Episode 17: The One About the Identity Problem of Web Video

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It's been a while since the last New Mediacracy, so we took an opportunity to go back to basics with the core group of NM, Zadi Diaz, Chris McCaleb, and Steve Woolf. In the theme of getting back to basics, most of this episode's discussion centers around the identity of web video, or the lack thereof. And a ton of discussion about working towards the sustainability of scripted web shows.

Also, there is the usual excess of drinking and the table we are sitting around hates us. Probably for our freedoms. It creaks and cracks throughout the whole show, sorry about that. But give it a listen, and post your thoughts in the comments.

13 Comments

When you talk about the web series world you tend to talk about it synonymously with the bubble. It is not!!!!

Web Series Today was posting live updates from Charles Trippy during Vidcon.

We are originally from the Youtube world of Lonelygirl15 so being part of Youtube and being part of an online community has always been our direction. The fact some have forgotten why that works does not mean everyone in the web series world has.

Also there is a nice discussion on episode length that ties on a little. Or, at least you guys might enjoy it contributing to it ...

http://digitalchicktv.com/2010/08/23/episode-length-the-stats/

By the way, lonelygirl15 still gets 200,000 views per day!!!!

Incredible episode, filled with great thoughts.

Steve, do you ever worry that by fighting so hard to get away from the TV model, you run the risk of missed opportunities by ignoring the parts of the TV model that do make sense within a new, internet centric model?

Modelmotion,

In my eyes LonelyGirl15 is the epitome of what a web series should be -- or strive to be. From the intimacy, the interactivity, the community integration... everything about it in my book is amazing. I actually defended LG15 the other day when someone called it just a YouTube videoblog and not high quality -- this was someone from the web series world who seemed to think that pitching a story to a studio and having their stamp of approval defined whether or not it was high quality. No regard to using the tools that the web provides.

I think when we say "web series world" we refer to that mentality because 90% of the time that's what we hear... and it's getting a bit tiring. It seems like less and less many young filmmakers/actors/directors/writers in Hollywood feel empowered to make it their own way... to think of "different" ways to tell stories... and more and more they pitch series ideas that look like TV shows (without the budget) in the hope that someone says "yes, you can do that."

We don't mean that web series themselves have a problem. We'll clarify this point in the next podcast.

Jeff - I think we have a ton to learn from TV. They are great at branding (Must See TV, HBO Sunday Nights, etc), great at promotion, and smart about scaling advertising. In fact, I support the idea of rolling up individual shows into networks so that you can offer greater value to advertisers.

What I don't like is that we are handling this new industry over to people who have no idea what to do with it, and have no vested interest in helping it grow. Far too many people who have ideas that work for tv, but not the web, are finding themselves in influential positions. We need to turn that on its ear.

Great points Zadi. I could not agree more.

There were some really great points in this episode and everyone making a web series should not only listen to it but act on it. Too many creators are throwing away the advantages and opportunities the internet provides. It is much much, much, more than an inert distribution pipe.

That is not to say every series should look or feel like Lonelygirl15, but they should learn the lessons learned, they should study what was done right, and build from there.

Oh, I completely agree on all points. Shows on the web should not be just scaled down versions of TV shows. Can they be? Sure, but you're then completely failing to take advantage of the unique opportunities the web's interactivity provides.

I saw a retweet today from the official Harry Potter movie twitter account boasting new wallpapers and screen savers for the upcoming film. Really? Wallpapers and screen savers as your digital strategy, in 2010?

Now, I don't for a moment believe that all studio and network people are this clueless. I do, however, think that independent web creators are quickly running out of time to significantly take control of their own destinies. Someday soon I hope we'll have a good offline conversation about this.

Best,

-Jeff

BlackBoxTv is turning out to be a very interesting experiment. The use of Youtubers to star in a dramatic web series has certainly allowed them to break through the discovery problem and get off to a solid launch with 225k for episode 1 and 200k views for episode 2. Whether it can build on this over a sustained series remains to be seen, but certainly the Youtubers understand what it takes to relate to an audience in the web sphere and BlackBoxTV has done a good job of leveraging their popularity.

The danger here is that the "loyalty" is to the "star" rather than the series itself and unless you develop a unique community in the sense of the guild or lonelygirl15 then the longevity of the effect might be vulnerable. Still the channel has now 123k subs, so there again they have done a good job.

Black Box TV is an awesome experiment. We definitely need to get Tony back on the show to talk about it.

Steve and Zadi, these episode is really awesome and there were a lot of great thoughts and topics in it. I could imagine myself talking like here an whole evening about New Media Stuff.

I absolutly agree in a lot of thing and something I'm always saying while arguing or talking with people, that don't support New Media Lifestyle is the fact, that if you look at the average 20 Year-Old, or the 15 Year-Old, or even on most of 30-Year-Olds, they all spend more than 2 hours daily in front of computers, in front of digital devices, etc. So there is a huge potential, in the western countries people on average spend more time with digital devices than with consuming tv/radio. Also these people are pretty unfocused while browsing, creating or consuming, so It's even easier to catch these people to new campaigns etc. It is not understandable to me, why companies don't make the Internet their primary ad-medium.

Just wanted to mention that :)

Hey guys,

Wonderful episode as usual. Thought I'd chime in briefly, there's so much to comment on, but I thought I'd address the Youtube conversation:

- I keep hearing that many "Youtubers" have reached success and that very few web series do. I'm not completely sure what defines success (views, profit? ), however, and I wonder if that's not a bit misleading. I might be off base, but it seems that for every 1 scripted/narrative show, there are 1000 people who are making or have made "youtube" style videos. Would our perspective change if we knew that for both web series and "youtubers" about 1 in 500 are successful? What if the web series ratio was higher?

- Obviously, the industry is changing extremely fast. I see this as one of the inherent problems with creating plans right now. Take Youtube, a plan can get changed around by a simple switch in their search algorithm. Remember when it was all about getting featured on the homepage? When Youtube changed to their current homepage, it really did turn a number of strategies on their head. In fact, I believe that that change in particular led to a rise in the "mega stars" of youtube. Couldn't another change flip the script again? I know for a fact that the BusinessInsider article was circulating around Youtube and that people who work there loved the article. It makes sense that they would want to promote their most popular creators and leverage them to get more people creating and getting on board, but it's not clear that their current infrastructure is built to help new creators build a massive audience.

- I'm not against plans. I agree with Steve that they are vital, but in this type of atmosphere, because things change so fast, I'd rather have luck then a good business plan. I think that should be mentioned more often. There's a reason why making viral videos for companies is such a ridiculous business model - it's really hard to predict if a video will go viral without money behind it. In the same way, the most popular content creators on youtube have a quality about them that's hard to explain. Maybe it's because authenticity is inherent to good online video, and that is naturally at odds with the idea of a formula. Could you plan and construct another Fred or Annoying Orange? I'm really not sure. Certainly not in the same way we can plan for a TV show or movie. Granted, the most popular youtube stars have grown in popularity because they work so damn hard. They make content that is compelling. Timely. They know how to network. These are traits shouldn't be downplayed and should be taken into the scripted world. But there's also a feeling that there's some crazy fast darwinian evolution going on, and sometimes luck can be just as helpful as anything else. The best plan: do all the leg work, make the right moves, be timely, make lots of content, and then pray to the god of internet video that massive amounts of people like your stuff.

- From a business perspective, it's sort of mind boggling that Shane Dawson only makes $315,000 a year (if you can believe BusinessInsider... in fact, I have to believe he has other sources of revenue, sponsorships right?). Shane is making videos seen by 431,787,450 people. He's at the very top of this industry. $315,000 is not enough money. And that's the problem with Youtube from a business perspective. As an entrepreneur/content creator I can't realistically plan to have 1/10 his viewership. So my plan can't just be Youtube. It needs to extend beyond that. Now, what would be REALLY interesting is if you could bring in Shane or whoever and they could explain what the plan is apart from Youtube. My feeling is that a smart plan has to include a website that is controlled by the content creator, transmedia content (like the Guild comic books), and a way to charge for premium content. Yes, premium content. I remember when KevJumba started making videos with IBeatYou, and set up his site, I thought he was moving in the right direction but haven't followed his path well enough to know if he was successful.

Ok, I gotta cut myself off. It's fun thinking about all of this.

I would love that, had much fun last time.

Great comments all around, Kai.

I agree that it's difficult to plan given how quickly things change. Our plans have to be open and ready to shift, which is why it's so important for productions and companies in this industry to stay light and nimble.

I think the idea of success from my point of view is about audience. Whether we like it or not, audience is the driver for everything that follows, especially advertisers. It seems like many YouTube creators have reached a tipping point with audience, which is why so much attention is being paid there now. In the independent web series world off of YouTube, audience has been hard to come by.

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New Mediacracy is a casual conversation in the form of an audio podcast about the world of web video featuring industry producers, directors, writers, and other content creators.

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