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: “I love the Amazon app because I can look up products that I want to buy and store them very easily. I also can scan barcodes while I'm in the store to check for the best price and if I want it, I can click one button to purchase it online instead of paying more for it in a store.” – Female, 29, FL

Millennials might be taking over the office, but their ink is still not totally welcome. According to Pew Research, 40% of Millennials have at least one tattoo, and 70% of the tattooed members of the generation say they hide them from their boss. A recent university survey found that 86% of students with visible tattoos believe they will have a harder time finding a job after graduation. This modern workplace woe could be one of the reasons behind the 46% increase in tattoo removal among young consumers in the last few years. (Time)

Just last month, a report that Walmart “indexes higher” amongst Millennials than with their parents caused some surprise—but now there’s another report here to tell you that Millennials might shop at Walmart, but they don’t LOVE Walmart. The retailer’s score in a metric of customer loyalty and satisfaction among younger shoppers is actually below average, and competitor Target outpaced them in 24 out of 25 scored categories. Amazon’s overall score was over 40% higher than Walmart’s. (Forbes)

The swift redefinition of fame includes a slew of YouTube creatives who have struck gold on the platform, and made millions with their vlogging careers. YouTube’s 5 biggest stars “have more subscribers than the population of Mexico” and some are “making as much money as Hollywood’s biggest stars." So how did they do it? Many were discovered by bigger brands and got some serious corporate backing to help their rise to the top. (Washington Post)

Young consumers have been credited with fueling a gig and sharing economy “revolution”—but proof of it is a little trickier to find. The number of self-employed Americans has actually declined in the past ten years, and the number of those who hold multiple jobs is also on the decline. “Hard evidence” for the impact of the gig economy isn’t clear, but there is also not much research looking specifically at Millennials’ participation. (WSJ)

We’ve seen several startup brands earn Millennials’ attention with video campaigns that have gone viral. (Dollar Shave Club anyone?) E-commerce site Chubbies is hoping for a viral hit of their own to build their young male audience, and the brand is finding their quirky videos are getting more engagement on Facebook than YouTube. One video posted last month has earned 900,000 views, 3,600 likes and nearly 1,000 shares on the platform. (Adweek)

Quote of the Day: “My favorite app is Airbnb because I like to travel on a budget.” –Female, 22, NY

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