The Davids vs Goliaths of Online Video

Okay. I gave myself a 15-minute “time out” to reflect on why I have a difficult time wishing success upon the and models — and a new one I found this morning called And it comes down to a “David vs. Goliath” perspective.

Online video, to me and many others, represents the opportunity for talented individuals to garner an audience (and profit) without experience, connections or specific talent in one entertainment discipline — writing, directing, acting. I’m hard on, when in fact the initiative is, in fact, its own David against the Goliath of the Hollywood machine.

I’d like to retain a large audience online as Nalts, but I’m quite happy when shows like “The Retarded Policeman” blast past me in views and subscribers (and I take great honor when writer/director Greg Benson refers to me as Geriatric man). I look forward to the day that “Clip Critics” garners an audience well beyond mine. Even shows like PopTub and HBO Labs “Hooking Up” take care to ingratiate themselves to the core online viewers and “stars.” The shows’ motive may be to tap into the vibrant YouTube community, but it still feels polite.

There’s another problem with the format of many online shows on and other sites. They are unrelated “shows” with different target audiences — trying to create another destination site. Success to date via online video is primarily driven by an individual (not a “show”) posting on an already popular video site… not by trying to invent a new network or destination. I can’t fault these guys for trying, because they want to monetize their content, and maintain control. But unless something changes, the creators of these shows will find greater profit by building a larger YouTube audience with a smaller revenue percentage — instead of trying to siphon an audience to an unknown website in hopes that the higher “CPM” advertising revenue will create profit.

This has no precedence of working, even if Hulu enjoys greater revenue (and growing audience) because all of the content is “advertising friendly.” How often does someone return to “Funny or Die” to see if anything as big as “Landlord” is worth checking out? This Stavenhagen’s Food Pawn Shop with Steve Buscemi and Will Ferrell” looks promising, but the site isn’t streaming for me to tell… did someone forget to pay the server bill?

I will continue to root for the “little guys,” like ShayCarl, who has no connections to mainstream media but still has a delicious portfolio and rabid fans. Check out Rhett and Link’s theme song for ShayCarl (due to his victory of the SuperNotes contest). Shay is a family guy who rallies his “ShayTard” viewers like the Pied Piper of YouTube, and his horrible editing and clunky branding (see his homepage banner) makes him “one of us.”

Finally, I hope that new entrants to online video appreciate is that what makes a “show” popular is the lack of a show.

The majority of top YouTube “stars” are in not shows, but individuals doing their own writing, editing, acting and promotion. Sure this may change, but it remains mostly true today. And that’s what fascinates me about online video. It’s also why many of these people — without a proficiency in one creative discipline, but rather a “mix” of many — may not “cross over” to mainstream media. But they are undeniably building a new medium that I quite like — and I’m not alone.

12 Replies to “The Davids vs Goliaths of Online Video”

  1. You obviously spend a lot more time online than I do. How is that possible? You have young children, a wife and a job, time-burners I’m not burdened with.

    I may post more videos to the internet more regularly than you do, but you seem to know all the players and even have time to write about them. Where do you find the time? Are you on crack?

  2. Here’s what it comes down to: there is ALWAYS going to be a market for big-budget content and there is ALWAYS going to be a market for low-to-no-budget content. That’s why there are still Hollywood movie premieres and local film festivals. It’s why Napoleon Dynamite took in 44 million dollars in it’s theatrical run, the same amount Marvel Comics’ Elektra took in.

    Hulu is my favorite site other than YouTube. And I watch both way more than I should.

  3. I was on the bus last night and the stench of piss was so overpowering that I felt like I was sitting in a plastic kids pool full of week old urine.

  4. @1 he has a clone.

    Kevin, agree agree agree agree agree agree agree
    it’s vulnerability and connecting directly with the audience

    theory 1 – science and it’s the economy stupid!
    People want to escape their workaday lives, but they can’t smoke, drink or have fly by night unprotected sex anymore, and with the current economy they can’t even afford to go out.

    theory 2 – public cynicism and are you talkin’ to me?!
    I harken back to the, why should we listen to Matt Damon bitch fest blog. There’s no connection to these people, no interaction, that breeds resentment. People long for community, tribalism, comradery, you can’t get that from TV. Online communities allow you to connect (Michael Buckley is probably the most successful tuber and online “personality” in this area to date), but at the same time flip the switch when someone pisses you off or put you on hold til later. Not sure this is all good, but it seems to be the way we are headed; have to work out some of the bugs as it develops. Like everything else there’s a balance that needs to be found. Regardless, there’s so much more to explore in this area, it’s really brand new, but at the same time has some very old traditions attached.

    If one is savvy enough they could actually build an empire online; or a cult. A little charm, some charisma and a lot of dedication are what’s needed to succeed and a staff, a staff always helps, but you gotta want it. Surprisingly, not that many people want it.

  5. I would point out that one of the most successful video projects to date had it’s own destination and was not part of a larger video site…that, of course, being Ze Frank.

    He was an individual with his own destination site. It worked quite well, but only because the individual videos were so strong. John and I considered going this route with vlogbrothers, but decided that the community of youtube was too huge an asset to pass up.

  6. @peter

    I suppose it was a pretty long time ago when Ze started kicking ass in online video (three whole years) but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t still possible, if you provide the kind of quality, quantity and consistency that ze had.

    And still gets huge amounts of traffic. The thing that Nalts hits right on the head in this post is that The Show wasn’t really a show, it was Ze doing all kinds of things. “without a proficiency in one creative discipline, but rather a “mix” of many.”

    WTG Nalts…

  7. I don’t know anything about striketv but I loooove Hulu.

    I’m not looking to Hulu for what I want from YouTube. On Hulu I want to be able to watch tv shows that I can’t access either because of schedule or a lack of a tv at all (which is actually our situation), or just to browse their movies. And I love it because it’s not only less annoying than traditional broadcast (fewer commercials), or that it’s higher quality than rabbit ears, but because I hope it discourages people from uploading mainstream things onto YouTube so much. Why trudge through a ton of mildly related search results for the right cut of the right clip from some tv show when you can go to the source directly? And if people stop trudging, maybe people will eventually stop posting.

    Now, as to whether or not it’s really profitable, I have no idea. But I do like that it gives people on the internet what they want (free access to content) while still distributing royalties where they are due and protecting the original content creators. If it discourages people from filming their tvs and putting it on YouTube a dream has come true.

Comments are closed.