We appear to have two data points related to online video that are worth paying attention to. Number one: According to the BBC, Nielsen says that traffic to some online video sites has doubled since the Hollywood writers’ strike in October turned the TV into a wasteland of reruns and unfunny late-night talk shows (although it may be stretching things to call the Nielsen figure a data point, since I can’t find a report that has those numbers in it).
The second data point is a report from the Pew Internet Research project, a reliable and independent research group, indicates that almost 50 per cent of those surveyed had been to video-sharing sites such as YouTube (up from 38 per cent last year) and daily traffic to such sites has doubled in the past year. The number of people who said they had been to such a site within a day of being asked almost doubled to 15 per cent.
Ever since the strike began, there has been a debate about how much of a benefit online video might get as the fresh content on television became more and more scarce. Some have argued that most online video is crap, and therefore the boost would likely be minimal. Others argue that much of what is on TV is also crap, although the production values might be slightly higher, and that the strike might help to push some content creators to remake the industry in Silicon Valley’s image.
I don’t know where things will end up, but I do know one thing: I am hearing from more and more “average” people — i.e., not geeks — that they are watching more video online, and that they are finding things there they can’t on television (and some they can). The writers’ strike may be one of the forces that are pushing people to do that, but it’s not the only one. Increasingly, the boundaries between TV and online are blurring.