TJ Leonard

What the Stock Media Company's Data Suggests About the Changing Content Creation Market

The widely embraced concept of “fake news” is a key driver of trends in media, with creatives increasingly striving to produce more timely, topical content as an alternative to mainstream cable programming. That’s according to stock media giant Storyblocks, which says it analyzed 85 million searches from 2018 to produce its new Creative Trends Guide. The company says authenticity and inclusivity are increasingly important concepts, with triple-digit surges in search for terms such as IslamicAfrican and elderly indicating a desire for more diverse representation in media. Breaking news environments are increasingly in demand, with searches climbing for news intros, backgrounds, and virtual studio environments as current events drive interest in keywords including trial and weather. And searches for easy-to-use templates and pre-made video effects, the company said, indicate that more beginners are entering video production.

Storyblocks CEO TJ Leonard helped us dig a little deeper into the business trends suggested by the data.

StudioDaily: What made you think it was important to identify and publicize trends in media creation?

TJ Leonard: We’re a different type of stock media company. We felt like it’s our mission and our job to help all creators — big budget, small budget, experienced or new to video creation. We want to level the playing field for all storytellers, and part of the way is through our unique model — fixed subscription, unlimited use, affordable high-quality content. But another big way we do this is through data. Because of the nature of our model, we actually distribute more video in a month than our next biggest competitor does in a year. Obviously, this throws off tons and tons of data. By sharing that data back to our contributors, we help them create a better library that enables them to earn more money. That’s the big, underlying reason.

What’s the most surprising or counter-intuitive trend you found?

The one thing that really jumped out at me was how short the feedback loop between mainstream culture and our world has gotten. If you rewind the clock three to five years, you’d see a trend play out in the mainstream media, and then it would take weeks or months to wash through our platform and data. But this year we saw instantaneous responses to major news cycle events in our customer behavior. During the Cambridge Analytica scandal, we saw big increases in Facebook-related searches. During the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, searches for legal and trial spiked more than 700%. Similarly, as these massive hurricanes and devastating wildfires affected the Southeast and West Coast of the country, we saw weather and extreme weather related searches pop almost 300%. Compare that to what happened with our elections. Those were a huge media event, and election-related searches were up 24% around the midterms. That’s a meaningful bump, but when you compare it to the way people responded to some of these other major news events, you can get a sense of what captured and sustained interest. And maybe the most surprising piece is how quickly that interest surfaces in our own search data.

One of your trends is a desire for “authentic and diverse” footage. Diversity seems like an attainable goal, but how do you imbue a stock library with authenticity?

I would almost view it as anti-commercialism. What is the opposite of authentic? Well, it’s the very classic stock aesthetic. It is choreographed, it is edited, it’s pixel-perfect in a lot of ways. There have been commercial reasons to create content like that for print ads or TV commercials. But now we’re going through this move to authenticity, where people want imagery and videos that are more reflective of the world they see from day to day. I think you’re seeing that reflected in stock media, and you’re seeing customers responding favorably to an image or a video that looks like it could have shown up in their social feeds. The way consumers respond to different types of content is, ultimately, what drives the trend.

Storyblocks saw an increase in the number of searches for various templates.

You note that a massive increase in easy-to-use templates indicates that more beginners are becoming video editors. Does that increased concentration of beginners vs. veteran or pro users have an impact on what’s popular in your footage library, too?

I think this connects to your last question. It all goes back to the type of customers you serve. A pro video veteran is typically working on fewer, longer projects. They may be in post for two to four weeks. And then this new, emerging class of digital creators is producing hundreds of videos in a month, ranging from 15 seconds to two minutes in length, predominantly. The way that influences the creative process, that’s a big reason why you’re seeing more templates. As far as how that affects what’s popular, when you think about the freelancer, the marketer, the SMB, that’s where you see a lot of the demand for authenticity coming from. When the application is a social media ad, you want to mirror what someone would see organically in their feed. If you’re making a 30-second video explaining a new product feature, you want that to reflect the types of people and situations you see from day to day. Frankly, that has been a huge driver in some of the broader trends around authenticity and diversity, and it stems from the change in composition of who is creating video content.

What’s in demand when it comes to templates and video effects and transitions? Do you have any tips for designers or artists who are interested in becoming contributors?

One of the areas where we’re seeing a lot of interest in templates is around independent news. As these younger audiences come online to consume their news, you’re seeing Youtubers and podcasters turning to a lot of the same tricks of the trade that traditional broadcast has been using for decades. News intros, news backgrounds, virtual studios, all of these searches show big year-over-year increases. We think this is evidence of a kind of DIY digital outlet really rising to prominence. So I would use that as an example of advice for artists: think really specifically about your vertical. These indie news outlets are looking at their more traditional counterparts for insight to get that cable-ready feel on a much shorter production cycle and more limited budget. So for anyone who’s trying to figure out how to take advantage of templates and transitions, focus on your vertical, your specific customer, and look to more established players who have led the way. The good news is, because of this huge uptick in the number of templates being consumed, you really are able to find a template that meets your use case very specifically.