Over the years, the digital media industry has grown immensely. Let’s take a look at the current state of internet media, and where it may go in the future.
I spend a lot of time watching YouTube, as I’m sure many others do. I have my likes and dislikes about it, but there’s something about being able to find virtually countless videos about any topic that has overtaken all other forms of media for me.For many users, digital media is king. #byebyeTV #newvidintownClick To Tweet
And I know I’m not alone. According to Marketing Charts, a statistics website, more and more people are joining me. They say that traditional tv viewing, which used to be the undisputed king of media, is down among the younger population.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that traditional TV is on its way out. In its place, digital media is springing up all over the place. The numbers don’t lie, either. Digital media outlets like YouTube and Facebook have dominating numbers compared to traditional mediums.
The trick to sites like YouTube is that they don’t need to create their own content. Users, by and large, will do that for them. In the case of YouTube, content creators are rewarded with a chunk of the ad sales that keep the site afloat.
So when I saw many of my favorite creators making videos about how swathes of their content were getting demonetized, it took my notice. Why would YouTube forswear their users?
The answer lies within an algorithm, and the results have had echoes in burgeoning digital media outlets that rely on smaller, more dedicated audiences. In the wake of this phenomenon and a changing market, I think it’s time to take stock of where digital media stands.
Let’s start with YouTube and their algorithm.
2017 brought on a lot of changes, especially for digital media.
In the video sphere, YouTube went through an event dubbed the ‘adpocalypse’ by many of its content creators. The term refers to an algorithm introduced this year that flags certain content for demonetization.
The algorithm didn’t come from nowhere, however. Prior to the ‘adpocalypse’, advertisers became aware of certain videos with content that they didn’t like, which caused a boycott. Think of the adpocalypse algorithm as a sort of quality control to repair some of the damage and end the boycott.
According to Erik Kain, a contributor at Forbes.com, there were two major channels that caused the boycott. One was being used by terrorist groups such as Hezbollah. The other was their most famous and followed user, Felix ‘PewDiePie’ Kjellberg, who made a video where men held signs that read obvious racist phrases.
These videos caused an exodus of advertisers, and so their algorithm was born. Almost overnight, many users found that their videos had been flagged for demonetization. Due to the massive amount of videos flagged, it was clear that machine learning was implemented in the process.
New options for advertisers that is resulting in most of us not having ads. pic.twitter.com/8pEFzBl7Ca
— Ethan Klein (@h3h3productions) April 25, 2017
Many think that the changes border on mass censorship, but even Kjellberg has hope for the situation. After speaking to the executives at Google, he tweeted “Feeling a lot better about it, and confident it will improve over time.”
The Rise of Alternative Digital Media
Despite efforts to soften the blow from this controversy, many content creators are finding ways to stay afloat. Since the algorithm was put into use many videos have been appealed, and many users have resorted to third-party donation programs, such as Patreon.
However, there’s more to this story than content creators changing how they get paid for their work. Every controversy for a big company is a chance for smaller companies to try and carve out their own slice of the digital media market.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably saw Chris Parbey’s article about alternative social media sites.
For every digital media giant, there are plenty of smaller sites who would love to take their place. Digital Media is a new market, after all, and in many ways it is still forming.
Everyone knows about sites like YouTube and Facebook, and it isn’t hard to figure out how they make their money. For smaller sites or content creators, however, there is a different dynamic. Instead of trying to make money off of advertisements, they tend to rely on a small, devoted audience.
Often these companies ask for donations. It’s just as likely that they rely on a network that produces and hosts its own video services, such as conservative media outlets like Louder with Crowder and The Daily Wire.
These sites can compete with the big boys in digital media because they try to hook people with unique content or accessibility. This shows how the market is changing.
Other changes are also on the horizon, and it’s incumbent upon everyone, big or small, to prepare for them. Controversies are one thing, but politics are another. And I can’t think of anything more politically relevant to this topic than net neutrality.
The Changing Market
Digital media is starting to come out ahead of television, but many fear what effects the specter of net neutrality might have on these new entertainment and information outlets.
One of the biggest fears is what it may mean for digital media outlets. Could some of these outlets be throttled by ISPs, harming their bottom line and hurting their business?
According to the FCC, that isn’t likely. In a report on their new guidelines, they wrote “If an ISP that also sells video services degrades the speed or quality of competing “Over the Top” video services (such as Netflix),526 that conduct could be challenged as anticompetitive foreclosure.”
Basically, if an ISP throttles your service to virtual death, that could be challenged. At that point, it would become a problem for the Federal Trade Commission to solve.
For big companies like Google, that means that a trip to the courts could clear up any throttling problems. For smaller companies, it may not be as easy, but the regulations drawn up by the FCC are worded to protect them as well.
Personally, I remain hopeful about the effects of the new FCC regulations. Despite PR flops like Ajit Pai’s cringy (and somewhat condescending) Christmas video, I’d like to think that they will hold true to their word to stand against things like throttling. I suppose time will tell.
Regardless, we have seen many changes to our favorite digital media sites over this past year. The digital media industry is growing, contenders are rising, and giants like Google and Twitter simply refuse to stand still.
But how long will it be before they too go the way of the television?
Could Giants Really Fall?
Realistically, sites like YouTube, Reddit, Twitter and Facebook will be around for quite some time.
While alternate sites are trying to hold on to dedicated audiences, they continue to add new features that help them stay on top of the hill.
For example, YouTube started their YouTube Red service in 2015, a paid subscription that gives users exclusive content. This content, by and large, provides shows that feature various YouTube stars and other content without advertisements.
Twitter has also upped its game, raising the character count of tweets from 140 to 280.
Moves like these help sites to remain relevant. After all, if you were a tech giant like Google, wouldn’t you want to stay at the top of the hill for as long as you could?
Combine this with the success of alternative media sites, and you can see that digital media is thriving. Despite controversies with the big names, many people use digital media as their primary source of news and entertainment.
Which makes me happy, because it means that my YouTube addiction is safe for another day.