What To Do When You Go Viral… Accidentally

So your video of you dog/baby/pratfall suddenly goes viral, and you’re faced with choices… how do you capitalize on the luck?

Can Fail Dog be the next "Guilty"?

I’ve had the pleasure of informally coaching viral lotto winners, from “David At the Dentist” and Richter Scales to the recent Dagfinn (who is navigating his stick the way I manage my career). It’s a small world, and if I’m checking e-mail I’m happy to help a fellow “Viral Video Genius.”

Anyway, here are some of the pieces of pro-bono advice (I never ever ever charge fellow creators) which I’ve provided. In general, the goal is to knock out some important things (getting channel in shape, applying to be YouTube partner, tagging video), enjoy the ride, and hope the 15 minutes lasts.

  1. Get your YouTube channel submitted to become a Partner (I used to help rush that before YouTube scaled back on human contact)
  2. Optimize the video for search. Most viral lotto winners have failed to describe the video, and load the description/keywords with terms that people might use having heard about the clip.
  3. Provide a URL (or Facebook fan page) in the video description with more info and contact information. It’s very difficult to use YouTube’s lousy message system which GOD FORBID they merge with Gmail (I’m on year 4 of that idea). Make sure this hyperlink appears in the truncated description.
  4. Pay attention to, but doubt, the multitude of business propositions. Sure it may make sense to create some merchandise but a) it’s kinda cheesy, and b) It won’t be a drop in the bucket relative to ad revenue.
  5. Pray the viral viewing continues. By my best guess, David at the Dentist has paid for an Ivy League college with his viral clip, which has surpassed 100 million views.
  6. Be open to a sponsorship ($5-$20,ooo) but that depends on timing and the content. It’s unlikely these will keep rolling in, so be selective and more while the video is hot. It’s generally hard to find these… they kinda have to come to you.
  7. If you’re lucky enough to get national media inquiries DO IT. It’s free (except hotel/travel), but it will drive views and intrigue. If you are going to merchandise, here’s a way to promote that subtly. For instance don’t pimp a website, but consider wearing a t-shirt that celebrates your viralicity.
  8. If you plan on creating more videos, then ask viewers to subscribe. Also create a good looking YouTube channel page… otherwise people won’t even think about subscribing… they’ll just think it’s a one-hit wonder.
  9. Post more videos but do not expect anywhere near the views. For proof, check the other videos on any channel that has a viral one. It’s very rare to see, for instance, a second “Charlie Bit My Finger” do anything even close to the first. Still worth trying.
  10. If you want to do some audience development and promotion, check out my free eBook called “How To Get Popular on YouTube Without Any Talent” (version 4). If you really want to get fancy, pick up my real book “Beyond Viral“).
You get typos when you get an eBook cover designed on Fiverr.com for $5

 

More Tips on YouTube Marathon

What’s it take to sustain as a YouTube weblebrity? Going viral is a sprint, but staying vibrant is a marathon.

  1. In part one we heard from BrittaniLouiseTaylor about passion, RhettandLink about the power of two, and CharlesTrippy about community.
  2. In part two we heard from Michael Buckley, VenetianPrincess, MysteryGuitarman and Happyslip.
Hank Green, with his brother John, are the Vlogbrothers and more.

As VidCon2011 approaches, it’s time for some thoughts from Hank Green, one of the event’s founders… inspired by something beyond the fame and money, the Green brothers have sustained long beyond their 15 minutes.

Says Hank: “I actually just wrote an article on motivation and success. I think everyone is motivated by different things, but the trick is actually believing in it, either because you think a little more money, a little more fame, a little more recognition really will make you a happier / more satisfied / more important person.

I’ve had different motivations throughout the process, from getting views to getting subscribers, to being recognized by other youtubers, to being recognized by YouTube, to feeling obligated to our community, to feeling like we actually have an opportunity to do good things, to feeling like we have an opportunity to do big things, to actually believing in what we do as a force for cultural change.

All of those things motivate in different ways and they all overlap. I we didn’t have all of them, I don’t know if we could do it.

Only because we have all of those different bits of motivation, it doesn’t seem like a big deal to spend eight hours a day developing ideas for videos, interacting with our community, or whatever else we’re up to at the moment. I pour pretty much all of my creative juices into our videos now (or on projects that relate to our videos.) And that’s only OK because I actually believe in it. If I didn’t have all of those various sources of motivation, I’d go get a real job.”

Hank, my friend… you do have a real job.

NextUp YouTube Winners in NYC

So the NextUp YouTube winners are in NYC right now… receiving loads of love from Google/YouTube. It made me happy seeing the next generation of amateurs… and to see that Google/YouTube still encourages them even while commercial content is on the rise on the world’s second-largest search engine.

I was invited to speak to the 25 of ’em, and here’s my presentation. If you were one of the wanna-bees, don’t fret. I asked if they’d be picking a new crop 3 times until I got the answer I wanted to hear… yes.

After I cranked this presentation out, I realized I’d been billed as the marketer. So this deck actually represented only half my time. During the rest I decided to play the role of an amalgamated product director, and I replaced my “Nalts” hat with a blazer. I asked them to pick a product (they said Coke), then I proceeded to explain my goals, hidden agendas, beliefs about YouTube and my understanding about product placement and sponsorship. I couldn’t help but point out that Coke gives out free products on the streets of NYC but no swag to people that have hundreds of thousand views daily. Hmmmm.

I told them I wanted to sell more Coke so I could become Chief Marketing Officer, and that I was mostly concerned with reach, frequency and single-minded proposition. I wanted to leverage emerging media, but I¬†deferred¬†YouTube spending to my media agency. And I wouldn’t know how to begin to tap YouTube creators… frankly I’d be scared they’d harm my brand (as a product director, of course, I wouldn’t realize I could review/approve any sponsored videos).

Lots more detail in my free eBook or Beyond Viral, which you really should just go ahead and buy. And dont find any thpelling erars.

 


20 Free Tips to Get Your Videos Seen on YouTube and Beyond

It’s been a while since I’ve summarized some of the most important factors to getting your videos seen. This post is based on my own YouTube creator experience, my work with big brands, and my book (Beyond Viral). I’ve also written a free eBook called “How to Get Popular on YouTube Without Any Talent (version 2).”

Here it is:

How To Get Popular on YouTube (free eBook, version 2)

I’m sure I missed some current best practices so please add your own thoughts below!

1. Hook viewer in first 10 seconds (teasing highlights)
2. Keep it short. A one-minute video will almost always trump a 3.
3. Encourage interactions- get people commenting and, like Facebook, your YouTube video will rise higher. Controversial questions to viewers can jolt views.
4. Personalize it. Look at camera as if it’s a friend’s eyes and don’t assume your viewer knows you.
5. Include real laughter. Laughter induces laughter like yawns influence yawns. Get a sidekick who has a contagious laugh.
6. At the end, provide something unexpected or bedbug. See how you didn’t expect the word “bedbug” there?
7. Include animals. We humans like animals more than humans. Babies are clinchers too. Giggling baby with an animal? Golden.
8. Take the “road less travelled.” Sure, boobies get views but if you base your video on something already seen, your video is less likely to break through clutter. Show us something we’ve not seen (or rare to see) and people will share.
9. Real trumps script. Almost all of my top videos are not scripted bits but real, candid moments.
10. Appeal to heavy video viewers. Teenagers drive significant views, and even adolescents and Tweens (Annoying Orange). Test your video on this audience and note when they laugh or get bored.
11. Post regularly. The most popular and most-viewed YouTubers post daily or on a predictable schedule. Fresh outsells good.
12. Flow with current events. Selectively parody topical news or “Memes” and you’ll be topical and more relevant.
13. Take the title, tags and description very seriously so your video can be found easily on search engines like Google (and don’t think YouTube isn’t a search engine). You can even transcribe the video and add the text. Important terms: “how to,” “why does,” “who is,” “when is…”
14. Watch top creators for new ideas. For instance, most top web stars are providing thumbnails of other videos at the end of their video. This keeps a viewer from wandering off to “related videos.”
15. Post at right time. Stay away from weekends and Friday afternoon (when there’s a lot of viewing but heavy competition). Mornings are good and Tuesday is a heavy consumption day.
16. Someone once said a new blogger focuses on their blog, but a seasoned blogger is roaming. Likewise you want to appear in videos by people getting more views. The kind plug by PrankvsPrank for my recent “Itchy Butt” prank drove more views that from my base of 250K subscribers.
17. Chill out on “subscribers,” which is as meaningless as “likes” on Facebook. 100 fans are more valuable than 10,000 subscribers that accidentally subscribed from the stupid “box for box” feature (where if you subscribe to one channel you can passively subscribe to their friends.
18. Jump start views on other social-media channels like Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and Reddit (watch out for being seen as just tooting your own horn though).
19. Listen and talk back to your audience. When a creator acknowledges a viewer comment a bond is formed that is the lifeblood of a recurring audience.
20. Go for quantity not obsessive quality. I could never have predicted which of my 1000 videos would get tens of millions of views, and there’s a lot of power to trial and error. There’s almost an inverse relationship between the time I spend on a video and the views it gets.

Finally don’t judge success by total views alone. Whether you’re a marketer or entertainer, not all views are created equally. Focus on engagement, comments, view duration, and getting to the right audience. A niche show meeting an unmet need is going to work more effectively than trying to please broad audiences.

What did I miss? Obviously the most popular videos are those involving dancing, music, comedy, satire, politics, sex, babies and animals. Don’t underestimate the power of the thumbnail (image representing the video) too. But any general tips I missed?

Online Video Tips for Small Business (MSNBC)

Get some coffee or program your TiVos, kids.

That video I shot Sunday for MSNBC Small Business (see MSNBC/Amex site) is going on television not the web (glad I didn’t quite realize that when I shot it, or I might have gotten nervous).

It airs this week 3/20/11 at 7:30am EST and will re-air Saturday, March 26th at 5:30am EST. This timing should work well for small businesses and entrepreneurs since they never sleep. And the YouTube peeps? They’ll still be awake from the night prior.

In the meantime, you can check some of the tips I shared with AOL small business, or buy Beyond Viral (Wiley) at your local bookstore or Amazon. And tell your friends at ABC and CBS they should book me. ūüôā

Oh- I made an epic mistake on the video that I’m hoping people think was intentional because it’s so blatant. Be the first to notice it and comment below, and you get a free piece of cheese (and maybe an autographed copy of Beyond Viral if I actually remember).

Models for “Signing” YouTube Creators; Tips for Advertisers, Studios & Stars

Several trends are causing many independent “YouTube Creators” to sign with “new establishment” (web studios) such as Makers Studios (good luck finding its website), Next New Networks, The Station, Howcast and Machinima. Many early web studios were formed to create and promote custom shows for wide distribution. But the high investment ($1-$5K per edited minute) could not be sustained by the modest advertising dollars moving into the medium. In the past year, most have abandoned custom shows and are signing proven YouTube talent, many who have low costs, but large and steady audiences that are valuable to advertisers.

The trends driving these deals are:

  • It’s a buyer’s market. YouTube advertising revenue is relatively depressed because it’s new and driven mostly by Google Adsense, which allows even small advertisers to target viewers. The revenue model is largely based on “cost per thousand impressions” (CPM), and the income to the creator is mostly hovering at a modest $1 plus range… obviously YouTube pockets a portion before the creator is paid. Since an advertiser is often willing to pay far more for a targeted view, there’s plenty room for an intermediary who can command higher CPMs. Despite Google’s large salesforce, the display team at Google is relatively small. As I’ve said before, most media buyers are opting to put dollars into other sites because YouTube is less flexible.
  • Many solo acts have significant monthly views (mine alone are 5 million plus), but can’t justify selling their own inventory. ¬†However if a network can assemble a collection of creators that are attractive to certain industry advertisers, they can rationalize a salesforce and a premium.
  • The marketplace for talent is growing increasingly competitive, making it more attractive to independent creators to share in such fixed costs as management, marketing and production. Many solo acts on YouTube lack even basic talent representation, and don’t know how to find sponsors or price their sponsorships (and some are not willing or capable).
  • Budgets are flowing online dramatically, as video consumption increases. YouTube has missed a significant portion of online-video budgets because Google’s emphasis remains on paid search (while smaller properties are focused on pursuing larger digital budgets and even television budgets). This is changing, and could become more complex as the lines become less clear between YouTube (which has often proclaimed to be a platform not a network) and web studios (like its rumored acquisition, next New Networks).
  • Cross promotion across creators can grow the size of an audience significantly, and collective groups (like The Station) can expose individual shows/stars to audiences that might not otherwise know they exist. Many creators have sought alliances because there’s strength in numbers. The brat-pack model is not to be underestimated, even though shared¬†successful¬†YouTube channels are rare.

While few web studios and creators will reveal detailed terms, here are a few models that I’ve seen first hand. I will avoid revealing specifics or suggesting which studios gravitate to various models. Even within the same web studios, the deals can vary dramatically based on the creator’s negotiating skills, their content quality, and their audience size. Most deals are more nuanced than the following, but here are some simplified examples:

  • We own you. Small “up and coming” creators were often willing to effectively sell their show to a web studio and become compensated at a fixed price per episode. This is increasingly rare, as it is risky to both the studio (who can’t be sure the star/show will succeed) and the creator (who loses the otherwise unlimited upside potential of a solo YouTube artist).
  • We own 50% to launch you. Some “web studios” sign new talent with a revenue split. A talented but unknown creator can gain accelerated growth via appearances in the network’s already popular shows, and in return provides a portion of his/her YouTube Adsense dollars to the studio. Both this model and the previous require the studio to “claim” the channel via YouTube, and then pay the talent in some form: usually a month after the studio is paid. YouTube is attempting to make this easier for the creator, studio and advertiser… but it’s still fairly complicated to execute. Since the creator can become blind to the actual revenue their channel receives, it requires some trust.
  • We “mark you up.” Since the average ad CPMs remain modest, some studios are able to offer a creator/show a premium CPM (income per view) that is higher than that to which they’re accustomed… but sometimes capped. For instance, the studio may promise to pay the creator $2 per thousand views, and pocket any incremental revenue. This makes sense if the studio can sell the inventory at an ongoing premium, and is even more attractive to the creator if the studio can promote and grow the channel as well. However it means the creator may not benefit from what I’d expect to be higher CPMs in the years ahead.
  • We split incremental proceeds. A more mature YouTube star may negotiate a deal where anything in excess of their regular YouTube “Adsense” revenue is split. The studio may, for instance, sell a series of sponsored shows to a brand or advertiser, providing a complement to typical display ads (prerolls, banners, InVideo ads). The studio also may offer additional “value ads” that are not easy to execute via YouTube directly (such as having a collection of creators promote the brand on their Facebook and Twitter profiles). The creator may occasionally get a fixed sponsorship income (a few grand) to provide messaging within the show, and the display ads are marked up during a specific timeline. We’ve seen programs like Howcast’s GE Healthymagination that involve a number of YouTube stars working together or sequentially. In some cases YouTube manages these directly, contacting top talent to participate.
  • Pay per sponsorship. Some studios remain strictly in the pay-per-sponsored video space, providing advertisers with a flat fee for a series of videos that mention a product or service. A creator who fetches 200K to 1 million views per video can command o5-50K for a single sponsored video, and the studio takes a percent. Again, YouTube does many of these programs directly since the marketplace for these programs is still immature. Hitviews was one of the early companies for these, and Mekanism is doing some now. In my experience, it’s far more profitable to a creator to do them directly via YouTube… but there’s little a creator can do to increase the quantity of these. They’re bought not sold.

In this blog and my book, I’ve argued that advertisers and creators need intermediaries to facilitate sponsorship programs when they go beyond traditional ad buys (invideo, prerolls or¬†adjacent¬†display ads). When I consulted with Hitviews, I helped orchestrate some of these complex sponsorship programs, and they require skills that are rare in traditional and digital agencies. They’re difficult to sell, tricky to execute, and require cash reserves — since creators must sometimes be paid before revenue is received from advertisers. I’ve also done these directly with advertisers since I have a marketing background, but that’s not easy for most creators. Still, these sponsorships are lucrative for creators and extremely valuable for brands. They take the advertising message to where it has greater influence (within the show) and cannot as easily be ignored. They’re also perpetual annuities for brands. Some of my sponsored videos have garnered significant views long past the campaign’s period.

Audiences can be tolerant of these sponsored deals as long as the creative is strong, and a webstar or show does not do them too often. To see some of my own sample sponsored videos click here. You’ll see that most are not heavy on the promotion since that can severely impair views, ratings and comments. My income for these has varied radically, and often does not correlate with the total views of the videos. In a few cases, the advertiser has paid YouTube to “spotlight” the videos, but most of the views are organic.

I have seen some of my favorite YouTube creators fatigue audiences by accepting numerous sponsored deals (especially in a short time period). I’ve seen both extremes: the advertiser paying far more than it should (based on quality of the video or total views), or the creator selling out for a modest fee (and sometimes not paid at all).

Here are some tips first for advertisers/studios, then for creators. My emphasis is on sponsorships rather than “signing,” since the former is more common.

  • Advertisers or studios should not, in my opinion, subsidize a show’s creation. That can get cost prohibitive to a brand, and can result in mostly paid views. Those are not nearly as valuable as “organic” views (where a show already has a recurring or loyal audience).
  • I believe advertisers should provide at least 50% up front (like with any media buy) and withhold 50% based on performance metrics (total views). This ensures the studio has sufficient funds to attract and pay creators, and also reduces the risk to the advertiser. However it seems studios and YouTube often commence campaigns before getting paid, which results in ridiculous long gaps (3-6 months) between posting a video and getting paid for it.
  • Studios (and advertisers) should be careful about the stars/shows they pick. Some have a reputation for delivering content that meets the needs of the audience and the brand, and others are known for turning in marginal content, missing deadlines, or even harming the reputation of the brand. It is difficult for someone not extremely familiar with YouTube and creators to vett them well. For instance, I was approached recently by Best Buy despite my disdain for the company.
  • A good “match maker” will instantly know what creators/shows are right for different advertisers/sponsors, and that requires more than an understanding of a channel’s demographics. Since most popular YouTubers ignore e-mail, it’s not easy to catch their attention even when dollars are involved. If I had a dollar for every false-positive “sponsor,” I could buy YouTube from Google.

Creators:

  • Creators should be very careful about signing “exclusive” deals, which limit revenue in other mediums or distribution channels beyond YouTube. I’ve been offered large monthly sums to move my content off YouTube and have never regretted declining. I’m also glad that I’ve never put a ceiling on my income, or provided any videos to a third-party with exclusively.
  • Since the CPMs are likely to get higher in coming years, I’d be reticent to sign a deal that locks me into today’s CPMs. If an advertiser can command higher CPMs for a specific video or time period, that’s nice. However I wouldn’t want to lock myself into $1 per 1K views, and then watch the average CPM rise.
  • It’s a good idea to have a time period attached to a deal, and opportunities for either party to exit. This is especially important since some of the web studios could be acquired by companies that may change the dynamics between the creator and the studio. It’s also important to have an agreement if an advertiser needs to remove a sponsored video (I’ve seen this happen more times than you’d imagine).
  • I urge creators to seek clarity about studio-exclusivity deals. A smaller creator will delight at signing with a studio that provides lots of new sponsorships. However what happens if that studio isn’t selling deals? Or if the studio is asking the creator to promote brands they don’t like? Or if the studio requests more sponsored promotions than the creator feels is appropriate (Smosh)? Is the creator obliged to take whatever deal the studio secures, or can they decline? More importantly, what happens if the creator is approached directly by a brand? Is he/she still permitted to do a sponsored video, and if so, are they obliged to provide a percent to the studio? Part of the reason I haven’t worked with Hitviews in more than a year is because it resented me working with other companies (YouTube directly or Howcast), and yet wasn’t providing a steady flow of well-compensated sponsorships. I’m still a fan of founder Walter Sabo however.
  • As online video begins to behave more like traditional television (where YouTubers are TV shows, and studios are networks like Fox or ABC) the dynamic could change dramatically. But it’s still a maturing industry, and deals very often favor one party far above another. So regardless of what is in writing, a relationship of trust is vital. There’s a certain “give and take” that is important for all parties involved (advertisers, intermediaries and show creators).
  • In general, I would rather be known as a pushover than a jerk… and the race is a marathon not a sprint. I have been “screwed” a few times, and have left money on the table (and I’ve steered clear of those people since). But I try to be flexible and make concessions knowing it’s a small industry, and that a professional, low-maintenance creator is more likely to earn the long-term trust of a variety of players that can provide income and other opportunities.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to say “no.” I’ve seen several of my friends decline a modest or unfair offer, only to receive a much more generous one.

I’d welcome your comments if you have your own learnings… or your questions if I’ve been unclear. I’m sure it’s not an easy read, since it’s a complex space!

Lastly, if you’re a player in this space and regret not being mentioned, please identify yourself in comments or via e-mail. I am sure I have missed some web studios or intermediaries that are active in recruiting talent and wooing brands.

YouTube Tips From Lawyers

Prompted by Google’s statement that YouTube vows “quicker, tougher copyright enforcement,” ReelSEO’s Grant Crowell tackled this issue on a listenable podcast titled “YouTube Copyright Tips,” with the help of¬†David Michail and Daliah Saper (check 5-minute mark of this video to hear Saper’s illuminating story about what I’ll call a “social-media impaired judge”).

Crowell’s got a voice for radio and a light, funny style.. and he’s passionate about the cross-section of legal issues and the online-video medium. In keeping with the 12 days of Christmas, Grant provides 15 tips that are valuable even if obvious and painful to read/hear.

Increasingly even song parodies are coming under fire, and some companies are looking to make examples of people doing even innocuous things like putting together a “Google Images” collage. Even the Hitler parodies are under fire.

Here’s a link to Google’s Public Policy Blog on the subject, where YouTube is making 4 specific steps:

  1. New and improved 24-hour action on “reliable” takedown requests- per DCMA. I’ve noticed when my kids post their claymation videos using pop songs they’ve purchased on iTunes, their videos vanish quickly in what appears to be an automatic (thumbprint technology) bust.
  2. Preventing terms that are closely associated with piracy from appearing in autocomplete (SNL clips, justin bieber).
  3. Improve AdSense anti-piracy review: expelling violators (which would include YouTube Partners).
  4. They will give authorized content better accessibility in search results. That’s a big deal, and will negatively impact those video creators who have benefited from search mistakes. For instance, someone searching Keisha is probably looking for a Keisha video not a parody video.

So let’s use an example… Here’s what I got searching “keisha” on Google –an intentional misspelling of Kei$ha). Neither appears legit. One’s a rip, and the other’s a website that’s embedding a video. Will these sustain, or will Google direct people to the “singer’s” videos?

Keisha search result on google
What I found searching “Keisha” on Google.

Some key points from Grant and his lawyers:

  • To protect your own work, you should register/trademark your content (sorry, we’re a bit lazy here but thanks)
  • Even small stuff (using an image or brief clip of song) is a copyright infringement and can be penalized by death.
  • Check out legalvideoguides (Grant’s channel) or get a lawyer friend (most attorneys are eager and willing to be friends since they don’t tend to have any).
  • While you may be protected under “fair use,” you’re risking hundreds of dollars… to hundreds of thousands of dollars in and infringement suit. It can be expensive to defend.
  • Under DCMA, most creators can issue their own “take down” notice to YouTube to get them removed. So while that often means getting attacked by Viacom, it’s also a resource that YouTubers can use if their own stuff gets ripped by trolls… happens to me quite often. A ripped version of my stupid “head board” parody got more views than my own video, and I believe YouTube yanked it by my request. Usually I don’t bother.
  • Read the “terms of use” and understand the process (yawn).

I’ll leave you with what may be an example of Google/YouTube’s policy #4…. Note that a search for SNL results provides #1 ranking to NBC, with a lower ranking (but thumbnailed) video from Buckley… Of course it’s also possible that we humans have taught Google to rank NBC because the slow-load & intensive advertising experience is so much superior to the ripped SNL clips that “made YouTube” (he says sarcastically).

The BiPolar Agency

Corporate work can be slow and boring, so agencies are refreshingly energetic by contrast. Fast… sometimes too fast but that’s better than sitting still, right?

I just read an interesting piece about the “creative exodus” in adland. It actually contradicted my past 3 days, where I realized that three online-video enthusiasts had moved into three companies (an agency, a mobile company and an agency). Until recently they were brands by themselves… publishers, consultants, studios, etc.

Did they see something I’m missing? Each said they received “an offer I couldn’t refuse,” but also probably gave away some level of freedom and diversity… hopefully none will be the “online video monkey” as the “online monkeys” of the early 2000. Those guys had P&L responsibility for a web shop of specialists who would have rather work at a digital agency. And they held in the same regard that an account executive holds the traffic coordinator… whatshername.

So this article by Matthew Creamer was well timed, and I found this part most fascinating:

“I recently had separate chats with two ad guys in their 20s who have good strategic jobs that keep them close to the work at growing digitally-focused shops with full client lists and strong case studies. These are smart, ambitious thinkers with the right understanding of where the business needs to go. Each has already flirted with the idea of taking important roles at big agencies and the future will probably be relatively kind to them, but instead of focusing on that, they echo the same complaints associated with these senior folks: the limits of client-service models, difficulty to find the time or buy-in for innovation. Neither can really imagine long careers in this or any other client-service business — not when there are Facebooks to be built. Platform and product-development is where it’s at in their minds, the kind of work that allows you to make money while asleep. And advertising will pay the bills until the right idea — and the right deal with the right backer — comes along.”

Interesting. Not sure I’d hold my breath for the next facebook, but who isn’t intrigued with the idea of scaling something that’s big… that’s an annuity stream. Something that requires time and effort, but eventually can be a source of recurring monthly revenue. Oh I’m not talking Amway. I’m talking about “4-hour workweek” (a book well worth reading with a grain of salt).

I’ve made it my mission to never get too comfortable on the client or agency side. Climbing a ladder in a corporation has always struck me as fun as working at the post office (would you like extra stamps with that? how about a PO box? how about tracking and some frenchfries).

For those of you facing corporate versus agency gigs I can tell you that they vary greatly… the agencies are especially bi-polar. On one hand you’re surrounded by a bunch of creative and intelligent people, so it’s energetic, dynamic and keeps you growing. On the other hand, you’re the client’s bitch, you’ll work long unpredictable hours, and deal with managers that may not know how to (or want) to manage.

To demonstrate the bi-polar moment, let me share my “high” and “low.”

Low: As a recent college graduate, I took an unpaid internship at Earle Palmer Brown (he’s one dude), who I guess got bought by Arnold and doesn’t exist anymore. It was depressing as hell and I worked in “traffic” (the idiot who moves shit from one department to another). At happy hours after work, people would encourage me to pursue another impression… and indeed it would be years before I took anything resembling an agency role.¬†Parenthetically¬†I had no business working on creative, but it didn’t stop me from making storyboards and videos for the Arby’s account that had just been secured. The creative director, a big ass Australian named John Doig, would dash past me like I was a homeless guy asking for change.

High: Working with Frontier Media Group, bought by Ikon, which was bought by Qwest. We were creating digital marketing, and educating product directors that really didn’t know how to market. So I’d immerse myself on a topic (Seth Godin’s latest book) and proclaim myself an expert. I had the MBA in marketing and a passion for digital so people would generally write big checks. That was so much fun I dreamed about it last night… only in the dream it wasn’t an agency it was CIA. Covert Ops. And I had a kickass boat that doubled as a plane. Didn’t know how to slow it down, so I just focused on turning at the right moments. I somehow avoided crashing it, and finally learned to¬†maneuver¬†it pretty well.

Except I never did figure out how to slow it down.

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 TubeFilter.tv 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‚Äôs 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.

“Funny or Die” Defeats Death. And Gets My Secret Sauce to a Phoenix-Like Revival.

In a brave move by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and their gang, Funny or Die has finally moved its content to YouTube. The FunnyorDie website has always had an identity-crisis. It certainly wasn’t a sage financially-driven move, but a fantastic creative outlet for spontaneous and risque comedy by Ferrell, McKay and friends.

funny or die ferrell landlord screen shot

It was a bold moment where the actors and writers stood before the public — without layers of intermediaries muting their brilliance. Could Hollywood have produced Pearl The Landlord? The most epic star-created viral video ever (and interestingly not appearing on the YouTube FunnyorDie channel).

Then other stars jumped on the bandwagon. While the site was rarely “top of mind” even for comedy enthusiasts, every few months something would draw us all back for a reunion. In the spaces between, there were dips in recurring traffic despite some great star-powered comedy. Furthermore the site wasn’t sure if it was a pet project, a consumer-generated content play, or a mini television studio. It was, in fact, all of that.

A partnership with YouTube will now give the team a recurring audience, which takes the pressure off the “hot viral” clips that would remind us FunnyorDie.com exists. And it will most likely drive more traffic to FunnyorDie than the site would get otherwise (especially if the team is smart about how it teases content is keeps exclusively on FunnyorDie). I’m not sure I’d advise the CollegeHumor approach of posting content 1 month prior on its own site. Instead, I’d post best-of content and occasionally have Ferrell talk to his subscribers about what’s new in his life and on FunnyorDie.

Remember, FunnyorDie… the most popular and most-subscribed YouTube channels aren’t networks as much as people. Give Ferrell or McKay a Flipcam once a week and post weird unedited stuff…. then you’re sitting on traffic gold you can monetize on YouTube and back on FunnyorDie.

Here’s what I find most interesting and maybe concerning to the FOD folks. Despite a significant push by YouTube (featured ‘n spotlighted videos), we’re seeing only 20K subscribers to date. Compare that to the nearly 500K subscribers TheStation picked up in just weeks (due to its already popular YouTube “star” cast promoting it). TheStation picked up 20K in about 45 seconds.

Here’s where the “blatant self promotion” comes in (it’s disclaimed in the damned masthead, people). I first established a Nalts FunnyorDie account I wrote Will Ferrell a note naively thinking he might write back. Well here’s an open public invite, Mr. Ferrell. I will promote the living crap out of “Funny or Die” on YouTube to my 150,000 plus subscribers. Just let me meet you for 7 minutes and get some footage. We’ll do a collaboration, which is the fastest way to get a loyal for you to pick up a loyal YouTube following (see my free eBook “How to Become Popular on YouTube Without Any Talent” to learn more). After these 7 minutes or up, I’d like you to scream at me to leave. And I will.

I’m serious. A Nalts Will Ferrell collaboration. I’ll meet you anywhere, sir… New York anytime. In San Bruno during Thanksgiving. Toronto next week. You make me proud to be a middle-aged guy with a spare tire. I just want to bite your arm. Not a flesh-piercing bite. More like a gentle but awkward nibble. It won’t hurt.