The New York Times writes another “web video is a losing proposition” article, and boasts countless of examples of overbaked web series that lost their shirts. I think Squeegees is a perfect example of the problem with online video and monetization. Writes Brian Stelter:
“Squeegees,” a 10-episode series by Stage 9 (a digital subsidiary of ABC) about a merry band of high-rise window washers, illustrates the challenge. The show made its premiere in April on five Web sites. On the most prominent site, YouTube, the second episode showed 312,000 views as of Sunday, helped by prominent links on YouTube’s home page in April. By the fifth episode, the view count had dropped to 3,000.
Squeegees is absolutely hysterical (see them on YouTube). I learned of it for the first time last Friday from a friend, and we watched nearly ever episode. It’s well written, well acted, and reminds me of Stella (a short-lived modern 3 Stooges, staring the brilliant Michael Ian Black).
But it’s perhaps “too television like” for the early, habitual adopters of online video. It’s brilliant comedy but simply doesn’t currently appeal to online-video viewers that engage daily with YouTube. Will the mainstream viewers prefer Squeegees to Nalts? Absolutely. But that’s going to take time, and even Eisner can’t afford to float expensive production until a monetization model appears in the next few years (driven mostly by ads, and subsidized by pay-per-view if it’s easy enough and offers additional value).
Squeegees has about 1,500 subscribers on YouTube despite uploading 6 months ago (admitedly YouTube is not a primary channel for the content, and here are the rest of the distribution channels for the web series).
But remember that YouTube is the most popular online-video site, and the default residence for regular consumers of online video. For now (with an emphasis on NOW), I’d rather be the 80th most popular YouTuber than the King of Hulu. I’ve gained more subscribers in the past 24 hours than Squeegees has since it launched. Am I better? No. But I market myself, appeal better to current obsessive online viewers, and I probably spend less per episode than Squeegees spent to cater breakfast on a one day shoot.
Content well produced like Squeegees will eventually leave us amateurs in the dust. But in the mean time the marketers of this content are probably beating their head against the wall and missing some things that are obvious… keep costs down, leverage existing cewebrities from YouTube, collaborate, appeal to current audiences, and evolve the style over time.
Squeegees’ producer, “Stage 9” describes itself as “seeking filmmakers who create high-quality series at a fraction of the cost of film and television.” I don’t doubt that Squeegees was produced at a fraction of a television series, but that’s still too much. I don’t yet see an advertising model that can substantiate actors, writers, directors, sets- except perhaps a single sponsor that gets more than CPM and uses the content to attract prospects to a site that converts them to customers. But if I was Stage 9 I’d start with the advertiser, and develop content that fits their goals and demo.
That said, I’m ready for a cameo, Squeegees! And that goes for any other killer content creator looking to boost its visibility on YouTube! All I ever wanted in life was to make someone famous so they can ignore my calls when they hit.