How do Teenagers Perceive Online Video?

How do Teenagers Perceive Online Video?

Every year I run a survey of my blog readers that really helps me get to know my audience and shapes the direction I go with content, distribution, communication methods, and more. As I was reading through the survey results, I kept seeing a reoccurring theme from older respondents: adults don't like videos as much! No one actually came out said that, but there were many comments about not caring for video content in general. Reasons cited are that they don't have time to watch them, that they prefer content they can skim, and that they have technological limitations (i.e. slow Internet, old computer, mobile devices, etc.).

I have a couple thoughts about their resistance to video, most of which were stirring in my head anyway.

1. Adults 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 the 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 my generation of 30s and up 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 survey indicate this: the number of people in my blog's audience who prefer to consume content via text and audio is down, video is up from 2010's survey.

How do Teenagers Perceive Online Video?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%! In 2002, online video was a $1.5 billion industry. Today it's a $6 billion industry and growing like crazy. On YouTube alone, 35 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 as much as we do 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 that 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 (again, 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. You must invest into the future to stay ahead

How do Teenagers Perceive Online Video?With that said, in 5 years when current high school students are finishing up college and some of them are transitioning into the work place, they may often be more likely to turn to YouTube and social networks 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.

You need to build a presence in your niche's video community before it's imperative to do so. Even if that community mostly doesn't exist yet, it will. Build a video presence, learn the online video space, and increase your skills and knowledge so that when the time comes when your business needs to be on YouTube in order to reach an audience, you will not only already be there, but you'll be ahead of the competition.

4. But my audience's 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. Push into video without annoying your audience

So, if your audience is like mine, continue to publish videos once in a while when they're especially relevant. However, in 2011 I will still continue to push into the online video world by creating both personal and youth worker content on YouTube.

You're welcome

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

*Note from the Publisher - Vote for Tim & show some 'Reel' support!

We'd like your HELP. Tim Schmoyer (author of this article) has entered the YouTube Next-Up competition and is in the semi-finals (congrats Tim) against some tough competition. Please show your support & vote for him so he may have a chance to pursue his dream of creating online video full-time. After you watch his video entry (below), please give him a thumbs up vote here ► http://www.youtube.com/creators?x=nextup_n8kzQI2C_Qk

About Our Contributing Author - Tim Schmoyer
Tim Schmoyer blogs at Life In Student Ministry where he often shares what he's learning about online video as a communication and engagement tool. You can see some of his videos on his YouTube Vlog Channel and his new Youth Questions Channel.



Please Note: Opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributing author and not necessarily that of

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What do you think? ▼
  • http://mainspring.tv MainSpring Video

    Interesting article. We agree that "online video consumption is based on a perceived social connection." It's much easier to connect to a moving picture than text for sure. To teenagers now who've grown up with these things their whole lives, it will probably be an integral part of their lives for the rest of their lives. Their brains are wired that way. I don't think it will put text out to pasture by any means, but maybe more integration will be a part of the future. (Internet contact lenses. That's what I'm talkin' about.)

    • http://timschmoyer.com/ Tim Schmoyer

      Yeah, text isn't going away. It's been around for milleniums in one form or another. It has a pretty solid track record. But that doesn't mean that other forms of communication and connection don't come in, too. Text will always be necessary, but a new world of online video and social connection is becoming just as necessary.

  • http://www.reelseo.com/author/grantastic/ Grant Crowell

    Hey Tim, I'm interested to hear your thoughts on pastor/author/performer Rob Bell with his book "Love Wins" and his video series. I'm reviewing it's relationship to social video marketing in the new evangelical community (especially younger crowds more receptive and engaged in social media and video online).

    • http://timschmoyer.com/ Tim Schmoyer

      I've been too preoccupied with other things to really see what's going on with that whole debate. Personally, I feel my time is better invested elsewhere than trying to figure out what Rob Bell says/writes/thinks.