If you really want to understand the massive impact that online video is only beginning to bring to the media industry, it's important to go right to the prime audience - the teens that are not only consuming online entertainment, but creating it as well.
18 year-old Noah is a freshman in college. He's both an enthusiastic member of the vlogging audience, and an occasional vlogger himself (he's Knowahsark on YouTube). In many ways he's typical of the more media savvy of his generation. Like many of his friends, he's found YouTube content more attractive than typical television fare. He's also a new perspective that's likely keeping traditional media executives awake at night.
"I definitely think YouTube videos / online media is more appealing," he says, "and that might have to do with growing up with the internet, around the internet. I mean I've been online, on MySpace and Zynga, those sort of things since 5th grade. And so I think that might play a part, but I think just seeing what other people can create without...big television networks and crews and that sort of thing - people can create their own content, which I find just as, if not more entertaining than what's on TV. For instance, like, I've been watching the VlogBrothers for years now (which sounds really weird to say). I just find it so much more engaging and interactive and you feel more a part of it, I guess."
While traditional media outlets (and individuals) continue to experiment with web-series and bonus content, true connectivity - the kind that Noah's generation demands - remains the domain of his peers. Trying to fit old media programming into a new media package is proving impractical. Though he hasn't yet met any of his vlogging friends "in real life," he connects on a regular basis with friends worldwide using social media tools - Twitter, Facebook and Skype. It's not possible - or practical - to connect with mainstream media creators, nor easy to interact, "You know, it's not like you can leave comments right there on your favorite TV show you're watching. At least it's not as easy. I suppose you could write letters," he jokes.
He first became aware of vlogging during "Vlog Every Day April" (VEDA), a yearly tradition of sorts in which vloggers attempt to vlog throughout the month as a effort to help popularize their work. Noah discovered Neriman, one of YouTube's top vloggers, during the campaign, and through him discovered the vlogging community.
"It kind of amazed me that there was such an extensive community behind all this. Prior to that, I'd only watching Smosh, by friends showing me a video, or Daxflame."
Seeing the fun that the vloggers seemed to be having - and their social interaction, Noah began vlogging.
Perhaps one of the trickiest challenges for professional media creators in attempting to create online content is to comprehend the nature of online content. The reality will continue to both intrigue and frustrate many of my colleagues. Noah explains, "The vlogs that I'm attracted to are the ones that feel more home-grown. The ones where it's just another person with a camera there just talking to you. I've actually been kind of turned off lately by some of the larger scale channels, where it's feeling too much of a production."
Noah mentions top vlogger Charlie McDonnell, Charlieissocoollike on YouTube - as an example of someone who's doing it right.
"I would say he's probably the best of example of someone who has gotten to the high pedestal he's on in terms of YouTube, but still managed to make his videos feel like they are just a kid at home talking to his computer, even though he does so much more than that now."
Noah's perspecitve, I believe, is further proof that online video isn't simply an extension of what already exists - it's a whole different animal.