Dan Devine of Yahoo Sports wrote an article Saturday about former Cowboys QB Tony Romo’s plan to suit up for a Dallas Mavericks game Tuesday. The blog’s an inoffensive piece of aggregation, but also appears to have served as the basis for a piece of video which I hope isn’t the future of sports news.
Almost four hours after Devine published his post, this video was released to the world. It’s tough to describe this atrocity. If you can’t watch (you may have to reload this page to get it to play, and you owe it to yourself to try), just know that it’s (ostensibly) about Tony Romo hanging out with the Mavericks; there are a bunch of GIFs of celebrities reacting to events that have nothing to do with Tony Romo or the Mavericks; and the soundtrack is the Country Bear Jamboree on angel dust.
Although the quotes are pulled from the article, some of the other sentences were changed around, which suggests that a human worked on this, or at least was aware of its creation. Here’s another example, which is supposed to summarize a story about former baseball player Otis Nixon, who went missing in Georgia and was found:
What does Ace Ventura have to do with a 58-year-old man going missing? I have no fucking clue.
(There are other examples of these videos, but these two really check all the boxes.) Why would something like this exist? Who is it for?
Without taking a journey up my own ass in an effort to explain the future of the media, there’s a line of thinking that people want video to complement their reading experience, because they’re busy and have short attention spans. Given the vertical format, these Yahoo videos seem to be targeted towards mobile users.
Video can really help an article: A noteworthy highlight is more fun to watch than to read about, right? What about the topics that aren’t highlights? Is there any way to find an angle in which video would make sense? It costs money to get well-produced, high-quality video, so sometimes, to make the most of the least, the existing writing gets chopped up and mixed into a slurry until it provides the minimum amount of information for the reader to understand what’s in their face. Hypothetically, a person on their phone would not have the time to read an approximately 600-word post, so instead they would pick the one-minute version with big words, Adam DeVine scrunching his face, and hillbilly chiptune music with burps and dogs barking.
I don’t think anyone actually likes this: Not the people who make it, not the people who sell ads against it, and certainly not the people upon whom it’s inflicted via autoplay. It’s created for no one in particular to satisfy the requirements of the valuable preroll ad, reviled by everyone but necessary to turn a profit in a media model where writing is given away for free. I also don’t think an infantilized, obnoxious delivery of the news will ever become the popular choice, but maybe I’m setting myself up to have my job replaced by an algorithm picking just the right GIF of a cartoon goat in overalls that dances when a celebrity accepts a kid’s promposal, or frowns and crosses its arms when an athlete gets charged with a sex crime.