It’s been a wild few days for music fans. Not only did Apple and Spotify launch their own standalone music services, but music legends Brian Eno and Rufus Wainwright were involved in a Twitter spat that broke out into full-blown feud. The former made fun of the latter for using a new word “retweettise” which he claimed was making him famous. Meanwhile, Taylor Swift’s testimony in the Harvey Weinstein case dominated the news, leaving very little room for anything else.
Amidst all these controversies, a new Snapchat trend has been making its way around the globe. The app is often described as “the image-sharing app for Gen-Z” and has recently surpassed 500 million monthly active users. While the app is usually associated with funny, animated videos, Snapchat has also started playing with the format and integrating it into their stories.
Is This Just A Trend Or Something More?
Is this just a passing trend or is there more to Snapchat’s experiment with non-animated videos? When creating stories with the new format, you won’t find the traditional short-form videos that you’re used to. Instead, you’ll see extended “features” that can run up to 15 minutes. These stories usually consist of interviews, live performances, and other content that is more conventional.
These longer videos are made for a different audience than the usual Funny or Drama Story. While those are geared toward Gen Z (and really anyone who uses Snapchat), these extended features are designed to be shared to other platforms, not solely confined to a feed on a teen-oriented app.
It’s interesting to see how Snapchat is experimenting with different approaches. With older generations, they might rely on the charm of a cat or dog doing funny things to grab someone’s attention. With Gen Z and millennials, they’re trying to find a way to make video news more accessible and interesting. While this undoubtedly creates a whole new audience for the app, it also requires a bit of a re-branding.
What Do These Extended-Form Videos Mean?
These videos aren’t just a gimmick. According to Snapchat, you’re seeing the future of news consumption. In order to better understand what this means, it’s important to go back to the beginning.
In September of last year, Snapchat launched a standalone app called Spectacles which allowed users to record and share short videos with friends and family. Since then, the company has been rolling out new products and features to enhance the user experience on the app, the most recent of which are the black friday-style filters that they launched earlier this year.
Each of these new products and features was tied to a specific narrative that the company was hoping would draw consumers in and make them keep coming back for more. One of these narratives was that of the “micro-moment”; a seemingly spontaneous, impromptu moment that you might capture on your phone and share with your friends.
As smartphones have evolved and developed the ability to shoot high-quality videos, much of the “journalistic” content that used to be published in print now fits perfectly onto a small screen. This content, often delivered via short-form videos on social media platforms like Twitter, is becoming even more essential as people are now getting their news from elsewhere and in smaller doses.
This is what Snapchat is trying to capitalize on with their new extended-form videos. While a traditional short-form video might consist of a cat doing something hilarious or a funny moment from a stand-up comedy show, an extended-form video could be an in-depth interview with a band, a feature on a famous artist’s lifestyle, or a documentary about a political movement.
The key is that these videos aren’t just about the jokes or the entertaining qualities of the cat or dog. For millennials and Gen Z, these videos need to tell a story in order to be effective as a form of media.
Why Are These Videos More Important Than Ever?
It used to be that if you wanted to be seen as a serious journalist, you had to write a lengthy article or go on a TV talking head to discuss a newsworthy topic. However, with the rise of social media and short-form videos, this distinction is blurring. Anyone with a smartphone and an opinion can now effectively “become a journalist” and cover breaking news or publish an entertaining story about cats and dogs, or whatever else happens to be trending that week.
This is a global trend that extends far beyond the digital realm. In fact, many traditional news publications have started to experiment with shorter-form videos and “lean-journalism”, publishing shorter stories with more videos and animated GIFs to keep up with the times.
The Rise Of The Entertainment Video
It wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted to be considered a serious journalist, you had to report on a compelling story and back it up with evidence. The advent of Photoshop and the explosion of video sharing platforms like YouTube made this kind of storytelling much easier. Today, with video evidence becoming as accessible as a click or a tap, there is no real distinction between news and entertainment anymore.
If you can capture events on video and post them to the internet for everyone to see, why would you write about it? Why should anyone care about your opinion when you can bring entertainment to the masses with a funny video of a cat or dog doing something quirky?
This trend toward entertainment videos is not new. If you think about it, almost every major news publication and TV channel has always catered to different audiences. Sometimes, this meant producing traditional news videos for older audiences while experimenting with more artsy and experimental videos for younger audiences. This is still the case today, although platforms like YouTube make it easier for everyone to access a wider array of content than any one channel could provide.
It was inevitable that the gap between entertainment and news would begin to blur. While the traditional news media still holds a lot of value for informing people about important issues, these days, anyone with a smartphone and an opinion can effectively “become a journalist” and enter the conversation.
The Trend Is Definitely Here To Stay
It’s clear that Snapchat sees the value in these extended-form videos. They have built a business around them, knowing that people want to share these types of videos with their friends. This is evident by the fact that many of these videos get multiple millions of views and generate a great deal of buzz. It also helps that these videos often feature prominent people, an attractive cast, or popular songs, all of which make an interview or concert seem more appealing.
These videos can work well for a number of different stories, so long as you give it your best shot. However, the one thing that these videos cannot do is replace an informed opinion. While it may be entertaining to watch a viral video of a dog doing something funny, if you’re not aware of the issues that this particular breed of dog is facing, then these videos may end up being more harmful than helpful.