And, again – the Internet is a Video Machine (this time with honors)

And, again – the Internet is a Video Machine (this time with honors)

And, again – the Internet is a Video Machine (this time with honors)

In my previous post, I argued that the internet is a video machine, and that most of the traffic on the internet is made up of video (as opposed to text). I didn’t think that this would generate as many responses as it did, since it’s not really news – I would date the understanding that the internet is a video machine to about seven years ago, around 2006. But it was specifically as a result of my post that I received numerous responses, and even counter-arguments. For example, it was argued that the data came from the United States, and we should not be so certain that it is true of Israel. Another argument was particularly weighty: my post compared traffic data, but this is misleading, since video files are significantly larger than text files. The number of bits used for even a short video clip, could be used to transmit all the articles that we read in a whole week! And so the comparison was out of place.

I am very grateful for this comment, because it forced me to think a little more, and to dig deeper into the numbers (and so this post will be data-heavy). I certainly agree that the principal merchandise made available through the internet is not bits, but rather attention. Instead of counting the number of bits moving from one end of the world to the other, perhaps it would be better if someone were to count the level of attention – to the words, pictures, and videos created from these bits. The bits themselves are not the appropriate unit of measure for attention. It would be better to measure minutes and seconds! After all, it only takes a second to “Like” a densely-packed video file, while a single internet page (such as the one you are reading, for example), takes several minutes, or maybe even hours, of concentration to absorb.

Would that minutes and seconds of attention were counted! But, I discovered that there is someone who counts them. In Israel. Actually, a number of them.

First, since January this year, an Internet Ranking Committee (operating in cooperation with the Israel Internet Association) has begun measuring the viewing levels for video content on participating sites. The measurement is based on viewing data from the dedicated players on the various sites. In addition to the actual measurements, the data also makes use of a survey distributed among a panel of users, numbering 30,000 respondents, which allows the committee to provide complementary demographic statistics.

According to the data obtained, the average Israeli watches three and a half hours of online video each month. True, this doesn’t even come close to the amount of regular web surfing, which stands at four and a half hours per day, or over 100 hours per month. And this doesn’t take into account the hours that we spend in front of the television, which is not a negligible amount, according to data from a different ratings committee, which makes use of a Nielsen-style “people meter.”

Wait on, what do you mean? Are we spending all day just reading and viewing? Isn’t there anyone who works in this country? How does the data fit together? Well, I have no argument with the fact that we watch less video than our total web surfing time, because if the average web user spends three and a half hours a month watching video, to me that’s a nice level for media. Especially when about ten percent of the videos that people watch in Israel are the work of other users (and not of commercial stations).

There was something more interesting in the comparison between the level of viewing movies on the internet, as opposed to television. The survey by the video ratings committee was done using the viewing software, and it reported on individual viewing data, which I believe to be reliable. On the other hand, the data regarding television viewership generally talks of “households.” But this term is actually a “trick,” says Oren Tocatly, who was chairman of the Israeli Television Ratings Committee over its first decade of existence (article in The Seventh Eye) . Another article, by Hanoch Marmari, editor of The Seventh Eye, claims that this is actually good news: perhaps, after all, we haven’t yet become a “Big Brother” nation.

Television suffered another blow from another recent survey (very recent, actually – in June), carried out by Google, who are constantly pushing the issue of video (and I have no connection with them). TheMarker titled its report of the survey thus: “For the first time: Content consumers are web surfing more at the expense of television and newspapers.” Not only does Google’s survey show that web surfing comes instead of – not in addition to – prime-time viewing – but it turns out from the survey that the average Israeli watches only two hours of television per day. The most interesting aspect of Google’s survey, in my view, is this: that 15% of young people (aged 18-29) don’t watch television at all. Note well: all of the video that these people see comes from the internet. This phenomenon is called “cutting the cord” or “cutting the cable” (the reference is to cable television); the bulk of those individuals are women, and 58% report that their income is below average. To me this is significant, and I was thinking about the “cord-cutters” when I referred to the power of video on the internet. It may be that this was the intention of former minister Moshe Kahlon, with his initiative of free Idan+ digital converter boxes – which perhaps may leave some people connected to television for a few more years. When I look at my parents watching television, I see a “captive” audience. In the same way, we might say that  there is also a young, “liberated” audience. It’s there, I feel, that something different is taking place.

P.S. Perhaps now you’ll understand how I became an illustrator: In simply have to explain everything down to the last detail. Thank you for your attention.