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Viral Video: More Than Meets The Eye?

Consumers’ love of looping, short-form videos has rocketed companies like Vine to prominence, but can they really offer more than a quick laugh to consumers?

Coub,  a Russian tech startup, believes that the popularity of viral looping images represents a growing Web movement towards user-generated content becoming as popular a choice among online audiences as programming from major entertainment companies.

The two-year-old company’s belief is supported by the numbers: 50 million website visitors per month are browsing and creating “immersive interaction” videos or “Coubs”.  Coubs are compilations of original or linked-to images and video set to a customized soundtrack created entirely by the viewing audience.

The company, unlike Vine, allows the addition of linked-to or original soundtracks to video and image mashups and is entirely web-based.

Cute Cats or Consciousness Raising?

While viral videos have become synonymous with cute babies and celebrity rants, some researchers such as Dan Wieneke of Northeastern University, believe that they will eventually lead to open-access platforms for independent news and new art forms.

“Looping gifs and video are like Twitter for visual content–they are tools for open expression,” said Anton Gladkoborodov, CEO and Founder of Coub.

Gladkoborodov believes that as consumers explore free, web-based content creation traditional entertainment producers will move to give consumers more video and image content to repurpose, edit and promote.

The company is currently working with a music label to use original releases on Coub video.

Rethinking Video and Audience

Some tech entrepreneurs, such as Cheezburger Network’s Ben Huh, believe that the brands which power free video content on the Web with their ads are beginning to see a marked shift in the digital ecosystem.

Huh believes that companies are beginning to realize that consumers’ desire to build, share and promote their own content right alongside branded videos and TV programming is just as valuable as advertising.

“This is a brave new world for brands,” Huh stated in an earlier interview at the Incite West Summit. We’re expecting them to cede control of their message to users who will twist it to their own ends. They’re pretty risky moves for the more conservative-minded businesses out there.”

Function Follows Form

“People always talk about new ways of creating visual communication, but none of this is new, it’s been happening since cavemen were drawing on their walls,” said Coub marketing director Anastasia Popova.

Consumers are perfectly capable of communicating content interests, brand affinities and social alliances when given the tools, Popova stated.

Generating More than Laughs

Some brands are now looking at new formats for ways to reach consumers, even as consumers become more addicted to creating and sharing their own content.

Some of the difficulty of promoting these image and video hybrids as anything other than comedy-driven entertainment lies in many consumers’ and creatives’ lack of familiarity about the possibilities of the format. The industry’s challenge is to convince consumers and brands that short-form videos are worth their long-term interest.

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