This is an excerpt from the introduction to my book, Don't Wait, Create: How to Be a Content Creator in the New Digital Revolution.
Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer, known for their parody-rap trio The Lonely Island, pushed mainstream television into the digital age through the digital shorts they made for Saturday Night Live. Lazy Sunday, their first viral hit for Saturday Night Live, was groundbreaking because it was the first TV program to gain another life on the internet, racking up over two million views on YouTube in its first week alone. Now, late-night TV programming like Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon rely on YouTube views as much as they rely on traditional linear TV ratings.
Ironically, the trio hadn’t even heard of YouTube until an unofficial upload of Lazy Sunday went viral in 2005—just five months after YouTube went online. By the following morning, the video was a national cultural sensation.
The viral success of the video is widely credited as having been the catalyst for YouTube’s success. YouTube had gone live only about five months earlier, and the week Lazy Sunday was uploaded, YouTube’s site traffic went up 83 percent.
Since then, the public’s appetite for digital content has grown exponentially and, simultaneously, the public’s attention span has been shrinking. I spoke to Wayne Goldstein, Head of Global Research at Sony Pictures Television, about the concept of “time confetti,” which refers to those random small bits of time that people have during their day, whether it’s waiting for a bus or a train, waiting for their coffee to brew, walking their dog, or waiting in line at the grocery store.
Particularly because video content can be accessed anywhere from a phone or a laptop, time confetti has increased in recent years, creating space that is increasingly drawing audiences to new types of media to consume. Goldstein explained, “It used to be that people had structured blocks of time in which they would consume content—usually television. This time has only eroded with all of these options today, including television and games and social media, to meet those core entertainment needs that we have. So now, we’re not just competing against other TV products. We’re competing in this whole ecosystem of other things.” The same technological advances that placed high-quality video screens on everyone’s phones have also increased audience demand for quick, shareable, short-form content.
Goldstein added, “The television industry envies platforms like Snapchat and TikTok with the ability to really connect with an audience, provide interactivity, and that sense of dialogue that people don’t get from traditional media.”