Mentioning that I go to SXSW usually generates one of two responses. The first is a desire to go and the second is “what for?”. On my first visit, five years ago, I thought I would discover the ‘next big thing’. Last year, for example, Meerkat launched. I imagined bringing the news to a wide-eyed audience back in Blighty, but given the nature of communications everyone was aware at the same time I was (who knew social media was instant and global?). Not only that, but the launch of Periscope shortly afterwards eclipsed Meerkat’s moment in the Texas sun.
So why do I go? Well it’s fun, interesting and sunny in March. There’s free food and drink to be had and great live music. What’s not to like?
The real value though is in the depth of insight. You can go from panel session to keynote speech on to a meetup and learn little, but then a nugget will emerge from a session that you went to just to bridge a gap in the day. So what did I take away from SXSW 2016? The current gold rush in communications and technology this year is largely around video and like many hype cycles there is a lot of bluff and bluster. Here are a few myths that were busted for me in Austin.
#Myth 1 – It’s about the view count
OK, the view count matters but we need to be careful about what that means. Views are not the same for different platforms. View counts on YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat are all calculated differently. No-one knows for sure, but YouTube counts a view after about video for 30 seconds. and Facebook after just three seconds. In three seconds you could see several videos on Snapchat. So when a major annual UK tennis event says it had more than 600 million video views on Snapchat that could equal to 55,000 views for a full three hour match on another platform.
#Myth 2 – It’s all about 360 VR
With the consumer roll out of 360 VR headsets this year there’s a lot invested in telling us that it’s the next big thing. That might be right but for now there’s very little compelling content and a small amount of very boring content. A far more immersive experience was available in an 8K 3D cinema with 22.2 surround sound from Japanese broadcaster NHK. Not a headset in sight.
#Myth 3 – It’s all about Snapchat
The user stats are incredible, the video view are mind boggling (if you ignore Myth 1) and big media brands are piling in. Snapchat is huge but it’s not the future for brands or broadcasters. People make their own content and then share it with their own audience. That’s the point. It’s also for a young demographic, people in the main grow out of wearing virtual bunny ears.
We all want to know what the next big thing is, but a step towards that goal is discovering what’s not.