YouTube Prankster, Edbassmaster, Debuts Television Show

YouTube comedian and prankster, Ed Bassmaster, is debuting his new TV show on CMT this week.

Another YouTuber is moving to mainstream with “The Ed Bassmaster Show” premiering on Country Music Television (CMT) this Thursday, April 14, at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Bassmaster is a YouTube comedian and prankster from Philadelphia, and has garnered a half-billion YouTube views featuring his alter egos like Skippy (the lovable yet annoying nerd who oversteps boundaries), Mumbles (unintelligible accent) and Teste (his low-IQ Philly cross-eyed dude).

Skippy is one of the dozens of freakishy funny characters played by Ed Bassmaster
Skippy is one of the dozens of freakishly funny characters played by Ed Bassmaster

Click to see the very funny trailer for the new Viacom show, which is produced by the folks who launched MTV hits like “Teen Wolf,” “Kesha: My Crazy Beautiful Life” and “The Andy Milonakis Show.”

This is one funny bastard and one of the nicest guys you’ll meet in the YouTube community. Nalts met the fellow prankster back in 2007, soon after he parodied me in a video. He later joined me in the YouTube Presidency as my VP running mate (or I might have ditched him for Winekone; I can’t be sure). And while shooting a documentary with Shaycarl at my house, we pranked him and watched him eat a worm. But few things amuse me more than the video he made of us called “Nalts Likes Dogs.” Feel free to sing along.

This article in the Guardian provides plenty more examples of how YouTubers are moving beyond the video-sharing site into television and film. It’s nice to see it happening to a humble and hysterical guy.

What GOVA’s Gavone Means to Online Video and the New Networks

There’s a new Global Online Video Association led by Paul Kontonis. What does it means to YouTube and the networks like Collective, Maker, Machinima, Fullscreen and others?

He’s the new GOVA Gavone. The leader of the online video association. The guy who’s scream silences a room.

AdWeek reports that Paul Kontonis, former online video producer and agency guy, is heading the new Global Online Video Association (GOVA). Kontonis has been a leader in the online video space from its inception, including such roles as founder of “For Your Imagination,” VP at Digitas’ Third Act, and chairman of International Academy of Web Television.

online, video, gavone, GOVA, association
Paul Kontonis is the gavone who heads GOVA, the new online-video trade association.

By day, Kontonis heads sales and strategy for one of the top “multichannel networks” (MCNs) called Collective Digital Studio. GOVA is made up of nine of the top MCNs (also called online-video studios and “new networks”). These include Collective, Maker Studios, Fullscreen, Big Frame, BroadbandTV, DECA, Discovery’s Revision3, Magnet Media and MiTu Networks. Machinima is conspicuously absent, but unlikely for long (it’s quite common for the biggest in an industry to initially think they don’t need an association).

GOVA represents 9 of the top 10 online-video studios, or MCNs
GOVA represents 9 of the top 10 online-video studios, or MCNs

Caveat: I know Kontonis and like him (which is why I am allowed to call him a gavone as a term of respect). He was even in one of my videos where I thought I turned invisible. But I haven’t spoken to him in a while and know nothing directly about his GOVA appointment. So this is all my speculation based on watching this space mature. And I wrote a book, so shut up.

What’s ahead, and what does GOVA mean to the networks and the maturing landscape of online video?

  • Susan Wojcicki, the leader of YouTube.
    Susan Wojcicki, leader of YouTube, is focused on mainstream players. GOVA may help keep her attention on smaller studios.

    Bargaining Power with YouTube. The online-video networks, or “multichannel networks,” will now have a collective voice they’ll need more in coming years. That’s in part because YouTube, the virtual monopoly on distribution, is increasingly turning its attention to more mainstream studios and traditional networks. As YouTube grows, it will be increasingly difficult for individual studios to command the attention they’ve received in the past. How do we know that? History is the best predictor: Initially top YouTube stars could garner attention from Google and resolve issues. But eventually YouTube creators needed the power of a network. The networks don’t know it yet, but in years ahead they’ll need strength in greater numbers than they have today.

  • Bumpy Road, Herding Cats. Associations can be tricky, as participants theoretically want a collective voice, but they’re also competing against each other for precious advertising dollars. Kontonis has shown he’s got the diplomacy and persuasion to herd these network cats.
  • GOVA may help keep emerging studios independent, which is good for "amateurs."
    GOVA may help keep emerging studios independent, which is good for “amateurs.”

    Could Slow Down Acquisitions. In the coming years, we’d expect to see more of these online-video networks get acquired by larger players. Discovery ate Revision3. Google ate Next New Networks.  GOVA may give some of these players more time to play independently, if they wish, before the eventual consolidation of traditional and “multichannel” networks in the 2015-2020 period.  That doesn’t mean the MCNs will be less attractive to acquiring parties, it just means they won’t be as desperate to be sold. That’s a very good thing for individual creators of these networks. (When they do get acquired, they’ll try to convince you it’s a good thing…  but as a loyal WVFF reader you’ll know better).

  • GOVA can help negotiate with emerging video-playing technologies
    GOVA can help negotiate with emerging video-playing technologies

    Developing Emerging Channels to Reduce Dependency on YouTube. As we look beyond YouTube, the major stakeholders are technology companies, advertisers, and content creators. Years ago, an individual studio could negotiate their video content onto new platforms — like we saw Revision3 do with Roku and College Humor do with TiVo. But that will be more difficult as stakes increase and traditional networks start seeing more meaningful “TV dollars” moving to emerging channels. This coordinated approach through GOVA will increase the studio’s voice with new platforms. Watch for GOVA serving a role to keep them “out in front” of new platforms — from Roku to Netflix and Hulu to Amazon. And more importantly, the emerging video distribution platforms we don’t yet see coming. Maybe one day even AppleTV!

  • Other Boring But Important Crap. GOVA can also help with legislation/regulation, advertising formats, metric standardization, growth of the online-video, and thought leadership. Depending on the issue, they will likely partner and challenge other players like IAB, ComScore, traditional media associations, and marketing agencies.
  • Four More Years. That’s how long I see this lasting. By 2018, we’d expect GOVA to roll into the Internet Advertising BureauIRTS or some other association. But no other association has the knowledge of or focus on this medium.
  • Bottom Line. Creators and studios need GOVA whether they know it or not. Otherwise the technology platforms and advertisers will set the agenda.
maker, deco, big frame, deca, magnet, fullscreen, collective, web, studios, networks, online, youtube
9 out of the top 10 “multichannel networks” are included in the new association.

More Advice from YouTube “Stars”

This is part two of a series featuring direct advice from YouTube “stars” about what keeps them going. In part one (click to read), we heard from Brittani Louise Taylor, Rhett and Link, and Charles Trippy.

Now let’s thank four more of the most prolific and prominent YouTube creators: Michael Buckley, Venetian Princess, MysteryGuitarman and Happyslip. They’ve shared — in their own words — what keeps the “fire burning in their bellies.” I believe they’re all profiled in Beyond Viral (I frankly haven’t read it), but this is new perspective on how they’ve continued to stay fresh. We can learn a lot from these people who aren’t just early sprinters, but marathon runners of this medium.

1. Michael Buckley

He’s the host of “WhatTheBuck,” and one of the most participatory YouTubers around. You might have read about him last fall in Advertising Age. What keeps him spankin‘ and rolling?

Michael Buckley hosts "What The Buck" on YouTube

a. JOY:
First and foremost, JOY. I know that is a gay answer! HA! But I still LOVE YouTube as much as I did when I became a “YouTube Star” back in 2007. Obviously, YouTube is very different now but I still love it so much and take great JOY in making videos and engaging the community. I am grateful every day that this is the life I am fortunate enough to lead. I LOVE MAKING VIDEOS! I LOVE YOUTUBE! This is the greatest career you could ever have!

YES! This is a big one that keeps me going! I think being on a SCHEDULE and having a set FORMAT has made it easier for me to stay on track. I never stop and think “Oh what should I make a video about?” – which I imagine would be stressful if I didn’t have a set format. Some people might tire of this but for me I thrive with the structure and consistency of it. My format is not ideal in 2011 YouTube and maybe someday I will tweak it but I enjoy it.

So yeah- that is a big part of what keeps me going. Having a schedule but then being able to flexible with it when I need to be is a luxury that I do not take for granted.

This is going to sound like a strange answer and it’s a personal one- that maybe I shouldn’t share- and may sound dumb – but – I think I am very funny. So when I think “What keeps me going?” – I think about how much I enjoy writing What the Buck. I love love love writing and making jokes and filming it and when I watch it back- I think it is very funny. (Which reminds me of 2006 when I would have a video up with 60 views and 4 comments – I didn’t care if anyone was watching –I watched it 60 times and thought it was hilarious!) So I am very motivated to come up with funny jokes and see if I can deliver them in a humorous way. I think you have to like your own videos or you are screwed.

I don’t look back. I don’t sit around and think “Oh I wish YouTube was small like it was in 2007” or “I wish I was the big fish I was back in 2008” which I find a lot of YouTubers who lose their motivation find themselves reflecting back to “when they were popular”. I just look forward and remained focused on creating my content. I am never threatened by other people becoming successful on YouTube. I am happy if my success inspired anyone and I am inspired daily by so many people on the site!

Getting paid to do something you love is the cherry on top!

2. HappySlip

Happyslip parodies her family and has more than 700K subscribers


She’s one of the first YouTubers with whom I “collabed” and she’s been at it before YouTube was on the map.

“For the videos, I try to focus on what entertains me, what entertains my family and friends around me.  That is what I started with and I suppose it is a niche that will always have a loyal following.  The audience definitely varies in demographics and most are not tweenies who live on their computers ready to devour their new subscriptions.  Without that first huge burst of viewers that descend upon a new upload, the videos don’t make the homepage and therefore the snowball that used to accumulate so fast and large just accumulates at a slower pace.

So some of the reasons that keep me going:

  • I would make videos or entertain people even if I weren’t paid.
  • I remind myself constantly that my value doesn’t come from YouTube #s or income that is coming in.
  • I try to focus on what makes my content unique rather than try to make similar videos to other popular creators. (at the same time, I try to throw in some non-filipino vids which are just subjects that inspire me or make me laugh)
  • I only pay so much attention to comments on the videos, and definitely don’t read them if I’m in a bad or fragile mood haha.”

3. MysteryGuitarMan

MGM is one of the most-subscribed YouTubers and has gone from living in the back of a van to living in the front of one. How?

Joe Penna has been making videos since the dawn of YouTube (he wrote my theme song when he was living on Ramon Noodles), but he vanished for a while and returned with a parade of hits. How has he endured as one of the most-subscribed YouTubers?

“It’s tough to keep going. Back in 2010, when my channel was growing rapidly, I went through various phases. I had a phase where I played music with random objects, where I did a bunch of different music looping videos, a bunch of crowd-sourced videos, etc.
Nowadays, for example, if I post a stop motion videos there will be at least one comment with dozens of thumbs up saying “you’re boring! stop making stop motion videos!” If I post something different, I’ll get at least one comment with dozens of thumbs up saying, “you’ve changed! the reason I subscribed is for the stop motion video!
The same goes for any of the little phases I went through. I responded about 4 months ago by posting this video: (check it out at 2:19).
I think what keeps me going is that the feedback I get is almost always overwhelmingly positive. I just chalk it up to me having a channel where it’s not the same format every single time. There have always been and there will always be the vocal minority who won’t think my latest video is up to par with whichever video they found me, or who won’t agree with something new I’ve started.
That’s why I’m on YouTube. To experiment. To create something new. You can come along for the ride, if you so wish. If not, good riddance.

4. VenetianPrincess

She's picked herself up several times, but has continued making videos since she was 8.

Her song parodies have been seen more than 330 million times, and she’s one of the most-subscribed female YouTube musicians. But she took a break and rebounded.  

“Last year I took a hiatus from YouTube, and pretty much all other internet platforms.  I was dealing with family medical issues, I bought a house that ended up being a nightmare, and then I got hit with those copyright claims on my videos which really took the fun out of making videos for me.  I was so upset about it, because now I would have to totally rethink all my material and a lot of the video content I had already shot for parodies were now useless.  So I took a long time off.  From June 2010 – February 2011, I didn’t make any big videos. I’d do a small crappy video here and there, but my full-on productions were now out the door.  I was too bummed out which made me lose my creative spark and I needed to step away.  Because of my viewers, I managed to stay up there on the charts as top female for about two years.

It took 4 months of no videos to finally push me down the charts, which I knew was inevitable.  In all honesty, numbers never really meant that much to me.  Sure, it was exciting to get a lot of views.  But all I really cared about was a) having fun and b) having people that would watch my videos.  The whole “beating Miley Cyrus” thing was a campaign I did for fun because I knew my viewer demographic was into her. When I got hit last year with all of the difficult stuff on YouTube and in real life, I lost all of my drive.  I needed to take time away from YouTube and rethink everything.  Coming back to it this year, I have a completely different view of it.  Of course, YouTube changed ALOT since I left too.  The most viewed and subscribed lists are not as significant as they used to be.  The lists are now all buried and very hard to find while navigating the site.

Another thing I noticed is that everyone and his brother does parodies now.  I think I was one of the first YouTubers doing music video spoofs.  Now it’s like 3 hours after a new music video comes out, there are already 20 parodies on YouTube.  It wasn’t like that before, which played to my advantage.  Now I’m just another spoof channel, and the one-woman-show thing that used to appeal to people is now not as cool as full-on casts with production crews.  I’m a big fan of Key of Awsome myself, so I can totally understand.  It just goes to show how YouTube keeps evolving.
I now approach the site with a new perspective.  Youtube has become almost too big to think of it as a community anymore. I see it now like each channel has it’s own viewer base and I just focus on creating content for my audience.  I have learned that if I am enjoying what I am creating, the majority of my viewers will pick up on that and enjoy watching it.  If I push something out just for the sake of putting a video up, it’s going to show.  Again, numbers never motivated me to create.  But at the same time, my pay is dependent on those numbers.  So I try not to think about that.  I find that if I just do the videos that make me happy, they will do well enough to continue paying the bills.  And I’ll still be able to say I love my job.
Here are some things I do differently now that keep me going:
  • I only allow myself to read the first page of comments.  Usually they are from subscribers and are positive, so they leave me feeling positive about the video when I close out & leave the computer.
  • I post videos that I know I would enjoy watching.  I’m not going to post something just because it tends to my demographic.
  • I don’t watch as many YouTube videos as I used to.  It’s inspiring to watch other tubers do their thing, but watching too much YouTube can be unhealthy.  (And talking about it too much can annoy friends and family lol).
  • I’ve discovered vlogging.  I have a different channel (Skydiamondz) where I post vlogs a few times a week of my real life.  It’s a nice way for me to make videos that don’t take a hundred hours to make.  I shoot it on my iphone, edit for like 10 minutes, and poof it’s uploaded and viewers get a glance into my life without the all the lights and glitter they see in my parodies.  It’s a different kind of experience for me.
  • I’m active on twitter and facebook, it’s a great way to connect with my viewers in a different environment.  I can post video-related topics on my facebook page and get instant feedback from them.
The other thing that is important to mention is that I’ve been making videos since I was 8 years old.  Making the costumes, experimenting with special effects, the whole shebang.  So with or without YouTube- I’d still be doing this on some level.  I’m just blessed to now actually have a lot more than 4 people to watch.  🙂
Big thanks to these four… if it’s one thing more impressive than enduring new-age talent it’s the folks willing to share their tips.



Do YOU Have What It Takes to Become (and Stay) a YouTube Star?

I’ve written plenty about how to become a YouTube star (see free eBook v2 and “Beyond Viral“), but today’s post is the first of a series about the persistence of some top YouTube talent. It’s one thing to break through the clutter and develop a following, but quite another thing to maintain it… the latter takes consistency, adaptability, time, ability to spot trends, endurance, patience, loads of work, and thick skin.

You don't become a top YouTube star for talent and charisma alone. And you don't stay there long without some mysterious skills and character. So what's the common thread?

Yesterday I sent a note to about 20 top YouTube stars… focusing mostly on the independent acts who didn’t have a large fan base until YouTube (that excluded offline “real” stars, musicians, and production companies). If you’re interested in my e-mail to them, select “more” below.

The key question I asked them is simply, “what keeps you going.”

Now I’d like to share 3 of the early responses (part 1 of a series), and ask you WillVideoForFood readers the same question in a different way. What do YOU think separates the leading YouTube creators from the rest of us? Is it talent, consistency, interaction with fan base, variety, adaptability, omni-presence? Or is the underlying currency, as Producer Fred Seibert observed to me, “narcissism”? I don’t think Fred meant that word to carry the negative baggage, rather he presented it as a base characteristic of enduring entertainers… it’s what allows them to overcome the many barriers and exert uncompromising effort.

Thanks to Brittani, Rhett and Charles for giving us some insights into how passion, teamwork and community serve them. Stay tuned for more from WheezyWaiter, Michael Buckley, VenetianPrincess, Hank Green, KipKay, Edbassmaster, and others. Their responses may surprise you!

1) BrittaniLouiseTaylor: Passion

“What keeps me going?  Simple, passion!! I am an actress, and I get to cast myself and play whatever role I want.  My creativity is not dependent on knowing the right person, being at the right place at the right time, I am in control of my destiny. You have to stay positive and keep the passion that you had when you first started making videos.  Being on Youtube is like being in a relationship, you have to put work into maintaining it and keeping your interest. You hit patches where you are like “Uhhhh what video should I do next.”  Most of the time I have some crazy idea, but if I have to do something last minute because I have had a busy week, I do it last minute.  I am determined to have a new video every Saturday and Sunday, if it means me staying up all night that is what I’ll do! Numbers shouldn’t matter, Youtube is always changing and things will go up and down.  You have to do it foryou.  At the end of the day, did you like the video?  Are you happy with it?  That is all that matters!


2) RhettandLink: Power of Two

RhettAndLink's Rhett were determined to support themselves from their passion, and attribute their persistence, in part, to the partnership
Thanks for asking! I think the reason is three-fold, and in no particular order.  The first reason is that once web video became our primary source of income (and I’m talking almost ALL of our income from 2007-2010), we developed a business model based on fairly consistent content.  So our time and energy were all focused on making videos.

The second reason is that we keep having new ideas.  We keep coming up with stuff that we want to create.  A related reason is that our success isn’t based on one genre.  We’ve tried a lot, and a fair amount has worked. The last reason is the fact that there are two of us. We are much less likely to quit because we can motivate one another. Thanks! -Rhett

3) CharlesTrippy: Community

Hey man!! Hows it going on your end?! Ive been watching your unclenalts videos and I am like “dude, when did the kids get so old!!” insane! (your fam is the original tards! haha). What keeps me going? Yah, you kind of nailed it with your points but I think there are a few reasons that keep me motivated.

I’d say the community plays a HUGE part – just when I get discouraged or frustrated I go back and read the comments and it seems to pop me back in place, you know? I also think about the future and I love the fact that i’ll have these videos/days documented. We’ve been lucky enough to pretty much film Alli and I’s entire relationship (we started like 5 monthsor less after dating) so to have that means a lot to us. Also, I don’t want to say it’s really motivation but the fact that Youtube/Google pays it’s creators keeps me motivated because I can invest all of my time in it and still make a life for myself and my family 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy I know you posted daily (sometimes twice) for a very long time so I know you can relate. I think above all the community is the #1 source of encouragement and motivation for me…. -Charles Trippy

CharlesTrippy had a large following, and grew it to a new level when he joined his fiance Alli in the daily "Internet Killed TV" series

Coming soon: Responses I’ve already received from YouTube’s most-subscribed: WheezyWaiter, Michael Buckley, VenetianPrincess, Hank Green, KipKay, Edbassmaster.

To see my note to these peeps, click more. And don’t forget to comment yourself: what do YOU think it takes?

Nalts in Annoying Orange

Hey Kevin, sorry to hijack your blog, but I promised daneboe I would make sure you knew if he offered you another chance to be in Annoying Orange.

I’ve already emailed you, texted you, and left a message in your voicemail, but I’ve still got a few more tricks up my sleeve just in case you miss all of those. Hopefully you’ll get the message before I start using more drastic measures. I’ll give you a couple of days.


Weirder Book Comments Anyone?

So the book site (BeyondViral) is pretty darned live for this weeks’ official release.

From now on, if you put your hands in this position you're stealing intellectual property.

Now c’mon WillVideoForFood “backrowers.” You’ve done majestically on Amazon’s ratings. Let’s show David M. Scott (he’s like the Fred of social media) how fun people respond to blogs. He and Steve Garfield helped get me into Wiley’s New Rules for Social Media, and he’s blogged about Beyond Viral. Who’s got some comment humor in him. Rumor has it even Sukatra’s got WVFF access from her phone.

Who wants to read thoughtful reactions to literature? I’m guessing David M. Scott has never experienced a mathematical correction from Alexis (apparently “exponential” is not what I think), a bowel joke from Nutcheese or a Reubnick quip. Jan’s probably got a funky political angle. Here’s hoping Marquisdejolie links back one of his bazaar videos, a term I’d use more often but for Maryln. What ya got Punchy, Zack, Coffin, JimmerSD? How about my sisters and bro? They visit. Really.

I got a few notes that the book is in stores, which tells me either:

  • This isn’t some elaborate prank on me, or a dream.
  • Or that I’m still dreaming

Wow. I blog in my dreams? That’s kinda lame.

Amazon sent me a gift certificate for free copies, but I think I’m going to use it to buy a remote-controlled airplane toy with a video camera instead.

AdAge Celebrates YouTube Sellouts

AdAge called out the biggest YouTube sellouts— those known for sponsored videos for top brands. Naturally my headline would have read “YouTube’s Most Prolific Sponsored Artists” had I been included in the list. For those of you whose nipples don’t get pointy when you hear words like “advertising, marketing, Mad Men, spot, creative brief, storyboards, USP, reach, frequency and single-minded proposition,” AdAge is kinda the Forbes for advertising junkies. It’s like Men’s Health except some straight people read it.

shaycarl t-shirt

The actual article is titled “Meet YouTube’s Most In-Demand Brand Stars,” and it’s a nice representation of the booming webstar, perhaps the central point of “Beyond Viral,” an amazing new book by Wiley & Sons coming out Sept. 21. Despite some conspicuous misses and a few odd inclusions, the article points to some interesting nuggets like MysteryGuitarMan (MGM) preference for a blank creative brief… his videos have never been better, and each one squashes my own confidence more aggressively than the next.

I would have also liked to read a “who’s who” of the companies that link stars with brands (Hitviews, Mekanism, PlaceVine, Howcast, YouTube). That’s something you don’t see covered well, and it’d be fascinating to read about the total market for sponsored videos and the dominant players.

TubeMogul helped compile this list, and you can see the webstar’s vital signs on the TubeMogul marketplace. The stats seem to be out of synch with YouTube’s counter and other sites (TubeMogul has me at 145 million, while YouTube alone counts 161 million…. so my views on Yahoo Video and other sites must be negative 16 million). It could be that once I “private” a video (like those I’ve buried because I no longer like them), I lose Tubemogul credit for them.

Before I could go to bed sulking for being overlooked by AdAge and Tubemogul, I discovered author Irina Slutsky sent me a note about this a week or so. And yeah I missed it. Just like the two e-mail offers to appear on AnnoyingOrange, one of the hottest web series by DaneBoe.

ADHD online-video creator and marketer seeks minimum-wage e-mail account manager from India.

These peeps don’t seem to read my blog, but I consider more than a few of them as friends… Trippy (he’s been in my kids’ bed), Buckley (he spanked me), Penna (wrote the Nalts theme and couldn’t get into bars at early YouTube gathersings), and Shay (he was new, we collabed, then he became twice as big as me overnight… and also got a lot more viewers). Others are more like acquaintances like Justine (who keeps a safe distance, but I made her what she is) and Smosh. Speaking of Smosh, Ian and Anthony get props for the recent Butterfinger Snackers video (“Selling Out”) that spoofed the criticism they’ve taken lately for doing a few too many sponsored videos. Heh. I did a Butterfinger video in 2006, a year before I goofed on this whole sponsored-video space with this video, which mentions Smosh. I’m guessing the Smosh kids never saw this diddy…

It’s me 3 years ago mimicking the emergence YouTube “sell outs” and the personalities who might desperately broker brand/webstar love connections... you know, the entities connecting brands and web stars. Most YouTube webstars know more about engaging an audience than turning a brand strategy into effective and persuasive messaging… so they need help. There are some exception- like Rhett and Link, who could just as well be their own boutique creative agency, as reflected in the quality of their advertainment and the highly unusual ratio of branded to non-sponsored views. I almost like their sponsored videos better than their brand-deficient ones because like a pro athlete they make it look easy.

And, lest I miss mentioning my book (Beyond Viral) in a single post, you’ll find mention of almost all of these cats inside the low-cost pages… including featured sections on Rhett & Link, Charles Trippy, Shay Butler and others.

Hey what ever happened to Buckley? I think he ignored me like Caitlin Hill (thehill88) and iJustine. Maybe Buckley needs an e-mail intern… I wonder if there are any Indians with the name Mason?

The Problem With Predicting the Future of Online Video (and the magic of marketers)

Ladies in gentleman, in this seminal post, I shall speak to you not as a video entertainer but as a student of psychology, a practicioner of marketing, and a former magician (age 10). Watch in awe as I explain why our human species has trouble predicting the future, why some of my online-video foresight has been subject to such annoying external factors (not my own failures, of course), and how marketers survive. Then gaze in bewilderment as I change the subject so artfully that you conclude with a round of applause for my genius, and your keen intellect and humor for appreciating it.

As you loyal readers surely know, this blog has periodically devoted itself to predicting the future of online video (see 2006 post), and my soon-to-be-published “Beyond Viral” has a short chapter that attempts some quite risky futurspection*. It may not surprise you that it was the last chapter I wrote, the one I procrastinated the most, and the one that will surely be wrong in as many ways as it’s right.

But you and me? We’re a lot alike in that way. We are all clueless at predicting the future, even though we’re masters at looking back in time to convince ourselves otherwise. We revise history to confirm that we purposely selected the path we stumbled into quite by chance. Ask yourself about the last major change you made (change in job, relationship, geography, etc.). If it was more than a year ago, the reasons you recall justifying it are entirely different from the ones that caused it. By now your psychological white blood cells have attacked that virus of a notion, but let’s move on… Common, drop it I said. Dropppp it. Keep reading. Good boy.

There are, of course, a number of problems our species has with making predictions:

1) We can’t escape “present bias” in making  predictions (a subject well explained in Dan Gilbert’s “Stumbling on Happiness“). For instance, in this 1960s futuristic view of today’s technology (video below), you’ll see that both members of the household enjoy the use of “televisions” (not monitors) and hand write communication that is sent from a “post office” in their very homes. What makes this video so humorous, of course, is that it completely overlooks the changes in gender roles. Wife is spending, and husband is busy using his multiple monitors to figure out how to pay for them. Oh, and neither have apparently adjusted their hair for the future.

I encourage you to check out Gilbert’s book if you share my interest in pursuing happiness, spiritual curiosity, amazement with psychology. I believe my next book (yes it’s time already to think about that) will be partially drawing upon Gilbert’s wisdom to provide marketers with new and entertaining ways to manipulate us transparently: let’s call it transmanipulation*. Does that sound odd? Than you haven’t seen my video about why I decided to become a marketer (click to see video about my experience with the $1.25 “flying ghost”).

Where was I? Oh- check out this video and ask yourself why it’s odd. The multiple monitors? The pen reader? The haircuts?

2) We tend to overestimate the short-term changes, and underestimate the long-term ones. (Better put by Naughton in 2008, “THE FIRST Law of Technology says we invariably overestimate the short-term impact of new technologies while underestimating their longer-term effects.” When I began imagining the future of online video in 2006, I expected online-video and television to have merged by now. But I failed to imagine far more interesting things like how we’re slowly beginning to consume more video from our smart phones, and about how television and online video continue to co-exist.

The big stuff creeps up on us like the frog in water that gets slowly hotter (legend has it that he’d jump out immediately if it was boiling to begin with). If you haven’t heard this analogy before, or investigated the flaws in it, then you really need to spend more time with some marketers.

3) Vested interests retard progress. This quote, from a wonderful 1950s article in Popular Mechanics predicting 2000, explains this challenge well. When I imagined integrated online-video and television, I underestimated how the economic interest by cable providers would delay what is readily available. Although ANYONE with moderate income can enjoy online video from their HDTV, few do. That’s because most of us are so lazy or uninformed that we default to the box that Comcast or Verizon sell or rent us. Then we laugh about how our grandmother is still renting a rotary phone from Mah Bell.

Predictions for 2000 (Popular Mechanics, January 1950)

Yes, friends, today’s technology is not entirely driven by possibilities and your preferences and demand. You’ll get what the economy rewards, even if that means you’ll buy your iPhone and iPad and give up Flash. And you’ll switch from one telecommunications provider with great coverage and low prices to another… because your emotional desire for beautiful and prestigious gadgets overrides your logic. Sorry, folks. The brain is the rabbit in the “hare versus turtle” tale. Bet on the heart.

Wait this time I switched subjects by accident not on purpose. But just out of curiosity, did you click the word “retard” in this section’s title?

4) We selectively recall predictions we and others called accurately (and ignore or forget the ones that were wrong unless they were wonderfully and profoundly wrong). This inarguable psychological nuance is the basis for a booming industry of futurists and psychics. Even their victims help their cause, like many Notradamus faithfuls do when selectively interpreting his predictions. But before you feel too proud to be above that, consider why you might visit a psychic… then later recall just a few of the things he/she predicted quite accurately. You know the Pied Piper is manipulating you, but dang that pipe plays a mesmorizingly* attractive tune.

While in 2006 I predicted fairly well the consolidation of online-video sites and the evolution of a network aggregation model (Hulu), I also thought some online-video stars would become television and film stars. Whoops- failed to appreciate that the television/film economy still mostly under estimates or snubs “weblebrities,” and that many have gained more income and larger audiences by NOT being plucked from web obscurity and graced with attention from talent agencies, representatives and producers. I’m also seeing more clearly that what makes a web star (talent, self sufficiency, persistence, social networking, interaction with audience, thick skin, diversity of skills) is quite different from what makes a television or film star (good looks, acting chops, Hollywood network, good timing, the right gene pool, ass kissing).

And of course sometimes I like predicting things unlikely just to generate some controversy or get people to think.

So why, you ask, am I reflecting on the “problems of predicting the future of online video” (or any crystal ball gazing)? You didn’t ask that, but I made you think you did.

Well its’ pretty simple. I’m using this post as an exercise in addressing cognitive dissonance with public use of rationalization, ego defense and misdirection. But now you think you saw that all along, right? In 2006 I predicted “marketers will get smarter” about online video. And although financial predictions suggest 2011 the space will flourish, I failed big time on that account. As a career marketer, I should have known one thing with certainty. We marketers will not get smarter in a year, or even a dozen years. We’re an impressive group with lots of sizzle, but smarter? So naive I can be.

We marketers lack the balls to sell or the intellect to create something. But we’re psychological masters of that odd space between creating (Beta tapes were good) and selling (VHS tapes were adopted), so we market!

Sure it's snake oil. We both know that. But isn't it fun to pretend it will solve all your problems and make you happy forever?!

And you’ll watch with amazement at our brilliance! Stand with mouths agape as we’re targeting important segments, generating unique consumer insights, identifying real and perceived value propositions, engaging and converting prospects, articulating benefits not features, and (of course) executing flawlessly. Yes you’ll watch our show like first-grade children enjoying their first magic show. Some will see our slight of hands, but all will leave with astonishment and wonder.

(Insert applause here)

* I made us the words in asterisks, and I hereby trademark them (c) Kevin Nalty 2010.

YouTube & Video Gathering (VidCon2010) Is SXSW of Online Video

VidCon2010, which begins today, is already shaping up to be the South by Southwest (SXSW) of online video. The event, organized by Nerdfighter Hank Green, has attracted hundreds to LA today and tomorrow to discuss online video and meet fellow online-video creators and webstars.

Here’s my video of some morning activities, and I hope to get Hank shortly talking about the purpose of the event. See for more. I’ve posted a forum discussion for videos like these.

Avenue of YouTube Stars

Early Nerdfighter at VidCon

7 Minutes in YouTube Heaven