What is “Chronic Video”?

What is Chronic Video?

I can tell you this: it’s not viral video.

‘Viral video’ is a term that’s come to mean anything from an America’s Funniest Home Videos style clip with tens of millions of views, to a comedy sketch featuring an SNL celebrity, to any digital work an ad agency is trying to sell to its client. It is an umbrella term that has come to mean anything and everything; thus, it means nothing.

‘Viral’ originally meant it starts small, and then it blows up. It hits a certain tipping point and its views increase exponentially. It makes the rounds from family and friends much in the same way a literal virus would.

Thus: If it doesn’t blow up exponentially, it’s not really viral. If it doesn’t start small (i.e. if it starts with a commercial or studio budget and tons of paid impressions), then really, we also should not be calling it viral.

The problem with viral is that, by its very nature, it’s unpredictable. We don’t know when or what will go viral (although we can guess pretty well). But throwing money at the makers of some random AFHV-style clip rarely gets an advertiser what they’re looking for. No one really wants to watch David Goes to the Dentist 2 (or buy the product attached to it). The initial magic, the initial surprise that hooked us is gone. It was a 24-hour bug.

Further, ‘viral’ puts the focus squarely on one metric of success: number of views. Is that really accurate? Is The Annoying Orange better than Break A Leg because it has more views? Is Total Request Live better than The Sopranos? Web video pioneers and the advertisers who want to love them get all hopped up about quantity… without stopping to question the quality. We should know by now that for any industry that wants to sustain and valuate itself, that is an untenable position.

For those of us that want internet video to be a real profession, a career and a valid artistic medium, we have to move past this idea of viral.

We don’t want a world full of only fragments, of aimless memes zipping around the noosphere. We want storyline. We want arcs. We want trilogies. We want new myths and legends. Dammit, we want something worth coming back to again and again and again.

And since we’re referring to web video as a disease (and I heartily second that depiction), then let’s go ahead and define what we want.

We want Chronic Video.

We want to catch a series and then feel like we have no choice but to catch it again. We want to come back to the site or the channel every week, every day even, and feel compelled to see what the new content is. We want an addiction, a chronic affliction.

Viruses are for kids. It’s time for the web to grow up.

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