Some say that cinema is dead, and the new cinema, a.k.a. YouTube, may be on its way, too, if you believe in portents like the rise of the new television, a.k.a. TikTok.
The short-form video platform has surpassed YouTube in average time spent per user on the app — at least among Android users in the U.S. and the U.K., but something tells me the rest of the world will follow — according to a report by analytics company App Annie. While YouTube still nets more time spent overall, likely due to its larger user base, TikTok’s rise has been fast and furious; it is now reportedly the world’s most-downloaded app.
The reason why social media users, on average, are spending more of their waking hours watching TikTok instead of YouTube is easy enough to explain. Speaking for just myself but also probably millions of other people, it is because my attention span has been wholly obliterated after a decade spent online, eroded by tweets and posts and notifications and slideshows and infographics and every other piece of microcontent designed to disrupt my consciousness and hold me captive so that I can be surveilled and sold products (yeah, I said it). I used to be able to sit down and watch a single intellectually challenging 40-minute apology video on YouTube all the way through, no problem. Now the only way to attain a rush anymore is to blitz through a hundred algorithmically surfaced 60-second videos that I will forget as soon as I scroll to the next one. Sometimes I do this while watching the old cinema (movies), or the new cinema (YouTube), or the old television (television).
But don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it will keep happening, app by app, ad infinitum. Quibi’s mistake was thinking that people would stick around to watch 10-minute episodes on their phones, when a far more era-appropriate idea would have been 10-second sitcoms. Or let’s just skip to the inevitable end point of all this: one-second clips of people reciting trademarked catchphrases, beamed directly into our brains. All hail the new new new television of the future. Did you see the one with the dog on the treadmill?