September 22, 2021

The future of video is in pieces

As 4G ushered in a new era of mobile content consumption and creation, the rise of video traffic has been one of the biggest challenges for mobile operators. Some operators have seen 17-fold increases in traffic volumes in the last five years alone, with video currently accounting for more than two-thirds of this. 

Mobile network equipment manufacturer, Ericsson, reports that this is only set to increase with 5G, and that the global average data consumption will rise from today’s 10GB per month to 35GB per month in just five years.

35GB is equivalent to 11 hours of continuous HD YouTube streaming, or if you watch Netflix on the “auto” quality setting (which uses their clever adaptive bit rate technology to balance data consumption with quality) then that could be up to 35 hours of Netflix binging.

Beyond catching up with your favourite shows or sharing a movie with friends, video content has found its way into many other aspects of our lives, including training, meetings, coaching, business operations, security, marketing and more. 

Yet alongside the video explosion we see other trends such as the continued growth of podcasts and audio social networking like Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces.

As a Clubhouse user and a YouTube creator there’s a couple of things I’ve discovered that give me a view of these trends and the coming years.

First, Clubhouse – an audio only social networking app that is built around rooms of people discussing topics in real time – seems like a step away from on-demand audio content such as podcasts or streaming platforms like Spotify, back towards more of a broadcast radio model. Personally, I’m not a fan of that, because I’m simply not going to stay up all night to take part in a California based tech discussions, no matter how interesting, and if I miss a session I can’t catchup because there’s no replay. However, with this objection comes opportunity that I’ll touch on below.

Second, YouTube – short videos are preferred much more than longer videos. The average duration people watch longer videos is typically less than eight minutes.

With these two comments as a starting point, I want to take you on a short journey into the future, but before I do, I need to share a few other observations that will help frame the picture:

The Fallacy of Increased Productivity from Video Meetings

During the various lockdowns there has been a false sense of increased productivity. How often have you said, or been told “We’re so much more productive now we don’t need to commute or take long trips to visit clients”?

I guess you heard that more frequently at the beginning of the lockdowns than now? This increased productivity gain was false, because those time we used to spend away from the desk, traveling, moving around offices bumping to people, going to get lunch turned out to be incredibly valuable and productive in their own ways.

One of the points of fatigue is the barrage of back-to-back video meetings. With nowhere to go when finishing one meeting and another, many of us struggled to digest the previous meeting or use the time between to move along other projects before having to apply 100% of our attention back in another video call.

The lack of asynchronicity of these video meeting marathons creates stress and reduces productivity, and has led to the emergence of automated video meeting transcriptions and highlighting, from companies like Chorus.ai.

A new audio boom market

Clubhouse created a lot of buzz, and a year after the first private invites were issues, it is still growing through a limited referral basis. Nevertheless, this is creating a new ecosystem of tech. 

If one aligns traditional social network monetisation models against a new breed of audio only platforms, you can start to spot holes in the market. For example, if the audio content is not audio transcribed in real-time, how are advertising networks going to provide real-time bidding on ad placements?

The branch of AI used for understanding the spoken or written word, known as Natural Language Processing (NLP), has boomed in the last few years thanks to smart speaker and assistants like Amazon Echo, Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana. Sit this alongside a new need for mass, real-time understanding of audio only networks and there’s a clear opportunity.

So where is this going?

It seems we’re all too busy to consume long content, and when we do, we simply can’t absorb, process or act on it. We need shorter, more relevant content that we can consume asynchronously, based on our interest and need.

Instead of combing through hours of meeting recordings, training videos, YouTube content, webinars, or podcasts to find the thing you need, what if we could create custom playlists of snippets from many different video and audio sources?

Using image processing and NLP technologies, it is possible to automatically split video and audio content into chunks that focus on specific topics. These chunks could be put into your very own playlist, containing information from different sources and allowing you to cut out the waffle, and focus on the content you need, when you need it.

Indeed, the rise of popularity in auto-curated short-form video such as TikTok, Instagram Reels or YouTube Shorts shows that highly relevant, shorter videos have tremendous power to engage, excite and educate.

Applying Dynamic Thematic Audio and Video Playlists

Automatically curated playlists of audio or video content around specific themes could be used in many novel applications.

Corporate Training

I’ve spent a lot of time in corporate compliance training sessions learning stuff that I have to assert that I will remember and apply as and when needed. The trouble is, in the unlikely event I think I might need it, I’ve forgotten. Instead of combing through hours of potential training videos, with dynamic themed A/V playlists, I could simply be presented with the snippets that are most relevant to the scenario.

Coaching and Lifestyle

The pandemic saw the number health, fitness and wellbeing apps skyrocket. Some of us have stuck to some of these, but most have been tried, tested and forgotten. A new breed of wellness and wellbeing product could emerge from these technologies, helping create better long-term motivation and engagement.

Meeting Management

How often have been in a meeting and tried to remember something someone said on this topic in a previous meeting? You know it was relevant, but you can’t remember what it was exactly, and who said it? Probably quite a lot.

Also, at the end of the month you’re trying to decipher your meeting notes to work out what’s happened on the project, who did what, where the key decisions were made and whether you’ve missed an action or opportunity. This probably is also a familiar problem.

Dynamic Themed A/V playlists of recorded video or audio meetings would help immensely here too.

Industry Events and Webinars

I simply can’t attend all the webinars and events that I’d like to - there’s just not enough hours in the month. Likewise, the chances of me finding the time to watch the entire recording after the event are slim too. If I do, I’ll skim through them, most likely missing things that are actually important. 

What I want to do is watch only the highlights across the last month’s events that pertain to my current topic of interest. When my current topic of interest changes, I want to be able to find ‘new’ content from these sources again.

Not only is something like this going to be useful for the attendee, but the insights that could be gathered from which sections, themes and topics are of most interest could be very valuable to the creators, presenters and organisers too.

Let’s Work on Some Highlights Together

The power of these ideas will go beyond YouTube playlists, and will extend across all forms of content from various platforms and providers. Some will be public, some will not.

Key to the success of these new use cases will be powerful, quick and seamless user experiences that deliver the right content at the right time.

We are confident in this direction. Why? Well, simply because we’ve already worked on projects like this. If you are heading in this direction, get in touch to see how our experience can help you.

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