Here’s What Industry Experts Think Online Video Looks Like in 2020

Those with intimate knowledge of the industry offer their predictions for the year ahead

Image: Chris Stokel-Walker

All things told, 2019 was a weird year for online video. YouTube struggled to combat more negative headlines, but continued to grow apace. TikTok came from nowhere to be on the tip of all our tongues, thanks to the thronged fans descending on VidCon. And Twitch has recognized there is competition in the game streaming space, thanks to months of big-money deals for gaming’s biggest talent, kicked off by Ninja.

2020 is likely to be even more bizarre, and — thanks to a newly-invigorated media that is starting to acknowledge online video can’t be ignored — will be even more under the microscope in the coming 12 months than the last.

Here’s what a handful of experts in front of and behind the camera in the world of online video think the next year holds.

I think the most important thing people can do is build their brand beyond any platform and take ownership of the traffic instead of just giving that gift to these platforms.

Traffic is the product that the platforms are selling to advertisers, but creators are not taking full advantage of this and not building a way to have direct access to their community. If you don’t own your traffic, if you don’t own the access, you don’t own your business. You’re building your empire on rented land.

Be platform agnostic and be everywhere if you can, but also build your own email list and website where you can control and distribute content on your own terms. Build your own products and don’t rely on the platforms for a paycheck.

Stop investing everything in building a platform you don’t own. A business you don’t own.

I think a top tier of YouTube creators may well start to sit back, give themselves a bit of a break and look for other opportunities to diversify.

This is due to a myriad of reasons including an ever-changing platform, mental health but also because they’re growing up and may want to try new things.

2020 will be a year of great disruption. Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok will make game changing announcements in digital video. Apple, ViacomCBS, NBC, Verizon and AT&T will also make big waves. Quibi will launch.

But YouTube will still be eating everyone’s lunch, and laughing all the way to the bank.

One of the fascinating trends we’ve seen in 2019 is self-directed, community conscious movements from within the creator ecosystem on YouTube. The incredible Team Trees campaign, that just hit its goal of planting 20 million trees by January 2020, highlights the power of YouTube creators to come together, raise awareness of social and environmental issues, and create change.

This campaign was creator-led, rather than starting with YouTube or a charitable institution first. This shows the self-directed nature and ethical consciousness of the creative community. Hopefully 2020 will dispel some of the critical press attention and break some negative stereotypes of influencers. These poeple are generally creative entrepreneurs, who tend to care about the world around them and want to have a positive impact.

I think some of the trends we’ve been seeing this year have included major songs getting to the top of the chart.

We’ve seen that with ‘Old Town Road’, we’ve seen that with ‘Ride It’, which was a huge number one. We’ve seen it with older songs — whether it’s with Mariah Carey or other people — where older songs have become huge again thanks to TikTok. So we fully expect that trend to continue.

2020 is likely to be a challenging year for the regulators as technology speeds ahead of the existing rules and guidance. The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been keeping an eye on the major platforms and their role in supporting transparency in influencer marketing but, with new methods for monetising content appearing with each evolving platform, both the CMA and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) may need to take a firm line on practises that target more vulnerable consumers.

TikTok, with its large youth audience, will continue to face scrutiny for some of the techniques used by influencers to encourage payment for example shoutouts and video appearances. The rise of virtual influencers will bring more nuanced transparency and disclosure issues to the fore but the recently created Virtual Influencer Practitioners Association and their evolving Code of Ethics seeks to address those concerns and provide a strong ethical standard for the industry to follow.

I think we’re headed for another bumpy year on social media.

There are signs everywhere that Big Tech has shifted priorities. They’ve already maxed out on user adoption and screen time, and now they’re wrestling with ethical issues about what kind of world they’re making. So in areas where it’s convenient for them, we’ll see more and more feature changes and policy enforcement where now they’ll act like Big Mom. Some examples so far: Instagram hiding Likes; Twitter moving followers and shrinking the font; YouTube rounding the subscriber count to nearest thousand; YouTube changing their harassment policy to now appoint their outsourced content reviewers as judges of bullying versus satire.

Big Tech acting concerned for their users’ “quality of life” comes from a good place (kinda), but it’s also dripping in their executive’s self-importance, self-back-patting, and virtue-signaling. So the roll outs on these changes will continue to be messy: the platforms will keep trampling all over what their communities actually want, remove features we use daily, and ban popular accounts, all the while congratulating themselves for hitting the milestones of their new “initiatives”, I’m sure.

Plus on top of this Big Mom movement, a lot of what these companies have been doing seems to grow out of an anxiety about their impact on U.S. elections. And it sure looks like we’ve got a nasty one of those ahead of us.

2020 is going to be the year that mobile video content begins to truly dominate all other forms of content from printed books and magazines to laptops and TVs. The cell phone will start to influence purchasing behavior in a way we’ve never seen before as artificial intelligence becomes highly integrated into phone apps.

By the end of 2020, we see kids or family creators embracing two or three additional video platforms (beyond YouTube) to drive their functionality (community, engagement) and monetization. Family creators begin to realise that YouTube’s demonetization was a misrepresentation of advertising economics: kids’ advertising budgets weren’t disappearing, they were simply moving to new (contextually driven) kidtech platforms.

In Europe, YouTube faces a similar kids digital privacy action under GDPR-K and is forced to increase the threshold of its child-directed content from under-13 to under-16. This starts to impact a huge number of games-focused creators, forcing YouTube to consider its entire architecture and consider building a contextual-only model.

Other than the rise of TikTok which did an incredible job and is truly having its moment as a platform, I believe content producers, creators, and brands have really honed in this year on how to produce great content specific to each platform, as opposed to a few years ago where a creator would pick only one main channel to go down. To stand out and cut through the noise, creators understand they need to be anywhere and everywhere across platforms.

Everything comes full circle and the Vine days are back but better with platforms like TikTok and Triller. Short form is definitely having its moment again.

But you can’t sleep on compelling long form content, particularly from a creator’s point of view. Shane Dawson and Jefree Star proved with their series around Shane’s beauty launch, that while overall attention spans are shrinking, compelling long form content from creators is in demand and I think we will see more of this next year.

FFWD

Getting you up to speed with the world of online video

Chris Stokel-Walker

Written by

UK-based freelancer for The Guardian, The Economist, BuzzFeed News, the BBC and more. Tell me your story, or get me to write for you: stokel@gmail.com

FFWD

FFWD

Getting you up to speed with the world of online video

Chris Stokel-Walker

Written by

UK-based freelancer for The Guardian, The Economist, BuzzFeed News, the BBC and more. Tell me your story, or get me to write for you: stokel@gmail.com

FFWD

FFWD

Getting you up to speed with the world of online video

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