While looking at how piracy and online content has changed ‘traditional media’ (and is continuing to do so), Barrett Garese succinctly points out his vision for the direction online content needs to go to really differentiate itself and, thus, succeed (or any entertainment medium, in fact).
Each medium has unique advantages and disadvantages, and the creator must craft an experience that accentuates the advantages and mitigates the disadvantages of the medium in which it lives.
The most important question for the future of all online content is this: “What are those unique elements which allow content created primarily for online consumption to stand apart from its more ‘traditional’ or ‘mainstream’ rivals?” Film can tell an epic story over a period of 1.5-3 hours on a scale that’s unmatched in other media. Television can tell a story over a period of dozens or hundreds of hours with an intricacy and character development that’s as of yet untouched in other media. What is the “online experience” that makes telling a story in this medium so different the experience in any other?
For online content to further expand, we must experiment to find and exploit those unique elements that enable the experience itself to stand as the draw. So long as we’re content to mimic other media, it will never grow into a viable “mainstream” entertainment medium. If all you’re doing is creating “TV-lite” or “Film-lite” in an attempt to mimic the experience, then there are already better competitors out there – they’re called “Film” and “TV,” and most people are already familiar.