Okay. I gave myself a 15-minute “time out” to reflect on why I have a difficult time wishing success upon the Hulu.com and Strike.tv. models — and a new one I found this morning called Heavy.com. 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 Strike.tv, 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 Strike.tv 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.