Balancing Individuality and Mass-Culture in the evolution of Content and it’s Consumers

Rocketboom describes itself as a three minute daily videoblog covering everything from top news stories to quirky internet culture.  alongside peers like Diggnation and BoingBoing, it’s one of a breed of short sharp audiovisual pieces made for peanuts and distributed for free via the internet.

in the emerging AV ecology, these elements stand out principally due to the consistency of their presence…  much internet AV content (the vast majority of YouTube‘s real estate for example) is what the Hollywood movie industry would call ‘nonrecurring phenomenon’ – the one off’s and unpredictable quirks that populate the long tail of internet content… everything from a crying Britney fan to the Star Wars kid.  it’s unfiltered, it’s popularity determined by the wisdom of the crowd.

Rocketboom and it’s peers are different.  they’re consistent in both their presence but also their point of view on what and how they aggregate content, and as such become destinations in themselves.  they’re building fan bases; aggregated audiences of subscribers …and it’s in doing so they are creating a new breed of media brand: a interim format between the long-form (TV) show and YouTube’s clip-culture.

it’s an interim format with dilemmas that in many ways mirror those of it’s principal audience of 16-24s.  a recent report by the future foundation’s nVision describes the contradiction in how this group – on the one hand – consumes and relies on mass culture, but on the other craves individualism and self-expression…

"One of the reasons behind this predilection for
mass culture is that young people have less experience when it comes to
consumption choices; they often use mass market products as a short cut to
quick and easy decisions.  They are also strongly driven by the desire to
fit in with their peers and choosing fashionable mass market products can be an
easy way of doing this.

 

Young consumers are also, conversely (and indeed perversely), keen to be seen
as individuals and consumption is a key way for them to express their
personality … In this context, while mainstream hits will continue to appeal to
young people, they might not always loom as impactfully  they used to do.
Marketing becomes harder, must become more individually focussed as a result."

(source nVision report, March 2008)

the parallels between the Rocketboom format and it’s audiences are startling  …a survey cited in a Guardian article by the recruitment company CareerBuilder
asked employers what
they thought the differences were between workers over and under 30
years old.  the main finding was that younger employees
communicate through technology rather than in person.  the same can be
said of Rocketboom; it’s a format that thrives on the back of the
technology to create and distribute cost-effectively…

both Rocketboom and it’s consumers define their individuality by seeking-out and adopting what’s different before anyone else…  but both – ironically – rely on conformity to mass-cultural rules and the credibility – through shared understanding of meaning – that it brings.  will one inevitably give way to the other?

it’s easy to forget how intertwined content and consumers are…  a generation of digital natives are, by virtue of their media consumption, determining the very nature of the media they consume.  and as this generation grows throughout the population, Rocketboom and it’s present and future peers will find themselves pulled into the mainstream along with them…
 

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