[The Future is Now] Technology makes being an entertainer easier than ever: Streaming on social media lets everyone be a content creator

Oct 24,2018
Born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s, people in Generation Z watched TV and went to the movie theaters when they were younger, but many of them look back on those forms of entertainment with nostalgia. All grown up and always carrying a smartphone in hand, they are never far from something fun to watch or even creating content for their very own audience.

As internet platforms eagerly roll out new services that allow for the users to post their own videos, both live and recorded, the distance between video consumers and creators is shorter than ever before. In the early days, the online video space was dominated by a limited number of people who had access to high-end video equipment and experience producing and editing professional-grade content. But in recent years, thanks to advances in technology and a boom in interest from people of all ages and from all backgrounds, anyone who has access to the internet and a smartphone can make content of their own and find an audience through social media.

Thanks to new services that are easier to access and handle, such as the recently launched IGTV app from Instagram and the live streaming function offered by Facebook, a new era for content creation and consumption where everyone is a creator has begun.

From TV to smartphones

YouTubers and internet broadcasters have been around for years, even before people were as familiar with online content as they are now. J.Fla, Korea’s no. 1 YouTuber with over 90 million followers on her channel for example, started uploading videos of herself singing in 2011. It took her eight years to earn the most subscribers of the 10,000 channels from Korea. It is said that the top 100 YouTubers make millions, if not billions of won each year.

The idea of live streaming isn’t particularly new either. In fact, internet live streaming services were available through sites such as Periscope and Meerkat in the United States and AfreecaTV in Korea years before YouTube began to get serious about it in late 2015. Though new channels pop up everyday with all sorts of mediums and contents, not everyone garners the attention they wish they would. The difficulty of building an audience is a barrier to entry for many.

This is where the new wave of content creation kicked in. In the past, the typical process was to create something you want the people will like, then upload it in the hopes that it would find its audience and that they would support you. Now, video streaming services on social media platforms make it possible for people to start off with a steady fan base of friends and followers who will “like” your content because they like you.

Messaging app Snapchat led the way in 2011 with its in-the-moment sharing function. It was followed by Twitter, which acquired live streaming app Periscope in 2014, then Facebook which rolled out Facebook Live in August 2016. That was the year of live streaming on social media. After the explosion of Facebook Live, YouTube launched live streaming on mobile devices and blogging service Tumblr launched its own live streaming function.

The biggest breakthrough of the year, however, was the launch of Instagram’s Stories function. In August 2016, Instagram - which Facebook acquired in 2012 - allowed users to create photograph and video sequences that disappeared in 24 hours. Initially, you could post a 15-second video that your friends and followers could see. That’s been extended to 60 seconds now, and over 400 million users create their own Stories everyday.

“Today’s young people, who are commonly referred to as Generation Z, grew up taking in content in many different forms,” said Professor Park Gi-soo from the Department of Digital Culture and Contents at Hanyang University. “From just a handful of channels on TV to cable channels and eventually smartphones, they’ve seen their options grow. The more options, the more diversified the content has become, meeting the specific tastes that people have. Just as they’ve seen people coming up with fresh content, the idea of creating something for themselves has also opened up for them.”

Video content has been available through many different platforms such as YouTube, top. But video streaming on social media such as Instagram’s recently launched IGTV, top right, and Facebook, above, has started a new trend in content sharing. [SCREEN CAPTURE]
TV on the go

Instagram released another groundbreaking service this June with its new app, IGTV. The service aims to set itself apart from other streaming video providers. Setting it apart from its competitors are two factors: The videos are meant to be watched vertically, and the videos automatically play as soon as you click on the IGTV icon on Instagram.

Most video content platforms, namely YouTube and AfreecaTV, play videos horizontally, requiring users to physically turn their smartphones in order to watch the content in full screen. The vertical display is “built for how you actually use your phone,” according to Kevin Systrom, co-founder and former CEO of Instagram at the product’s launch in San Francisco. “Just like turning on the TV, IGTV starts playing as soon as you open the app. You don’t have to search to start watching content from people you already follow on Instagram and others you might like based on your interests.”

Compared to the minute-long videos found in the Stories function or in your Instagram feed, IGTV allows videos that are up to an hour long to be uploaded by accounts with more than 10,000 followers. Anyone else can upload videos up to 10 minutes long. American technology company Cisco predicted that “78 percent of all mobile traffic will be video transmissions” in its Mobile Visual Networking Index for 2017. If this is the case, the leaps made by content platforms to expand their video offerings comes as no surprise.

According to Professor Park, the transition people have made from being a part of the audience to video services becoming a place for everyone to join in on creation is the key to the future of video content.

“Contrary to how people used to cheer for what others have made for them, the new culture allows for them to become the main character,” said Park. “It’s a playground of mutual understanding, where I can not only watch what others have created, but where I can also make what I want. It’s one of the reasons why [idol group] BTS is so popular these days - because the way they communicate with their fans through social media allows them to share the experience together.”

Joining in on the fun

Just a few years ago, children dreamed of becoming a celebrity or a movie star that they saw on TV or on the big screen. However, nowadays the dream job of most elementary school students is to become a successful creator like who they see on the internet.

“So many of my students tell me that they want to become a creator,” said Kim Young-won, an elementary school teacher who teaches third grade students in Dongtan, Gyeonggi. “They stay in school after the lessons are over, filming their own videos together. It’s usually things like playing with slime, or ‘Doing something without the teacher knowing,’ except I know. They film it together, upload it and tell the other students to ‘like’ it and post a comment.”

According to the Pew Research Center, Korea has the highest percentage of smartphone ownership in the world, with a whopping 94 percent of adults who owned at least one smartphone in 2017. This vast number represents the number of contents that can be created in the future, as explained by culture critic Kim Bong-seok.

“The realm of art and culture is something that is enjoyed by everyone,” said Kim. “People have long enjoyed personal hobbies and cultural experiences. But now, it has become possible for people to communicate things that they have previously only enjoyed by themselves with a greater audience.”

The vertical video screen on IGTV doesn’t mean that all videos will be created based on that proportion from now on, according to Kim. “Vertical videos are innovative at the moment, but that’s because the dominant means of watching videos right now is through smartphones. If in the future they come up with folding screens or wide-screen holograms, then the videos will go back to being horizontal. The human visual field is more used to the horizontal view, anyway.”

BY YOON SO-YEON [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]

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