According to the latest Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Complete Forecast, there will be nearly 1.9 billion Internet video users by 2021, up from 1.4 billion in 2016. The world will be watching 3 trillion minutes of Internet video per month by 2021, which is 5 million years of video per month. And video will continue to dominate overall Internet traffic – representing 80% of all Internet traffic by 2021, up from 67% in 2016. Let’s just take another look at those numbers:

  • Video will represent 80% of all Internet traffic by 2021
  • There will be nearly 1.9 billion Internet video users by 2021
  • They’ll be watching 3 trillion minutes of video per month by 2021

Now, Cisco began making these kinds of forecasts in 2006, so maybe the latest one doesn’t create the kind of future shock that the first one did. Or, maybe human beings have difficulty trying to comprehend incomprehensibly large numbers. So, let’s try to break Cisco’s forecasts down into something slightly more manageable for video marketers to understand and act upon.

1.9B Internet Video Users by 2021

Traditional marketers love big numbers. So, they’ll be tempted to use Cisco’s data, which shows the number of Internet video users growing from 1.4 billion in 2016 to 1.9 billion in 2021, to make internet video appear to be a mass medium. But, it isn’t.

For starters, Cisco projects the number of Internet users with increase from 3.3 billion in 2016 to 4.6 billion in 2021. So, only 42% of Internet users were video users last year, and this percentage will actually dip to 41% four years from now. Oh, and 4.6 billion Internet users represented just 58% of the global population. So, less than 24% of the global population in 2021 will be Internet video users. So, video marketers shouldn’t jump to the mistaken conclusion that the “reach” everyone. They don’t.

But, video marketers can and do reach large segments of the global population. It’s just that they live in more than 88 countries and speak a total of 76 different languages. And while some segments are watching videos for entertainment, others are looking at food-related content, such as recipes, and cooking demonstrations. Besides, you don’t need everyone to see your branded content, video ad, or sponsored campaign. You only need to reach the viewers who may be interested in what you offer. Unfortunately, most video marketers don’t make that effort. Nielsen surveyed more than 30,000 people around the world last year and found that 66% said most ads in video-on-demand content are for products they don’t want.

But, some video marketers have discovered the benefits of segmentation. For example, Anheuser-Busch’s Lime-A-Rita learned about the power of making relevant video ads for a segment of the market earlier this year. Although their brand awareness was high, this wasn’t translating into increased brand consideration.

That was until they honed in on a female audience and turned to contextual advertising – the practice of developing contextually targeted, hyper-relevant ads. The new approach drove double-digit brand favorability and purchase consideration lifts for Lime-A-Rita.

Now, social video platforms enable you to target video ads by location, demographics, and interests – which tends to work better if you make relevant video ads for each segment. As for branded content or sponsored campaigns, you won’t get very far these days by taking Henry Ford’s approach to mass marketing the Model T back in 1909: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

So, despite the fact that there will be nearly 1.9 billion Internet video users by 2021, focus on the segments that matter most to your brand or client. And whether you are creating branded content, video ads, or sponsored campaigns, it helps to know:

  • Where your target viewers are: Are they located around the corner or around the world?
  • Who your target viewers are: What is their age, sex, parental status and family income?
  • What your target viewers like: Are they football fans or foodies?

They’ll be watching 3 trillion minutes of video per month by 2021

Cisco says, “It would take an individual more than 5 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks each month in 2021.” Now, that would take binge watching into a whole different tribe of our ancestors, since the genus “humans” didn’t emerge until 2.5 million years ago.

But, why use the amount of video that will cross global IP networks each month as your yardstick? Instead, let’s use the yardstick that YouTube created back in June 2007 and used another 24 times until June 2015: Hours of video uploaded per minute. Now, just because a video is uploaded doesn’t mean that anyone will watch it. But, it’s easier to get your head around an hour of video than it is to imagine the amount of video that will cross global IP networks in a month.

So, Cisco forecasts that 1 million minutes of video will streamed or downloaded every second in 2021. That’s 1 million hours of video every minute. Okay, so how long would it take for an individual to binge watch 1 million hours of video? The answer is: 114 years and 2 months. That’s how long it would take for an individual to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks each minute in 2021.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Who in their right mind would want to be that guy or gal?” You’re right. No one would want to make it their life’s work to watch all the video that crossed global IP networks during a particular minute in 2021, unless, of course, that minute marked the discovery of intelligent life on a planet around another star.

Nevertheless, this puts a premium on getting your latest Internet video discovered. Given the abundance of videos already on the web and the plethora of new videos being uploaded every minute, it’s risky to assume that your content will be organically discovered by a large audience.

Video marketers have already experienced the prelude to this problem during the relatively short history of YouTube. In fact, when I wrote my first column for ReelSEO in July 2011, I was still utilizing keyword research tools and following the advice in the first version of the YouTube Creator Playbook, which said, “Write optimized titles, tags, and descriptions for your content.” By October 2012, “watch time” had replaced “relevance” as YouTube’s most important ranking factor. And it’s worth noting that ReelSEO became Tubular Insights in July 2016.

Today, if you look at what YouTube calls its “discovery optimization tips,” you won’t find any mention of keyword research tools at all. And, the advice that you’ll read says, “Use compelling titles for your videos that accurately represent the content.” So, “compelling” has replaced “optimized.” And “accurate” has replaced “relevant.” Oh, and there are eight times more tips about keeping viewers watching, organizing and programing your content, as well as using watch time, audience retention, and audience interaction reports to see what’s working.

So, this makes it even more important to build your subscriber base. Subscribers are your most loyal fans and will be notified of new videos and playlists to watch. It is also key to design a solid plan to promote your content and ensure it’s viewed by your target audience. Unless you already have millions of subscribers, you’ll need to seed your content when it launches. And, finally, the segment that you’re trying to reach already exists — you just need a lot more help than you needed in the old days to get these potential viewers to discover your newest videos. One effective method is to collaborate with established content creators who are already reaching your target segment. Another is to find the right content partner to reach the right audience, and get more engagement for less spend.

Video Will Represent 80% of All Internet Traffic by 2021

According to Cisco, Internet video streaming and downloads are beginning to take a larger share of bandwidth and will grow to more than 81% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2021.

Cisco estimates that “emerging mediums” such as live Internet video will increase 15-fold and reach 13% of Internet video traffic by 2021. And Cisco estimates that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will increase 20-fold and represent 1% of global entertainment traffic. Now, these are the fast growing areas of the digital video marketing business – which may excite investors – but they only represent 1 day in 7 for most video marketers.

So, what constitutes the rest of the “internet video” traffic, which Cisco forecasts will “only” grow fourfold from 2016 to 2021, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of “just” 31%? Well, it includes short-form Internet video (e.g. YouTube), long-form Internet video (e.g. Hulu), Internet video to TV (e.g. Netflix through Roku), online video purchases and rentals, webcam viewing, and web-based video monitoring.

But, Cisco’s definition of “internet video” traffic excludes casual online gaming, networked console gaming, and multiplayer virtual-world gaming, which are in a whole other category, which is expected to grow 11-fold from 2016 to 2021, a CAGR of 62%. This constitutes another 5% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2021.

What’s left? Well, Cisco forecasts that almost 10% of all consumer Internet traffic in 2021 will come from web, email, instant messaging, and other data traffic, while the remaining 3% will come from file sharing.

In other words, even the 19% of consumer internet traffic that isn’t counted as internet video includes a healthy dose of online gaming, videos in emails, and the sharing of video files. Among other things, this means that by the time today’s high school seniors graduate from college, reading, writing, and arithmetic will have been replaced by short-form, long-form, and live Internet video.

Now, I headed off to college with a portable typewriter. Each of my three kids headed off to college with laptop computer. But, imagine a world where the next generation signs up for Massive Open Online Courses with a smartphone. This isn’t science fiction. This is what the world will look like in 2021!

Why should video marketers lose sleep over this megatrend? Well, most institutions of higher education are not preparing students who major in marketing for careers in a video-first world. So, one of the line items in most marketing budgets that may grow fourfold from 2016 to 2021 is “training and development.” According to the most recent data available, companies spent, on average, over $1,200 per employee each year on training. So, they may be spending $4,800 per employee by 2021.

That’s right, brands and their agencies will need to spend money teaching their employees how to create five-minute videos as efficiently and effectively as their high school taught them to write five-paragraph essays and their college taught them to compose five-page term papers.

If training and developing internal marketing teams that are almost as good as Red Bull’s seems too daunting, then brands can always outsource video creation to the media companies and video influencers who are aligned with their brand and know how to build successful sponsored video campaigns. As for agencies that don’t have the inclination to invest in employee development, well, they’ll just have to acquire some new talent or re-invent themselves for this new era, won’t they?

These are the trends in the digital video marketing business that I’ve spotted by analyzing the critical data in the latest Cisco VNI forecast. If you’ve spotted some other trends, please share them with us on Facebook or Twitter.