First of all, if you want market insights and recooked stats for the next best thing, this article is not for you. This is an outlook from someone with 17+ years of working with computers, video, film, 3D and other cool stuff. Someone young enough to not be obsolete, and old enough to see a pattern to where things are actually going.
I won’t talk about what works but what is going on, and where it might lead.
Still interested? Ok let’s start.
A year with two ongoing issues. The exponential evolution of technology, and the unfolding of the COVID 19 pandemic. Two issues that combined accelerated and already fast phenomenon: Commoditization of video production.
The attention economy became a sort of arms race of inexpensive video production. Fake views at the hands of distribution bots, and an overall numbness of viewers. Audiences who don’t even remember sometimes what they just have watched, or even why.
Technology became way cheaper and accessible. That accesibility sprung a myriad of new “experts”. Gurus that teach over Youtube or Twitch things that are several times plain wrong. People less prepared get access to clients fast. Young people, cheap, delivering content that is sub par, sometimes technically flawed.
There’s a positive side of the coin. An explosion of creative expression. New languages and methods, and new opportunities for people to express themselves. A gateway to a market years ago monopolised by a few. Those who got access to very expensive equipment, out of reach for most of us.
This came at a price. There are lots of professionals now in what is still a very technical field, with no background or technical competences. And they don’t acknowledge their own lack of competence either.
Nowadays there are more broadcasters than listeners. More teachers than students. More Youtubers than viewers. This way, pretty much everyone loses. White noise becomes loud, and well… noisy. Good content gets lost in a world of stimuli, and relevance gets bought by and large.
The industrial side of media gets also resented. Self made generalists rise, and specialists become scarcer. Universities and institutes cannot keep up with tech updates. Career programs become obsolete.
Content trends and cultural pollution
Content creation is becoming more and more dependant on social media algorithms. Big data shapes the cuts, the style, the length and even the topics of content. The social media platforms make money out of your attention. “Engagement” Your attention is interrupted more and more, so the stakes to effectively distract you get higher and higher. Content becomes shorter, poppier, and tends to just create a stimuli instead of actually conveying a message. Just like with climate change, in the cultural world, the side effect of industrial development becomes cultural pollution. There are no right incentives for platforms to award
In the attention economy, it’s easy to succumb to moves that satisfy vanity metrics and a pseudo viral effect. So there’s an explosion of content creators that literally hack your brain, doing videos with no other purpose that keep you watching. If you open any Watch section of Instagram, Tik Tok, or Facebook, you will sooner than later find yourself in a sort of trance, asking “What am I doing watching this?”.
There are oasis though. Crowdfunded channels that work a lot and struggle to create good content with a lot of love. With big enough audiences to become mancipated from the need to follow polluted trends. Experience creators.
It is a job, but the entry point becomes harder and harder, and content creators without an audience are at the very beginning always at the mercy of the platform where they publish.
The lockdown also brought to the table a new specific need. To move to the digital realm events and conversations held before on a physical environment. Travelling and meeting in physical spaces stopped. Meetings are moving into virtual spaces and rooms. Places that more often than not are not suitable for the conversation.
Virtual gets real
The sector that got lots of traction is the immersivity and extended reality sector. Some solutions got more developed than others. The most developed, the solutions aimed to substitute travel. Solutions aimed to bring people closer to places distant, without moving.
Shutterstock not long ago bought Turbosquid. That is quite a gesture of where things are going in creativity and communication. Problems become more complex. Knowledge gaps become wider. To keep up with the exponential development in technology, content can and must grow in complexity, to truly reach originality and quality. Anyone who works in the industry knows how hard and how much work involves making interactive experiences. So content creators have to get ready to study, or do standard stuff.
For someone like me, coming from the very beginning of 3D animation, it sounds like heaven. Being able to share fully the work involved in animation with such a level of detail and presence is outstanding. But what happens to professionals that come from another background?
I started to write this article a while ago, at the beginning of 2021. This week Zuck announced Meta, so the trend becomes highly visibible. Tomorrow’s content will become immersive, interactive, and our mere identities will be further shaped in this metaverse. The future jobs in media will drastically change, and shift into a hybrid of coding meets something else.
Users and products
Creating content must become massive, and it is the time for companies that facilitate this process. This process though create caps in creativity. The programmer thinks a way to create things, that make them simpler to create. And the user learns that way. But the simpler things become, the less control the user has on software. It comes to a point, where we must ask yourselves: are we using the software or is software using us?
The shadow of automation
Another threat for people working on the lower side of the creative scale is the arrival of automation. Video demand to substitute real presence skyrocketed. And all sorts of automation products started to appear. Products that perform tasks once done by real people. A few examples: camera operators for live feeds. Today the job made by a whole crew can be done by only one person. Of course the overall quality suffers, but clients are happier spending less.
The utopia is a world where automation comes to lift the burden of repetitive tasks. A world where we’re free to have time to destine to creative things. Meaningful things. A world devoted to cultural endeavors, since robotics will take over the rest.
Technocrats will say that the digital age of decentralization will solve everything. Everything will find its course, and the magic hand of AI will sort everything out. We better get ready to enjoy ourselves, because we will have idle time, and lots of opportunities. Creative jobs are safe!
It’s a nice tale, but you must ask yourself: how creative is your creative work? Do you really think that you cannot be substituted by a machine, or a machine learning algorithm? Is your layout, your video, your song so unique an fantastic, that you are safe from copy or mimicking?
Or even better. Is there a high demand of creative stuff? Is people willing to pay for your creativity? The truth is, to spend time into creative stuff, there must be a high demand for it. But most of the content demand is repetitive, formulaic, and uninteresting.
If it’s an algorythm to decide what is worthwhile and what isn’t, based on “people’s interest”… are we sure that creative work is safe? Is there a lot of craft into the top 20 pieces of content in Instagram or Tik Tok? Or is it just hype, randomness, candid moments and pure baseline, primordial stimuli? Do you remember what you watched or read 20 minutes ago on your feed?
Clients should be as evolved as the technologies around them. But clients are not machines, they are people, and people have a hard time to keep up. So chances are that automation will only take from creative workers their sense of purpose, and their source of income.
The road to take
A time will come for truck drivers where self driving trucks will become a standard. And when that day come, they better have a plan B. Same advice is sound for creative people.
The best road to take is the least steep. Gradually hold hands with technological development, and improve our own methods and skills. Be mindful of change, of new opportunities, and dive right into them. Not because they are new, but because they will be old sooner than we get to get used to them.
The fight to stay relevant will become more and more difficult, so we better keep up with times.