LeWeb: Ben Huh on why old media can't do new formats
When Ben Huh founded his company – he bought a bunch of cat photos. Yes, he acquired I Can Has Cheezburger? He created the company, bought the website and closed funding in just 45 days. Since then they’ve launched and experimented endlessly. Their mission statement is to make people laugh for a few moments.
But how do you win the content game in the long term?
The medium is the message
For Huh, the format is the message. The format is the kind of content that exists within your device. It’s these formats – pioneered and owned by other companies often – that make things interesting. The reason your phone looks the way it does, is because a bunch of people got together in the 90s to create the widescreen TV format. Formats can have unexpected effects.
In the past, each vertical had its formats: print had books, magazine and newspapers. Those safe silos are gone. Now we have vertical competition – your Kindle isn’t just about reading – it will read to you. That’s audio.
Connections through content
Social media has made it easier for us to send content across the internet. The only way to connect with others online is with content – we are what we expose to others. The creation of beautiful and funny content has been driving media for the last five years.
We spend 112 hours awake a week. We spend 80 hours a week consuming media. How much of your visual space is filled with pixels? There are more and more screens in our lives. The longer we live the more pixels we will encounter.
Every time the content market fragments, as it does when new devices emerge, there’s a new chance for a new company – or a new format – to grab market share. That’s why media is so exciting right now.
Old formats do not go away – had a till receipt recently? That’s a scroll. Old formats just end up in niches. New formats are born all the time. The people who created media for old formats are woefully bad at creating it for a new format. Yet, we need more than just gaming skills to make VR work – we need the storytelling skills of old media. How do we bring these together?
We are now entering a world where physical objects can be treated as media, thanks to 3D printing. Cats have evolved from bad ass ferocious animals, to cute, friendly meme vectors. It’s not what you might expect from evolution…
The old stories are over
Old stories had beginnings, middles and ends. Online, we go straight to the punchline. How do we learn to tell these new stories. Creativity is not a blank canvas. Constraints and formats that force you to work within a box drives creativity, because you know the limits. Three window jokes aren’t an internet format – they’re the triptych of religious art. We derive new formats from old.
Cheeseburger wants to own short form humour. They want formats that are simple, that don’t make you work too hard, because we are all what we share.
Sign up for e-mail updates
Join the newsletter to receive the latest posts in your inbox.