The ultimate video industry overview – Pt.1 The impact of video and the rise of social media


The video industry has come a long way in the past 120+ years and its impact on the world cannot be successfully described in a few words.

Books have been written on the subject, and many more will be in the future, such is the breadth and depth of that impact.

For this article, we will use the term video simply to mean digital moving visual media – the definition that comes to mind most frequently when the term is used.

Today, visual media, especially video, is everywhere and is in almost every part of our lives; it has been integrated so well we do not even think about it – yet this is really still a very new phenomenon, with digital video as we know it today only having been with us, arguably, for less than 20 years.

So with such a rapid explosion of growth in technology and use, what is the state of this multi-billion industry today?

Overview of the video industry

In this series we are discussing the following subjects:

  • A brief history of video
  • The impact of video
  • The rise of social media
  • The impact of video marketing
  • Types of video for business
  • The current direction of the video industry
  • VR and the future

Here in part one, we will tackle the first three of these. The others will follow in parts two and three.


Old school film

A (very) brief history of video

The start of the history of film cannot be pinpointed to an exact date, with inventions such as Horner’s Zoetrope way back in 1834 allowing the presentation still images in rapid succession. However, by 1878 Eadweard Muybridge was managing to take a rapid succession of photographs and displaying them in a viewing machine.

George Eastman created the first celluloid film roll in 1895, and soon after, by 1891 (although dates are a little hazy), the Kinetograph was being publicly demonstrated – the first camera to record movements.

What we do know, of course, is that – as with most things – technology developed rapidly from that point and continues to do so today.

And that each improvement of technology or design in video or visual media heralds a new era of application, creativity, interaction and impact on our modern society.

By the mid-to-late 1990s, just 100 years after the first moving pictures captured by film, commercial digital films were starting to be made – and digitally projected in a limited number of cinema theatres.

Alongside this was the development of personal digital video cameras. These went through a relatively rapid development alongside digital still cameras, which merged with mobile phone technology as far back as the year 2000 with the Sharp J-Phone.

By the beginning of the 2010s, almost every smartphone on the market had an integrated digital camera for still pictures and recording video.

This impact of the video industry on our lives cannot be more obvious that today, in 2020, with billions spent each year on 24 hour rolling news channels, the worldwide cinema industry, live-streaming events, the boom in social media and the fact that almost all of us carry a video camera around with us in our smartphone.

Live video calls are an everyday event, connecting people from across the globe and for many, their first waking moments each day are filled with video – either from their TV or smartphone, as they scroll through various social media platforms.

Social Media video on smartphone

The impact of video

When we refer to the impact of the video industry – let’s put some numbers on it with just one example – YouTube.

There are almost limitless uses for video today – as are the platforms that they can be shown on – but YouTube is by far the most popular video platform on the internet today.

YouTube started in 2005.

Today, YouTube has 1.3 billion users and over 5 billion video views per day, with well over half (65%) of viewers being adults aged 25-54.

1 billion of those views are on mobiles, with the average mobile viewing session lasting over 40 minutes.

300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

So what are people watching?

Keep in mind that this is just YouTube – but it does fairly accurately reflect the general usage of video across the internet.

10 of the most common video types watched on YouTube:

Product review videos
  • Become more popular all the time, a product review is an opportunity not just for an honest appraisal by a customer of a product or service – with video it is a chance for the viewer to see purchase ‘in action’ – being used, commented on and rated. The most popular type of video currently on YouTube
How-to videos
  • How-to videos cover every topic and product available – from make-up to car maintenance to computer software tips. There are many monetised YouTube channels with presenters earning an income from recording and posting these types of videos.
  • The video version of a blog. Often just the presenter talking to the camera, but increasingly integrating graphics, video footage and other professional presenting techniques as they have become available to all.
Gaming videos
  • Computer games are more popular than ever. And so is watching other people play them.
  • Comedy videos are always popular, whether home-produced original content or replays of classic television shows. This is another area where the borders of TV and home-production are blurring and overlapping, as professional quality production values become affordable once a video maker manages to monetise his channel.
Haul videos
  • Similar to product reviews in many ways, haul videos (mainly focussed on beauty products, make-up and fashion) are more about look, appearance and perfection. Often more about ‘look at me’ rather than ‘look at this product’. They are almost always positive and often brand exclusive.
Educational videos
  • These again cover almost every subject imaginable – but with an emphasis on educating and informing about a topic rather than just presenting a glossy overview and an opinion of the subject matter. They are there to provide facts.
Unboxing videos
  • Another video type that blurs boundaries with product reviews, this are videos of customers literally unpacking a newly purchased product for the first time, discussing the packaging as well as the product, giving a first-impression review, often focus on quality and are almost always about a new or just-released product. Very influential on consumer buying decisions.
Q&A videos
  • Presenters answering questions! Once a YouTube presenter has a strong following, they are often bombarded with questions from their loyal followers – about themselves, their interests, their channel. These are sessions attempting to answer these questions and are often a form of fan-loyalty reward.
Collection videos
  • The presenter walks the viewer through a collection that they own, reviewing particular items or favourites. This could be books, cars, music or anything else that has collector potential

It is interesting to see that of the 10 main types of video watched daily on YouTube, almost all of them (arguably, all of them) offer marketing potential for businesses.

Aside from these online creations, many private individuals are filming events that are not subsequently posted online.

    • Family videos
    • Weddings
    • Holidays
    • Parties and events
    • Birthdays
    • Hobbies
    • School events
    • Graduations
    • Homes

…to name just a few examples.

Some of these are done personally, while many people choose to hire a professional to film and produce for them.


The rise of social media

Social media platforms have been prolific since the early 2000s. Although in the beginning there was more emphasis (maybe) on text content, it is no surprise that the rise of social media is intertwined with that of the appearance of digital cameras and digital video.

Today, it is almost impossible to imagine a world without Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Although there were social platforms emerging in the late 1990s, it may surprise you to learn that the first still-in-use ‘modern’ social platform is LinkedIn, which predates Facebook by a year (LinkedIn 2003, Facebook 2004).

YouTube followed along, as we have already mentioned, in 2005.

These were very different creatures to the ones we know and love/loath today, of course; by comparison, the technology for creating, platforming and delivering were still relatively crude. Despite this, they gained traction, followers and evolved.

By 2010 we had Twitter (started in 2006) handling 750 tweets per second, which introduced the world to a stripped-back, simple means of communication, famously limited to 140 characters.

2010 also saw the birth of Instagram, which was the photo-visual version of Twitter. In 2012, Facebook bought out the company for $1 billion.


Social media on smartphone


From 2011 onwards (less than a decade), we have witnessed the birth and evolution of hundreds of social media platforms. In terms of monthly active users, the top platforms today are (in order of 2019 data):

    • Facebook – 2.23 billion
    • YouTube – 1.9 billion
    • WhatsApp – 1.5 billion
    • Messenger – 1.3 billion
    • WeChat – 1.06 billion
    • Instagram – 1 billion
    • QQ – 861 million
    • Tumblr – 642 million
    • Qzone – 632 million
    • TikTok – 500 million
    • Sina Weibo – 392 million
    • Twitter – 335 million
    • Reddit – 330 million
    • Baidu Tieba – 300 million
    • LinkedIn – 294 million
    • Viber – 260 million
    • Snapchat – 225 million
    • Pinterest – 250 million
    • Line – 203 million
    • Telegram – 200 million
    • Medium – 60 million

Many consumers are present across several platforms, as they all offer different services – but that is changing.

Mostly this change is due to two specific causes.

First – platforms are buying each other and merging. Facebook now owns not only Messenger, but Instagram and WhatsApp among others (ie. 3 of the top 4 most used social media platforms).

YouTube is owned by Google.

Second – as demand for video has increased, previously non-video platforms have realised the necessity to offer what is wanted. Twitter (a text platform) now has a huge amount of image and video traffic, and Instagram has video (‘TV channels’) and shops.

Over the next few years we will continue to witness a merging of these different services (noteably video) offered by each platform, as this is ultimately what the consumer is demanding.

A final observation on social media platforms, and their current offerings;

Video is, without a doubt, now the most popular and most demanded content. At the same time, 56% of all videos published in the last year are less than two minutes long.

There are important lessons to be learned here. And we will look at these next.



In part two, of the Ultimate Video Industry Overview, we look at

  • The impact of video marketing
  • Types of video for business
  • The current direction of the video industry


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