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Teens think of online video differently than you do

Teens and adults view online video differently
Generally speaking, teens depend on their social graph to discover content for the purpose of relational connections. Adults depend on Google to seek content for the purpose of consuming information.

Wow, the responses you guys are leaving on my blog survey is so incredibly helpful! Thank you so much!

If you haven’t taken the 3-4 minutes to take it yet, please do so and enter to win one of five different Bible lesson series’ from YouthMinistry360.com!

Sometime in the next couple weeks I’ll publish a blog post summarizing a lot of the results of the survey and some of their implications for Life In Student Ministry in 2011. Seriously, you guys are so encouraging and so helpful so far! Great stuff!

As I was reading through your comments this evening, there’s a recurring theme that prompted a couple thoughts.

You don’t like my videos!

Just kidding! No one said that, but there are several comments about not caring for video content in general. Reasons cited are that you don’t have time to watch them, that you prefer content you can skim, and that you have technological limitations (i.e. slow Internet, old computer, mobile devices, etc.).

I have a couple thoughts about this, most of which were stirring in my head anyway. Your comments just provided a framework for them. Thank you!

1. We consume content differently than the next generation

Obviously, this statement could carry a resounding “duh!” but I didn’t realize how wide the gap had become until your results from my survey started pouring in. The difference between old and new media, teens’ online habits, values and everything that goes along with that could easily take a whole series of posts to explore, but for the sake of this post, I’ll suffice it to say that our generation (as young as we are) consume content for selfish reasons. We ask, “What can you do for me?” and if we feel like we’re not getting enough helpful information, we unsubscribe, change the TV channel, or click away to a different site.

My gut feeling, however, is that teens consume content on a totally different level. Their content revolves around a relational connection. They ask, “What is this going to mean for us?” And the “us” doesn’t necessarily have to be someone they know personally. It can be a para-social relationship, someone they feel like they have a connection with even though they really don’t (i.e. Justin Beiber, ShayCarl, iJustine, or even my own vlogs).

2. Video is the future. We’re old.

Online video is growing in leaps and bounds. Even the initial results of my current informal survey indicate this: the number of you who prefer to consume content via text and audio is down, video is up from last year’s survey.

Research shows that online video viewing habits experienced a 39% increase in 2007. In 2008, it grew by 46%, but in 2009 it shot up by 124%! (I can’t wait to see the 2010 research come out soon!) In 2002, online video was a $1.5 billion industry. Today it’s a $6 billion industry and growing like crazy. On YouTube alone, 24 hours of content are uploaded every minute. While online video won’t eliminate text by any means, I believe video is the future trajectory of online content.

I predict that in 5 years producing online video content will not just be for hobbyists nor will it be a miscellaneous content distribution source, but an online video presence will be imperative for reaching an audience. It will become more essential than optimizing your website for search engines because, as this teen generation graduates from high school and college, they won’t be turning to Google to find information (a “What can this do for me?” approach) as much as they’ll be getting their content based on the recommendation of their social graph (a more, “What will this mean for us?” mentality). Content will find them more then they’ll go looking for it.

If that’s true, online video that’s successful will not be the normal news reporting and information presentations we’re used to today. News and info is currently presented in a way for consumers to feel like we’re getting the quick and dirty of what we need without wasting time. Rather, online video consumption will be based on a perceived social connection (whether it’s an actual connection or not does not matter), both with the person who recommended it and with the person(s) in the video. “If my friend, Sam, connects with the person in this video, then I’m more likely to trust this person, too, especially if I also feel the connection. I thereby care more about this person and organization’s content he/she presents than I do for the person on TV or the newspaper article on the kitchen table, especially since I can’t interact with those people at all.”

3. I want to invest into the future

With that said, in 5 years when our high school students are finishing up college and some of them are transitioning into Life In Student Ministry’s audience of vocational youth workers, they’ll be more likely to turn to YouTube than Google. YouTube has already surpassed Yahoo to take the #2 place of total search queries in the U.S., right next to it’s #1 owner, Google.

I want to build a presence in the online youth ministry video community before it’s necessary to do so. Even though that community mostly doesn’t exist yet, it will. I’m building a video presence, learning the online video space, and increasing my skills and knowledge so that when the time comes when an organization needs to be on YouTube in order to reach an audience, both Life In Student Ministry and myself personally will already be there.

I know that potentially sounds competitive, but in all honesty, I started engaging with online video in a more serious way last year when I saw how different it was than blogging. Now I love it! And to be completely transparent, I love it more than blogging. I love the “face-to-face” interaction, the community, the emotional expressions that are communicated, and the (perceived?) connection that video brings. It’s a deeper level of engagement that supersedes our generation’s need to consume from each other.

Don’t get me wrong — I still really enjoy blogging and writing. I’m actually working on a second book right now, but I spend a whole lot more time with my YouTube subscriptions than I do my RSS reader. (By the way, the pre-order of my first book is on sale for 32% off right now on Amazon!)

4. But your response makes sense

I shouldn’t be surprised that people who are subscribed to a text-based website via text-based methods of email and RSS and who complete a text-based survey are less interested in video. If I ran the same survey by my YouTube subscribers, I’m sure they’d likewise be less interested in my text-based posts.

5. So here’s my idea of what I’m going to do

Give me your feedback about this: I will still continue to publish videos here at Life In Student Ministry once in a while, but thanks to the survey I now know you all better than I did before and I’ll lessen the frequency of video posts. Most of the videos I publish here I’ll distribute to the email subscribers even less frequently because I know that hitting your Inbox is more of a personal invasion than skipping a post in your RSS reader.

However, in 2011 I will still continue to push into the online video world by creating both personal and youth ministry content on YouTube. If you’d rather not miss out on any video content from me, you can easily subscribe to my YouTube channels directly on YouTube.

YouTube Subscription
Get weekly email updates of my videos directly from YouTube instead of from Life In Student Ministry.

Here’s how: A free YouTube account is required to subscribe. Click the yellow “Subscribe” button at the top of each channel. If you’d like YouTube to deliver my latest videos to you via email as a weekly update (along with videos from any other channels you subscribe to), check the box that appears, “Also email me for each new upload,” and then be sure to click the “Update” button.

What do you guys think of that plan?

And ironically, I just presented all this information in text form instead of shooting a video about it because now I know this is how you are most likely to consume it. You’re welcome. :) haha


Posted on January 13, 2011

  • Online video's are a hit or miss via the "blogging stream". Some of the blogging experts have said over and over again if your blog is informational driven, videos will not work.

    I have seen guys/gals dump tons of money, time, staff, and energy into videos that suck and then some rookie kid makes a youtube video on his phone and it goes viral while communicating a message.

    yeah this may be a generational thing, but it can also be a know "your audience" and "communication medium".

    My only issue is time. More results, in less amount of time. I think this is why it is awesome you give the time it will take to read the post. Simply brillant.

    • Yeah, knowing your audience is key. And the survey is helpful for me to know that this site's audience prefers text. Very helpful to know going forward.

  • Tim- Here's my 2 cents. I'm glad you did a survey. I'd be interested to know "what" students and younger people view online. My guess is that the "blog" type things are less viewed than video that in general is for entertainment value.

    I agree that things are changing but I'm not sure yet if video is the direction it's going. I think of it this way. E-mai and blogs used to be the medium (though I wonder really for how long they were) but now most of us use text or twitter type things. We've minimized both the time it take to write content and then time it takes to read content. But video doesn't often minimize things. I can read a whole blog post in less than the 90 second video that you played yesterday. I liked the video but the "content" could have been boiled down into a few lines of text. Video often takes longer to create and longer to view.

    Since you are not using this blog to reach students it's probably true that video is not the best medium right now. The most important skill teenagers and younger now is "Filter" they get so many different streams of content that they are all needing to figure out how to best get the information they need and leave the rest behind.

    • True, I could write a blog post with the same amount of content as a video and you could skim it much quicker than it would take to watch a video. The difference goes back to the fact that our generation just wants the details and them moves on because we gather information because it's about us. That's why text works best for us. The next generation, I feel (no data on this, just gut feeling) cares more about who is presenting the material and a perceived personal connect with them. That's why they'd rather take a couple minutes to watch me in a video instead of skimming text. Video is more personal.

      Just to be clear, I in no way think video will replace text (text has a track record that extends back thousands and thousands of years). I just think that video will become a major player in content consumption for this next generation and that many organizations will need to have a presence there the same way they need a presence on Twitter and Facebook today.

    • True, I could write a blog post with the same amount of content as a video and you could skim it much quicker than it would take to watch a video. The difference goes back to the fact that our generation just wants the details and them moves on because we gather information because it's about us. That's why text works best for us. The next generation, I feel (no data on this, just gut feeling) cares more about who is presenting the material and a"perceived" personal connect with them. That's why they'd rather take a couple minutes to watch me in a video instead of skimming text. Video is more personal.

      Just to be clear, I in no way think video will replace text (text has a track record that extends back thousands and thousands of years). I just think that video will become a major player in content consumption for this next generation and that many organizations will need to have a presence there the same way they need a presence on Twitter and Facebook today.

  • my two cents – maybe it's a generational gap, or maybe venue gap – I read your blog in a functioning office. Obviously there's no youtube ban, but i don't typically spend my office time on youtube. I suspect younger (i.e. unemployed) people have less qualms about making youtube their homepage.

    What I'm wondering is if video is the future, or if it's just good for a teen age group? Maybe in 8 years those same students who love youtube will be in offices reading RSS feeds…. or maybe they will all be watching their video-mails… who knows.

  • I think that media is growing and is very popular. I would agree with you that the video is more popular because it does give a perceived community connection as well as a actual community connection. The reason that video has increased in popularity and why YouTube is growing is the root issue here. I would think that you would want to focus on why this media is growing. I don't see students using YouTube and video for educational purposes which is what you are proposing with your blog and videos.

    I would suggest that one of the reasons that video and YouTube are growing is because it is also participatory. The videos they are watching and sharing are ones that they are creating. It is another way that they are connecting with others. The is the same reason that Facebook is so popular.

    So if the purpose of your video blog and YouTube channel are to build community and make friends, great. If it is for sharing ideas and education then I would question if this is the best venue and if it will be in the future. I would suggest a both/and approach. Why not shoot your video and connect this with the content in written form? I believe that this wouldn't be too difficult. It would mean more work on your part but would also be the best venue in reaching the largest audience and connecting with more learning styles.

    peace!

    • Yeah, the whole educational vs entertainment consumption is something I haven't quite figured out yet. I can look at my own viewing habits and I think it's an even mix of both. Some of the top YouTubers do nothing but report the news, an info-download kinda thing via video, but maybe the reason they're popular is because they also tend to be entertaining, making for a good balance of both. Right now I would attribute most video consumption to entertainment, but whether it stays that way or changes, I don't know. Is watching the news on TV or watching ESPN entertainment or info-download? Probably both, I guess.

    • Yeah, the whole educational vs entertainment consumption is something I haven't quite figured out yet. I can look at my own viewing habits and I think it's an even mix of both. Some of the top YouTubers do nothing but report the news, an info-download kinda thing via video, but maybe the reason they're popular is because they also tend to be entertaining, making for a good balance of both.

      Right now I would attribute most video consumption to entertainment, but whether it stays that way or changes, I don't know. Is watching the news on TV or watching ESPN entertainment or info-download? Probably both, I guess.

    • jon

      I'm not sure I agree that video is more popular now than any other previous time. Most of the generation before me still consumes significantly more video than I do. I am 27, and watch 2 hours a night or so on the boob tube. Many older adults have the TV on all day, or at least all home hours. The fact that video is more available on the internet is an issue of technical availability rather than popularity. The price and ease of posting something online was prohibitive 10 or even 5 years ago, but now with unlimited bandwidth and storage, simpler devices, integrated cameras, etc video is more available online.

      • Exactly. I'm not talking about TV video or even movies — I'm talking specifically about the online video community. Personally, I watch approximately 1 hour or less of TV a week (and that's only because my wife has it on and I'm sitting in the room with her). But I probably watch about an hour of YouTube a day.

        You're right — the price and ease of use for online video is definitely making it easier to generate content and the fact that more and more people are taking advantage of that in record numbers shows that online video is increasingly popular. The "why?" question is what I'm thinking through, specifically in regards to teenagers and the future.

  • Thanks for valuing our feedback! I know that's why we all come here, because you really want this site to serve…thanks!

    Here's another thought: many of the videos that you post (primarily interviews, as far as I can tell) are videos that would work just as well as text. For instance, the interview with Kent Shaffer I really liked, but I'm not sure presenting a video of the interview in a noisy coffeehouse added much over just posting the transcript. One question to ask would be what content that you're passionate about would really be enhanced by video? I'm not really sure what that would look like, but one example would be the top ten lists…those were much cooler on video than just writing the list. Not sure if that's helpful or not. Keep up the amazing work!

    • Good insights, Benjer. Thanks. Whatever the content, I think the primary advantage of video is the higher level of connection with the presenter. You can see a face, emotional expressions, the side-jokes, stuff like that. But I think you have a valid point that some content probably works better as text than video.

  • I'd rather watch a video than read anyday. But I'm a video kind of guy. I like shiny picture boxes. I think you should do what your gifted at. If you love doing that and are talented at it…you should make videos. If you loathe writing and don't want to do as much…don't. You'll still have people come and view your site. At least I will.

  • Tim,

    I am on of your subscibers that watches and enjoys all the videos. I for one like the video blogs done by you, SYM, and others. I watch them on my lunch break at the church. Its a way for me to have a productive lunch and learn something. I say keep doing them! But that could just be me being selfish.

    • I'll definitely keep doing them because I really enjoy it. I may not publish them here as often, though, so make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channels to get all the video content if that's what you want.

  • Stephen

    I am not sure if it is right to say that one generation consumes selfishly more than another. We are a people of consumers, just maybe in different ways.

    Also, I wonder if we as people are creating new definitions for "community" and "relationships" that are actually damaging and disillusioning.

    You said,
    "They ask, “What is this going to mean for us?” And the “us” doesn’t necessarily have to be someone they know personally. It can be a para-social relationship, someone they feel like they have a connection with even though they really don’t."

    To me that sounds pretty pathetic, and really no different from the generations that hung Beatles posters on their walls and watched American Band Stand.

    I often wonder if we give into too quickly into "the new ways" a younger generation does things rather than instilling important and basic disciplines. It's not new that the twitter and the method of reducing content-consumption time is becoming preferred yet at the same time it has drastically altered the way students are able to use basic writing skills. New is not always better.

    • Good points, Stephen. In a sense, we all consume selfishly, whether it's for information, entertainment, or even personal connection.

  • Jon

    A couple thoughts on this topic

    1) Video has a set time to its consumption. I cannot watch a video any faster than someone else, but I can read significantly faster, and choose which parts to read and which parts to ignore.

    2) Scripture is written, not visual. Perhaps we ought to be focusing on helping students read more rather than only meeting them at the path of least resistance (video).

    3) Video certainly is ubiquitous, but students interact with as much text as video in any given day.

    4) Video is a passive medium. Text is active. Both have merits, but one danger of video is the danger of continuing the current consumer mindset and amplifying it.

    5) Just because culture is headed a certain direction does not make it right, or the de facto best medium. There's probably a good example in Scripture on this using salt and light.

    6) We do need to "understand the times" like the men of Issachar (i think it was they), but how we engage with the times should be more thoughtfully considered than just jumping into the fastest cultural currents. At some point, if we rely solely on cultural forms of expressing our faith, culture will change too rapidly for us to adapt to every bend in the river.

    There is a difference between relevance and timeliness. Timeliness speaks to life today in timeless ways. Relevance is more concerned with the form of expression than the thought expressed.

    • This is great, Jon. I'm glad you shared your thoughts!

      1) True (unless you hold the play button down half-way down like on the old-school cassette tapes, then it sounds like a chipmunk, remember? haha)

      2) Yeah, totally agree. But I don't think that means we shouldn't engage with online video, as well.

      3) Actually, they may even interact with more text in any given day with Facebook, text messages, books, signs, etc. Text isn't going away and video will not replace it. (I talked more about that in a comment above.)

      4) Video on TV or in the movie theater may be passive, but I'm not sure online video is passive. I'm also not sure I agree that text is always active. It certainly can be (such as our dialog right now), but reading a novel sounds just as passive to me as watching a movie.

      5) Absolutely. I'm not sure I'd put video in that category, but I agree with your statement. Video is just a medium and is totally neutral by itself, no more or less so than text or audio. It's just newer online, that's all.

      6) Totally agree.

      "Relevance is more concerned with the form of expression than the thought expressed" is a pretty pointed statement (not at me personally, but just in general). I don't think it's more concerned about form than thought; I think it's equally as concerned about both for the purpose of trying to communicate the thought well. If that's true, then the message is the still the focus, not the medium.

      • Jon

        In response to 4:

        When reading, the reader HAS to interpret the data in order to observe any significance. If one is truly passive in reading, the page becomes a meaningless image of random shapes (letters). When reading a novel, the reader must imagine the data through his or her interpretive lens. This is why books are generally "better" than their visual counterparts for most people. Books empower the reader to imagine the setting, characters, etc. Movies based on books do that interpretation for the viewer, creating a dissonance between one's preconceptions and the director's own interpretation.

        In video, interpretation is not necessarily a requirement, and is not even a requirement for entertainment. In the above example, by watching Lord of the Rings, for example, the viewer is constricted by the director's accurate, but individual, interpretation. The video becomes cannon to the viewer, and any later reading will be affected by the predetermined rules of interpretation.

        To put it another way, I can never read the twilight books without imagining the movie cast since I watched the movie first. however, when Hunger Games comes out, my interpretation of the setting will be morphed by the movie's description, which, in turn, will affect any future reading of the books.

        For meaning, written words must be acted upon by the reader. This is not necessarily so for viewing.

        • Oh okay, that makes sense. Thanks for clarifying that.

  • Tim,

    I think there may be a misunderstanding going on here. When I read your blog I am thinking of how we are going to reach students. You are sharing with us that the methods that we seem to think are the way to go are simply close to being out of date when it comes to the generation we are trying to reach. Why is it that once we have grown up we seem to forget what it was like when we were kids and our parents did not understand why we carried a cd player around all the time. It appears to me that there are a lot of Student Ministers here suggesting that we not embrace the culture of our students and force them to live in our culture.

    I appreciate what you are sharing and think that there is a lot of benefit to getting ahead of the curve and being there when students are there. Just 3 years ago it was new to put sermons up on a podcast and be able to have them listened to later. However, today if it is not on video are we really listening to those messages?

    I am not! Welcome to church online…

    David Mehrle http://www.davidmehrle.com

  • Shawn_Michael

    Wow! Lots of comments already.

    I wanted to chime in, too. I was one that said lots of the video content was too much for me to consume time-wise. I appreciate you listening and moving forward with your passion and skill at the same time. It's not that I didn't appreciate or even enjoy the videos, it's more that I wasn't able to find the time to watch them all!

    Much love from a little bit further north and east. :)

    • Oh, so that was YOU?! haha j/k Yeah, it's np. This is exactly why the survey is so valuable for me. It helps me make LISM bless you guys better.

  • Yea, oddly enough I'm for more text-based articles too. I think its for the reason you mentioned… that I can skim and tell whether I want to invest my time in reading the whole article (not that I wouldn't read your articles in their entirity.)

    //TC//

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