A CEO’s Review of 2019 and Where Media is Headed

December 20, 2019

A CEO’s Review of 2019 and Where Media is Headed

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We’ve made it to the end of 2019. We’re days away from the holidays, and it’s the time of year when we tend to reflect on where we’ve been and where we would like to go in the new year. As I think broadly about the creative industry — news stories from the past year, mergers and acquisitions, and developments in our business — it’s impossible to ignore some of the common threads that tie creators from YouTubers to broadcast producers together. Although their roles, responsibilities, and workflows vary greatly, they’re all being influenced by the same changing landscape. 

Increasing shift to creation on mobile

One way to pick up on industry trends is to look at what companies serving the industry are building. Developing tools for mobile creation is catching on with industry leaders. Adobe has been pushing hard into mobile and using the artificial intelligence tech they are creating for those products. Large industry players like Vimeo have teamed up with online video editing applications specifically designed for easy use on mobile. The age where a majority of professional video content is being produced utilizing mobile or tablet devices is coming — we’re likely closer to 5 years away rather than 15. Whoever the market leader is in 4 to 5 years will not own the creator tools space for ‘only desktop,’ or ‘only mobile,’ but both. 

AI in the industry 

Artificial intelligence is being incorporated into aspects of the creative workflow in ways that most don’t even recognize. Seamless integration is kind of the point. But there are a couple developments that involve AI worth calling out, both having to do with the relationship between humans and automated solutions. 

First, we’re really wrestling with the overflow of content. With the influx of content that is informative and valuable, it also comes with content that is harmful. Can open publishing platforms, like YouTube and Facebook, adequately monitor this explosion in content creation, and what are the roles of AI and humans in that? We haven’t quite figured out how those two parts work together as the automated solutions are imperfect and often overcorrect. Still, the task is too large to be handled by humans without some form of automated assistance. 

Second, creator workflows are being aided and simplified by AI technology more and more. The best tools or organizational processes aim to eliminate tedious tasks and let creators and workers focus on the most essential aspects of their jobs. For example, AI is making its mark on the broadcast industry. The digital content age is forcing traditional broadcasters to think more like digital creators because that’s who they are competing with. They need to keep up with the pace and produce more content, fast. So solutions that create enhanced efficiency in their workflows, powered by AI, are being sought out by broadcast corporations. 

Changing creative workflows

Once again, the exponential growth of digital content has required creators to increase their output. What I learned this year from our Enterprise customers, is that the value they are receiving from our offerings has more to do with improving the creative workflow rather than the content assets themselves — and frankly, workarounds to bureaucracy within their organizations. Our customers, whether they are freelancers or work within a large organization (whether they are beginners or industry veterans), share some of the same challenges. They are short on time and short on budget. 

As it relates specifically to stock media, the traditional pay-per-asset purchasing model approach doesn’t work for someone creating a one minute video that may have a short digital shelf life. What creators need from content providers is very different. They expect that aspect of their workflow to move as quickly as they do. The unexpected delight for creators is when the bureaucracy can be stripped away. 

A look at 2020

So to look ahead into 2020, I think we’ll see more of this independent creator approach being adopted across the industry. Organizations are noting their methods and starting to carry them into their workflows. Broadcasters and digital publishers really began to embrace this in 2019. Production companies and marketing agencies may be the next up. Their organizational models are tough to break, but they will get there. 

Content buyers have adapted the way they work to the traditional stock model. Most of them don’t love it, but it’s the only option they’ve had. In the beginning, stock media was something people thought about at the end of their production timeline. Creators are now pulling that forward and thinking of it as a timesaving resource. We need to unwind the old process and address the way creators produce today. 

To all creators out there: we’re excited to ride the wave with you in 2020. 


TJ Leonard


TJ Leonard is the CEO of Storyblocks, a different kind of content company delivering a fresh approach to meet the creative needs of a new generation of storytellers. TJ is a New Hampshire native, who graduated from the University of Virginia and MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and lives in Washington DC with his wife and two kids.