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!

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

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