Video Content Wonderland and the Kill Time Model

Time and how we spend it is arguably the most valuable of resources. It’s precious to us. We trade our time for money within our jobs, exchanging the un-recoverable resource in the hope of bettering our standing in the future. We also trade time in many other ways for the benefit of our futures. In the gym we trade it for health and in the library we may trade for new skills and knowledge. Time is the currency we trade to propel and guide our futures. This has been a fixed narrative since time began.

The Twenty First Century sees this traditional narrative shift into alignment with more traditional economic resources like coal, gas and electricity. Online businesses are now powered based on their customers time and attention. These two resources have a direct correlation with profitability in almost all consumer-facing online companies.

Consumer time is the twenty first century’s coal and steam, the key resource of the industrial revolution.

Time Saving and the Kill Time Model 

For Google the goal is to provide the most useful results to its customers in the shortest amount of time. They operate a ‘time saving’ closed system model. This is defined by the process: a customer question, the search, followed by the result. Only the ‘search’ part actually takes place on Google. It’s a touch and go service like a takeaway. 

However sites like Google are now a rarity online. Most sites are geared towards a ‘kill time’ model. This model aims to capture consumer attention and time by offering a buffet of experience in a closed loop. The content on these sites aim to keep the viewer in a sustained state of engagement within the sites ecosystem.

High usage sites and Apps like Tick Tock, Instagram, Facebook, Tinder, LinkedIn and Reddit all operate the ‘kill time’ model, among countless others. 

In a study titled: Sustainability in Online Video Hosting Services: The Effects of Serendipity and Flow Experience on Prolonged Usage Time. It is argued that video sites operating the ‘kill time’ model make ‘…users discover unexpected and interesting content during their browsing, which can attract more attention, immerse themselves in the hyperlinks, and extend their usage time.’  

Exposure to unexpected and novel content increases ‘stickiness’ and attention. 

Killing Time on YouTube

Youtube is an exceptionally good example of this model. I open up the search engine and type ‘Alex Volkanovski vs Brian Ortega’, a very specific UFC match. I click on the video. Then the magic happens. While watching the video, I’m served up countless suggestions, some related to UFC and some completely unrelated, but generated from previous searches or popular content. 

This is the white rabbit’s invitation to wonderland.

Before I realise I’ve spiralled into a parallel universe where time has stopped. Only to come round a few hours later, questioning myself just how I got from UFC to UFOs conspiracies. My time spent watching had been constantly rewarded with more things to spend my time watching.

It’s no surprise YouTube is the second most visited site worldwide with the average user spending almost 30 minutes of their time there per visit. 

We expect a sites search option to operate the ‘save time’ model, so it seems counterintuitive for sites to offer content non-related to the defined search. Yet if the user is only exposed too similar or comparable content the novelty soon wears off and attention slips, after all variety is still the spice of life.

Video Content Wonderland and the Kill Time Model

The content curation ecosystem

The authors of the study Sustainability in Online Video Hosting Services: The Effects of Serendipity and Flow Experience on Prolonged Usage Time likens YouTubes content curation to an ecosystem: 

‘…where the fewer kinds of organisms are available, the less stable the ecosystem can be; therefore, we believe that increasing heterogeneity would help to improve the sustainability of online video platform operations.’

Sustainability in Online Video Hosting Services: The Effects of Serendipity and Flow Experience on Prolonged Usage Time

By offering a broader range of content video platforms can increase ‘stickiness’ through variety and novelty. The study suggests that a curious consumer is more likely to experience pleasure and enjoyment the greater the opportunity for discovery. 

So how can we Incorporate a ‘Kill Time’ Strategy into our Video Marketing? 

There’s a temptation when creating online content to always stick to a proven model of content production. If something works, why not use it as a template to create similar content and continue to deliver a similar experience to consumers. After all it seems to be what they want.

However by increasing content variety the consumer is exposed to the brand in new and novel ways. If all your video content is motion graphics based, why not throw in some interview footage, sound-bites or even play on a trend like ASMR even though it’s seemingly unrelated to the core brand.

This isn’t a suggestion to throw the brand-guidelines to the wall and forget the brands culture. Instead it’s an invitation to be more experimental and cast a wider net. It’s more of a one size doesn’t fit all approach. Your consumer may land on your site or page for a particular reason, give them more of a reason to explore and discover the brand through a wider content range. It’s about creating an ecosystem people want to spend extended periods of time inside. 

Video Marketing Strategy Suggestions: 

  • Link video content together through hyperlinks that may otherwise seem to be loosely connected. 
  • Present information in unexpected ways. Avoid being vanilla.
  • Embed a level of surprise in your videos. A well placed transition can go along way. 
  • Play on contemporary trends but avoid cliche formats/layouts 
  • Place timer bars in content so the user can gage the length. 
  • Produce content with varied lengths. 

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