Can The Mutant-Child of Cable & Web Video Survive? Seven Magic Tricks.

shark that wants to eat daisy whitney's poodle violet

Television networks have had no more luck spawning, popularizing, or learning from online-video content than newspapers have had increasing circulation in recent years. But Fox 15 Gig has caught some online-video gurus’ attention, and UncleNalts has 7 magic tricks for you television and cable mavens who dare enter the shark-infested viral online-video watery… thing.

The people have chosen. We are magnetically polarized to opposite ends of the content-duration spectrum: short-form content by amateur solo-acts or a lucky few over-produced television series. The mutated child of this man-beast marriage is not socializing well at school. But I’m here to help.

Seems Daisy Whitney (in this week’s New Media Minute) thinks Fox’s 15 Gigs (which launched quietly in the summer) has a fighting chance. Watch her video to find out why. Or trust me for a summary. Or just shut-up and watch last week’s episode because she had a totally hawt guest).

Daisy Whitney's Killer French Poodle

  1. She digs Black20, the creators of “Easter Bunny Hates You” (which I shamelessly plagiarized in my Mad Turkey, but resisted rerunning this season).
  2. She believes 15 Gigs is “learning from the mistakes” and has an advantage of not being a first-mover like ABC and HBO’s failed attempts.
  3. Most importantly, she likes the concept of testing low-cost production online (sometimes less expensive than a script) before investing in television.
  4. She loves violet her French poodle Violet and is uncomfortable with its photo so close to that shark.

Adam Right of has some additional positive thoughts on 15 Giga (the studio was named, perhaps, with either homage or dis to the phrase “15 minutes of fame”). 15 Giga is spawned from Fox’s cable production arm, Fox Television Studios, which is best known for The Shield and Burn Notice (which I purchased in its entirety on iTunes). Adam Right, like Whitney and her poodle, sees this as a “different approach to creating a new media branch with 15 Gigs.” The difference, says Adam, is:

  • going edgier than television (see puppets using cocaine and smoking)
  • giving producers room
  • looking at ways to leverage interactivity of web
  • focusing on moving web series to television (which seems somewhat in conflict to point one)
  • keeping production costs down ($5-$20K per series)

Thank you, Daisy and Adam. You’ve tasted the Kool-aid and I’ll watch to see if you die before I have a sip. Now it’s UncleNalts’ turn… Web series aren’t working yet. Maybe 15 Gigs will crack the code, but it’s a dry market, girlfriend. Do you mind if I call you that? It doesn’t sound gay does it?

monkey and manAs I’ve said: In something that’s perhaps counter intuitive, people magnetically shift to opposite ends of the content-duration spectrum. The hybrid mutation is neither as satisfying as a 30-60 minute show or as personalized as a virtual-BFF (best friend forever) on YouTube. (Man I should get paid to blog… this is poetry). I loved The Guild but I forget about it during gaps… and for reasons I can’t explain I haven’t caught up. I watch maybe 6-12 shows television shows weekly and countless online-videos… but almost no web series. You can’t argue that they’re not part of our media-consumption habit yet (but in the tips below, I’ll tell you when that will change… so stay alert despite the snow falling over my words).

So here’s some free advice — step right up and taste the magic potion — for those cable/network peeps brave enough to dare to tap into serialized web shows. These magical seven tips will help you with your mutant content or your money back the next time I pass through Passamaquati.

  1. Speed up your editing cadence to border-line mania. Those music-laden dramatic television transitions and rack focuses of NYC cabs are begging the audience to ditch when they’re “leaning forward” watching web content. Think Fawlty Towers, Basil-like speed. Take a 10 minute script and force it into 5 minutes. Then the pregnant pauses will have ball-busting impact. The first 10 seconds must grab them, and suck them in. Hold onto their attention like they’re an over-caffeinated Chihuahua with ADHD. Because we, I mean “they,” are.
  2. Hedge your bets and hyper-niche. Go for volume… lots of shows so many can fail. Fail, fail, fail. I’ve done it 800 times. A few stuck. More importantly, instead of marketing them widely appeal to audiences, focus on really niche audiences who will share them. For instance, a well-produced show about a restaurant staff will probably travel among those who are working (or have worked) at a restaurant… Go super narrow. You’ll need a rabid inner circle of fans to survive the next tip.
  3. BFF the ardent fans. Web series simply lack the personal interaction that is felt when someone watches a favorite vlogger talk to them, pull a stunt or even do a skit. The characters in web series often talk at each other, and forget me. Hey- I’m watching… are you an actor or a real person? So please add some interactivity via technology, but more importantly break the wall down between the actors and the hardcore fans. No I’m not talking about a f’ing scripted character Twitter profile. I’m not talking about interactive “chose your own adventure.” I’m talking about the actual actors (sorry- not the writers) engaging with the fans directly in comments. I promise you this: one personal touch between a creator/actor and a single audience member and you’ve got a loyal fan who will tell 21.2-52.7 people about the show. I promise.
  4. snake oil naltsSuffer through Routinely Popular Online-Video Personalities or YouTube Partners. I know it makes you insane to see amateurs gain huge audiences for videos that are significantly worse than yours. But endure it and learn from it. Watch the most popular people and daily videos and rather than groan, ask “what is this clown doing that we can replicate.” Be selective about what you mimic, of course, because most of my crap has no business on television. But a lot can be learned from watching what’s gathering a crowd today. Don’t get distracted by one-hit wonders… watch the people that keep an active fan base over time.
  5. Collaborate. Get the characters of a web series into other popular shows (and give prominent web personalities cameos). That’s how YouTube stars are discovered, and it’s how many classic television shows were spawned. iChannel did this with me, and The Retarded Policeman exploded when it started giving cameos to the most-subscribed talent on YouTube. I want to see someone from Glee show up in The Office… I’ll get chills.
  6. Drink Your Prune Juice. You’ve got to be regular. I’ve fallen recently on YouTube because I’m not posting videos as frequently. People gravitate toward content that has daily uploads… they build it into their day. If you can be predictable as posting at a specific hour, it’s even better. Remember when we’d all wait for ZeFrank to post? Yeah neither do I. Sorry but a week is simply too long for web series… daily is ideal and not more than 2 days.
  7. Persist. This is going to get a whole lot easier when we can conveniently stream web content from our televisions, and that’s happening as we speak. I believe this transition will remove the biggest barrier to serialized web content — because we have fundamentally different expectations of storytelling in various mediums. Soon our nightly ritual might be trading 30 minutes of television-viewing for 5 niche mini-shows. And if the people and stories of each episode cross over into another show… that’s drama, friends.

Now go print this out on your Ink Jet, and Scotch tape it to your wall or someone else’s. Because we both know that everything that happens to you in the next 6 months will make you forget this list.

20 Replies to “Can The Mutant-Child of Cable & Web Video Survive? Seven Magic Tricks.”

  1. Nalts, I’m disappointed in you! I was fully expecting you to have already typed out a nice blog about the top YouTuber’s starting to turn on each other as a follow up to the “The Station” post you did earlier and the trial of money. Oh and don’t forget the lawsuit that never happened with Greg and Ponce. Anyways, the saga between Phil and Cory is an interesting one and I would appreciate you doing some sleuthing to get to the bottom of the rat pile. After all, I’m assuming you still have their cell numbers and can either txt or call them to find out what is going on. 🙂

    Now on a serious note, I hope you and your family had a wonderful, fun Thanksgiving and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  2. In biology today we were learning about the kidneys and the process in which out body process the nutrients and relieves our body of waste. I raised my hand and asked “So from what you’re saying… is it not very beneficial to drink your own urine?”

    My professors love me!

    Last week we were talking about veins and arteries and I asked about shooting dope in your neck. She said it wasn’t a good idea to do that.

  3. Nutcheese- I’m sure if I drank my own urine I’d get intoxicated. Hey- what’s the drama about Cory and Sxephil? Wow… I need to get back into the action… more frequent posts and pooping daily. I am, Mr. Stalker, drinking a lot of prune juice as I work my way down to a safer 200 lbs.

  4. Nalts, I was referring to your video production not being regular. I’ll let NutCheese worry about your pooping schedule.

    By the way, why do you call Daisy’s dog a French poodle?

  5. Yes yes yes yes yes. This should be one of those downloadable PDFs and you should charge $8,000 per copy. Very good stuff here.

    I do disagree on one point. As soon as we’re streaming things into our televisions, the viewer’s relationship with it becomes passive. It stops being a “lean forward” kind of thing.

    I completely agree that the internet is going to change the way television works and it will create a massive amount of choice for consumers and that new TV shows will be shorter and cheaper. But whatever is on television in the future will obey most of television’s current rules. When people are sitting on the couch relaxing, they won’t want rapid fire editing or personal relationships with actors and creators.

    I guess what I’m saying is we shouldn’t get caught up in the idea that this is all going one way. Television is certainly going to change. But the much more fundamentally interesting thing is this new form of entertainment that has people active and engaged while they enjoy it.

    We’re not waiting for the magical moment when it breaks onto the big screen. I really don’t believe that will ever happen. The stuff that’s popular on the internet now really only works when you’re at a computer. Of course, that should make sense, since media are designed for the way people interact with them.

    Anyhow, I’m looking forward to seeing that grow and change and realize it’s potential more fully (especially because it’s what I do for a living now.)

  6. Hank- I can’t refute that. I think I’ve been stuck in this “it’s all going to change soon” mode since I looked at purchasing a Dell media center in 1998 (and didn’t). I’m probably guilty of hyping this big web/tv collision which indeed may be slow and matter less to amateurs than I sometimes fear. I do hope that TV of the future gives me the control that the web does today. I think we’ll demand a “lean back” experience where our remote does more than scroll through channels.

  7. Steve- I think sxephil, shaycarl (shaytards), michaelbuckley, charlestrippy have mastered the daily vlog quite well… and while they’re less crafted they’re more accessible. I felt Ze talked down to his viewers, and never saw him as very social. These guys are in constant contact with their audience- especially buckley.

  8. Alexis- I mistakenly referred to her husband as Pierre once. Don’t know why. It’s been a recurring joke I initiate because I feel like such a moron. So I figured I might as well give her a French dog to go with Pierre. This, of course, was an inside joke so obscure I believe she missed it. But the highest form of comedy is the joke that nobody gets but you. Oh that’s a tweet.

  9. Nalts, The scoop as I know it regarding Phil and Cory…Phil called Cory out for having a friend use some sort of reloading software to inflate the view counts on his vids. Cory then issued a twitter statement rebuking Phil for dissiminating false information in his vlog. No response has been seen from Phil to date. You seriously need to stop worrying about making money being this social media consultant and stick to what your good at…stirring up trouble. 🙂

  10. @8 & 11 Kevin’s heart is still broken because ze frank didn’t send him a picture and told him to leave him alone. Some times unrequited love is hard to get over.

    I don’t know if ze talked down to the viewers, I saw it all as exploring the space and seeing where it would go. Though some did think it became a little more like a lesson or lecture than just wacky fun stuff towards the end, but that was part of the whole creative process, it was what it was, and even now everyone doing something similar did nothing, but copy aspects of the show and are making a pretty nice living off the play that went on there, the inspiration of ‘I can do this’ and all the ideas that came out of the thing. Props where props are due.

    As far as the social aspects, is there distance, yeah, but… I do think You Tube contributed more to the whole social networking part than anything else – leaving a comment on the show took some guts in the beginning. All the collabs and begging for comments on YouTube to get those numbers up in order to get on the front page just seems like second nature now.

    I wonder what percentage the comments drive viewership today.

  11. @14 sorta
    RE: Phil – meh – I guess like anyone else you love them, are indifferent to them or psychotic – there’s something for everyone, just have to find your audience or hope they find you. It’s why some people watch Oprah and other watch the History Channel, MSNBC v. FOXNEWS and You Tube has a lot more to offer – strange exotic people in strange exotic places or someone just up the street -it’s hard to get a handle on for advertisers which is why the favorites is a brilliant idea – it’s the list of lists and who doesn’t need a list?

    Santa Clause is coming to town…

  12. where is this all going… so much to think about….

    Seems like twitter is the end of the road all across the ap-wise. Like 8track tapes and cassettes books are on the way out making way for digital. Everything is surrounding computers and phones. I think hardware technology has to change drastically for the next big phase – the computer table? a minority report type world? embedded brain chips? Which brings us back to the economy, which isn’t funding new innovations unless it’s war related, least any affordable ones.

    So what are people looking for besides free and a paycheck?

    Technology may need to go into hibernation for a while. That said, since most things in life move in waves, I think frugal is in and anyone willing to make that entertaining could find some temporary and popular success.

    Hey not only can this blog start a ‘get your groove back club’ it could becomes a virtual new think tank 😉

  13. @17 Speaking of waves, I hope Kevin writes a post about Google Wave sometime. It’s more or less open to anyone who wants it now (I’ve got 16 invites to give away if anybody needs one) so it should be more useful than when it was first released.

    I’ve always wanted to be part of a think tank. I’ll volunteer to be the math and science consultant. Let me know if you have any pressing matters involving functional analysis or quantum mechanics.

  14. @19 Why? So you can win the million dollars for solving it? No, I think I’ll keep the solution to myself if I solve it to be published only posthumously.

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