“I feel like a lot of social media nowadays, they’re trying to one-up their competition. We like social media because they’re different from one another, and if they’re being too similar to one another, we’re gonna delete those apps because the features are already there in another app.” - An anonymous teen to Digiday
The irony that is slowly emerging is that while new platforms don’t really appear to be emerging the ones that do exists are increasingly copying and lifting from each other. Instagram stole from Snapchat. YouTube burrows from Twitch. Facebook attempt to become the next YouTube. Facebook and Whatsapp start to appear more like Instagram. YouTube continues to burrow from Twitch. Instagram tries to go after YouTube. The result is that what were once unique platform for in this case photo and video sharing are melting into one app whose goal is just to keep you watch as much as content as possible. Instead of sharing a photo, it’s uploading minutes of video from your life, so what was once passive increasingly become engaged.
“If you were nine or ten years ago on YouTube it was very easy [and] if you were on there blogging it was easier to generate an audience because there wasn’t that much stuff on there” said Taylor Lorenz, a staff writer The Atlantic that is always on the pulse of internet trends, earlier this month on the phone. This point struck me in our conversation, because not only are these platforms using the same ideas, but sheer number of users makes it harder to stand out among the rest. The more people who try and more competition grows and the harder it is to survive. That’s why these creators flocked to Twitch, where a small but dedicated audience can allow for a slightly more sustainable business model than the constant need for scale of YouTube. That’s what I imagine drives some labels to offer subscriptions is for the same reason, it’s understanding that the streaming model isn’t built for them and instead opting for business ideas that can work on a slightly smaller, but not quite silo’d off way.
That’s why I always think about each of these different platforms in the quasi-chart I listed above. Not only is the competition on each of these platforms so much higher, but the ability to stand out on one is also that much harder. It’s why when I read about YouTube adding channel specific subscriptions it sounded great, because one of the biggest platforms finally trying to figure out ways for their platform to encourage fandom not scale. I halfway expect Drake to start an OVO YouTube page on Friday and just say actually my album is here for a $5 a month sub and more content will keep coming and forget about Apple Music. Of course that won’t happen, but every week I’m going to start asking why some artists don’t say fuck it and just do that.
That’s what intrigues me so much about these changes and shift for music is because these are shifts in a way that aren’t towards bigness, but rather intimacy. That’s why I’ll close one one last thing Lorenz said on our call, because I think it captures just how in the matrix we’re all at this point: “People were looking for content, nobody these days is looking for content, content comes to them.”