Content Creators: “Nobody knows anything.”

By Matter

Whenever I tend to get philosophical about the current media landscape (in my case, mainly as it pertains to video content), I’m reminded of perhaps the most oft-quoted, yet undeniably true, maxim that I’ve ever heard regarding media creation:  “Nobody knows anything.”  This quote is from multi-Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman, speaking in particular about the business of Hollywood (if you have a chance, watch this fascinating documentary to find out how true it really is), but I feel it applies to any type of content creation.  I also do as the King of Pop suggests, and I look at that Man in the Mirror

Fundamentally, what it all comes down (one humble video producer’s opinion) is audience engagement in your media content.  I use the broad term “media content” all too often not to be elusive or to appear academic, but simply because there’s no longer any real distinction between television, film, online video, photography, text, graphics, or anything else we can access on the array of screens we shove in front of our faces on a near-constant basis.  Unfortunately, as Billy Goldman will tell you (disclaimer: NOT on a first name basis with the guy…) there is really no way to predict, or even study, what really engages an audience.  If there were, I would love for someone to definitively explain to me what sociological patterns have led to my mother having any idea what “Gangham Style” is.

So I force myself to look inwards, to study my own habits for consuming media.  And when I look in the proverbial Mirror, dissecting what media I’ve been spending my time with, I always come to the same conclusion: huh?

Hence my development of the highly unscientific, very untimely “SNL vs. The Wire” Conundrum, illustrated below as all great theses should be:  via a meme.

I’m currently binge-watching HBO’s “The Wire.”  For the second time.  Now, binge-watching is not a new phenomenon – in fact, it’s been acknowledged by Netflix as the proper way to roll out a series (can’t wait for May 26th!) – but by admitting that I could easily watch 5-6 hours of one show at a time certainly shows that I’m engaged.  On the other hand, I haven’t been able to sit through a 6-minute Saturday Night Live Sketch without checking my watch in years.  Now, I don’t mean for this to be a shot at SNL (I have the utmost respect for anyone working on what has to be the hardest show to produce on television) and I’m not even suggesting that I don’t like the show.  In fact, it’s unfair to even attempt to compare the two shows in any way (hence the “unscientific” disclaimer).  Mainly, I’m looking at myself and wondering, “how is it that I can be both completely engrossed and have the attention span of a 2-year old?”

The short answer:  Who knows.  The longer answer:  “Nobody knows anything.”

So what do we do as content creators? The best we can do – good work.  Acknowledge that every project is different, that there is no metric to predict how your media content will be received, and that the onus is on you to create what you feel is the best, most engaging content you can put out there. 

Most importantly, take a step back and be an audience member to your content.  If you were stumbling upon this video, photo, article, or graphic for the first time, with no prior knowledge, would you stop and devote your entire attention to it? Objectively, would it engage you? If the answer is yes, I’m willing to bet others will feel the same. 

Now, I have to go back into hiding, ‘cause “Omar Comin’!”