientation. And it’s not just enthusiastic amateurs with smartphones in their pockets, either.

According to the Entertainment and Media Outlook, broadcast media companies are also finding success in optimising content for mobile viewing. One example is Presto, which commissioned a short-form original series with episode lengths of approximately five minutes after noticing viewing figures spike during morning and afternoon commutes.

Even smartphone messaging apps – previously the chief domain of text-based communication – are becoming more visual, incorporating suites of expressive ‘emoji’ icons and ‘GIF keyboards’, which allow users to quickly find and share animated GIF images.

The first mover

These new forays into mobile visual content are ushering in a new media channel paradigm and advertisers need to keep up. As Meeker noted, print publishing continues to decline, suffering revenue losses while still accruing more advertising revenue than their audience share justifies. Mobile advertising, meanwhile, remains comparatively under-invested, attracting 12% of investment despite reaching 25% of users.

The mobile video revolution is therefore only just beginning. As more money is poured into the category, new generations of storytelling products and platforms will be envisioned. One article, published in The Atlantic, declared video-enabled social networks as the new television, presumably one where everyone is a leading character and advertising is mostly through clever product placements rather than distracting ad breaks.

But the democratising nature of these digital platforms means other businesses, not just media companies, content platforms, or advertising agencies, can also take advantage of this brave new world. Any company seeking to resonate with a new audience can – and should – investigate these new digital toolboxes to creative visually compelling, mobile optimised content, whether it’s a clever filter, a short-form series to watch on the train, or even a live-streamed product demonstration.