Why GIFs Became the Sweetheart of the Internet

 

Is it too early to crown the GIF the internet star of 2013? Though the format has been in use since the early days of websites, there has been a proliferation of GIF use among young consumers of late that has pushed the once lowly image file into the spotlight. What is it about the GIF format that has captured the hearts of hoards of Tumblr users, internet commenters, and viral bloggers?

For readers who aren’t familiar with the GIF, they are short, endlessly-looped video files that appear to play a few seconds of action on eternal replay. The New Republic wrote an extensive history of the medium and its rise from 90s junk animation to art form. Today, GIFs have become an integral part of the way internet users (often led by Gen Y) talk to one another. They appear as reactions to blog articles, are created and shared by fan communities on Tumblr and elsewhere to celebrate moments in TV and movies, are emailed as exclamations and emotional outbursts. In short, they have become the second language of the internet.

So why GIFs, and why now? Millennials, always a very image-reliant generation, have continued to gravitate towards visual communication. With the strengthening popularity of Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine, and Snapchat, we could almost see them reaching a tipping point where visuals actually usurp text communication in common use. When you are a group who communicates by majority in visuals, those visuals have to evolve in order to fully capture the emotion you are trying to convey. (We saw a similar evolution in the simple emoticon, which began as a finite combination of punctuations and have become a legion of animated faces and objects stored on your phone for easy access and hieroglyphic-esque messaging.) Layer on top of this the fact that Millennials have also…

 
 

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Millennial News Feed

Quote of the Day: "My favorite place to shop online is Sephora, because I love high end makeup and I love reading about what's new and watching tutorials on how it works.” –Female, 26, MA

We’ve seen everyone from food startups to fast-food chains label their food “artisanal” to appeal to Millennials—and there is good reason. It turns out there is generation gap when it comes to consumers’ reaction to “artisanal” and “craft.”  Millennials are more likely than older consumers to say that the labels “handmade/handcrafted, “craft,” and “small batch” tell them a product is high quality, and also more likely to say that descriptors like “artisan/artisanal” have some influence on their purchases. (MediaPost)

To sell wine to Millennials, brands have had to drop the exclusivity and embrace a more unpretentious attitude. Sparkling wine brand Chandon is relying on Instagram to get their bubbly message across to young females, making it their top social platform, over Pinterest. Their colorful, summertime images, featuring captions like “Today calls for Rosé,” are a part of their effort to get sparkling wine “out of the holiday rut.” (Digiday)

Older generations who hear about anonymous apps like Whisper and YikYak have one main question: why? Question and answer site Ask.fm’s recent study asked them, and found that 40% of 13-18-year-olds said anonymity online allows them to talk about difficult topics—only 4% said they would talk about the same things if their name was being used. (IBT)

New parents will do just about anything to get their kid(s) to go to sleep, as one self-published book is proving. The picture book The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep made the Amazon bestseller list by claiming to put children straight to sleep. Sales skyrocketed quickly, going from selling just 324 copies on August 16th, to 29,000 at the end of last week. It’s rumored that Random House has bought the rights to the miracle book. (Publisher’s Weekly)

Restoration Hardware is going after the teens “who ha[ve] everything.” Their new high-end post-childhood line RH Teen includes chandeliers, and fine art photography, and the brand hopes to capture young consumers as they are finding their own identity and becoming independent as decorators of their space. Unlike some brands, who are co-creating their products and marketing with young consumers, Restoration chose to launch RH Teen without focus groups or studies. (WSJ)

According to Pew, a third of Millennials frequently use their phones in public for “no particular reason,” and 13% say they frequently use their mobile devices to avoid interacting with other people. (Queue the “anti-social Millennial” pieces.) But another study might shed some more light on their “for no reason” phone use: 60% believe their smartphones enhances their leisure time. The research hypothesizes that young consumers are using phones for moments of “micro-leisure” throughout the day. (Washington PostSocialTimes)

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