The Shifting Medium: An Example
I want to delve a little further into a previous article, discussing The Shifting Nature of Documentaries, and give an example of what I mean by a successful documentary channel thriving and original in its expression and productivity. In this case; ‘The People Profiles’ channel began with the express purpose of trying to produce television quality old fashioned documentaries, with their inspiration being the works of Ken Burns and the BBC’s World at War and Great War.
In this emerging environment, they were the first historical YouTube channel to start uploading videos larger than a half hour in early 2018, which were purposely named documentaries. It’s a clear example of the new approach that creators have taken in turning their curiosity regarding a genre of content, and forging something new, expressing something in hindsight that stands apart from contemporary material. Today, I will use The People Profiles as the good example of what I mean, showing how it opens up and the advantage I find curious and you may too.
To give a bird’s eye view of the channels, and the way these internet documentary system works: it is as simple as finding it via a search, even through associated videos and clicking on it. Sponsorships are mentioned and whether or not you have an ad blocker, the type of advertisement is nothing you haven’t seen before (but a lot shorter than the average 5 minute break for adverts in modern British television, 4, sometimes 5 intervals of this for a documentary lasting 40-50 minutes).
If one can navigate the host website (for example, in this case youtube.com), one can very easily set up a system for watching. The People Profiles is a useful example of being much more obvious and creative than the text lines of a TV guide. I believe they have completed their process of overhauling their introductory thumbnail art, so a decorative portrait and introduction leaves you in little doubt as to the subject matter. This particular channel makes each video a particular subject, always of one particular character. For example; one of my favourite videos from them is ‘William Marshal – The Perfect Knight Documentary’. That’s 56:30 of content. But also, if I choose to either go on or revisit the content, I can click the channel name to see an overview or bookmark the documentary (as I tend to do, finding them relaxing to listen to). There is no confinement to when I can watch, or conditions regarding recording or re-watch as is the case with television.
From this one video, The People Profiles gets interesting in their connectivity ideas joining multiple documentaries together, and creating that long-form content that sites like YouTube are known for. A good example I think is ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII Documentary’. A popular subject, descriptive, yet The People Profiles has discovered two advantages of note for the prospective audience. For a start, this much time devoted to documentary -by user choice- exceeds most, if not all terrestrial television documentaries to my knowledge. And second, this modular format means that so much of this time is purely to the point, and substantive. Each of the six noblewomen are addressed in turn, and their distinctions cross over one another, but one appreciates their lifestyle and numerous events in six different lights.
There is none of what I find often to be timewasting activities within the content, no long introduction, or condescension to the audience. Often there is overlap of a documentary series, the audience not trusted to recall or catch up with previous material. A rather tight-fitting narrative is formed around the narrator themselves, as we watch them talk to the screen, and for some -depending upon the narrator- this is not the best use of time or what you really came to see. The People Profiles know what it wants to make, it began early with a vision in mind, and have been improving their art work and delivery through experience and accessibility to the speedy feedback that social websites and media can provide.
There is direction, growth and substance regarding something with clarity of purpose and direction. Writing this article, it occurred to me how the roots for expansion are already being set out, with extensions into Egyptian history more recently which is a popular topic for many prospective audiences, who can appreciate say a history of Hatshepsut. Not a summary of mummies, not an hour-long dip in the water that says less than a Horrible Histories entry or what we learned in school.
Now, what are the benefits? What are the differences? How is this an understated improvement and something new to audiences?
The comment system cannot be understated because, in all honesty is it even possible to communicate with other documentary creators? How will you know others may agree with your sentiments, or you receive a response? All are optional, and that option means possibilities. It opens avenues for business management, consumer feedback, if that possibility is taken up by the creator.
Factors discussed here are applicable to many high-quality channels, be they on Youtube or other alternative websites such as Odysee, Bitchute etc. Availability and access, I would say are the ultimate advantages of this meaning. And I do not mean in the sense of advertising. I mean in the sense of content. This is an expanding team with more chance of listening to you than any filmmaker, more impacted by the audience than any multi-million-pound network oversatisfied or too distant from the audience member to notice and adapt their creativity to present art of better quality for them. Naturalistic processes are not simply more enjoyable, they become more effective. What recognition, understanding, curiosity can be raised to the fore with that spirit of historical inquiry being encouraged, in a novel way which shakes of some of the malaise, taking society back to the times where historical interest was more prevalent and invigorating? In learning of the past we take lessons into the future; but in tandem there is the fact that creativity in the present makes for satisfaction and growth in the future.
The People Profiles is by no means alone in what is available and being created, but I thought given them writing a letter to me in support of me bringing this new medium to light was the spark to describe how a creative channel work. The intention for 2023 is for the channel to release two television quality one-hour plus historical documentaries per week, an unprecedented record of over 100 documentaries per year. I wish them success with this ambition, and most of all I hope this encourages you in surveying endeavour across the digital landscape, and if interested and new to the concept searching for your own new-form documentaries of interest.
– The People Profiles Main Page. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/@PeopleProfiles [Accessed 25/01/23]
Disclaimer: I was asked by The People Profiles to consider writing an article on their documentary channel after reading my work, and took the opportunity to write in detail as an example. I used my own thoughts and ideas, and would still recommend them if you have an interest in their content. I found the person who wrote to me cordial, very driven and eager to share their aims and history.