“Hollywood and Vine” by Tad Friend”. The New Yorker, 12/15/2014
Go onto YouTube and search for “Charlie bit my finger—again!” It’s a cute video of a toddler, maybe 4 years old, holding his baby brother on his lap. He lets his brother bite his finger, screams, and pulls his finger out. Baby brother laughs. Cute, but that clip, posted in 2007, has drawn over 800 million views. That’s almost a billion! You may have already seen it yourself.
YouTube began as a place for amateurs to post their short, home-made videos, “snackable content,” as it is called. That is how many of us still know it, but YouTube is now owned by Google. famous for monetizing anything, and the staggering number of views are attracting advertisers like flies to the proverbial [ethnicity deleted] bride. More and more of the videos are professionally done—some are even serials like the old radio soap operas—and are preceded by a short advertisement that you can skip after a few seconds.
They are still playing with the format of the ads. At first, they ran for 30 seconds, but I never waited that long and neither did anyone else. Most now begin with the skippable ad. This pleases the advertisers because the viewers have to concentrate on the ad until the Skip option pops up. A few seconds is better than nothing and leaves the potential customer grateful rather than antagonized.
Many of the YouTube clips are created by teenagers and posted as blogs known as vlogs (video blogs.) I directed you to a few examples in the posting of 11/7/2014. The teenaged vloggers are now millionaires creating their videos in Hollywood (hence the title of the WSJ article) where they live as neighbors.
Popular YouTube videos run for 2–7 minutes, but any longer than that risk seeing the backs of viewers as they head for the door. One media executive said that he was not sure the millennial generation has the patience to watch a dozen episodes of even a half-hour show on TV anymore.
So, if you think you are now up-to-date, you are very wrong. YouTube is yesterday’s news. The latest electronic venue is Vine (hence the second half of the WSJ article’s title). You can download the app, or connect to it on your computer at Vine.com. I hesitate to describe it because you will think it could never catch on, but it already has—hugely! It shows endless loops of posted video clips limited to six seconds.
Many of the clips are in accelerated motion, as can be easily done now on phone cameras. A recipe, for example, typically shows the ingredients popping up, then all together in a pan, then the final product with a website address with more details. Did it go too fast? Were those strawberries or raspberries? In six seconds, it will run again . . .and again . . . and again.
Other popular clips are of dance moves, cute babies and animals, and stupid fails, although one was an accelerated sunset that was quite pretty. When you log onto the site, you can select from various categories, or simply, “Most Popular Today.”
I admit I use it to pass occasional idle moments. Six seconds is about right to judge if the clip is of any interest, and to move on to the next if it is not, or stay for a repeat if it is. Even when I find only junk, the possibly discovering a gem just six seconds away creates its own excitement.
Sure beats reading a blog. Who has the time for that? (Except you.)