This week I officially joined Next New Networks as a content creator (not employee), and the above video is by the amazing Justin Johnson. Read the NNN blog for more, and check out Liz Shannon Miller’s NewTeeVee article on this news…This WVFF bloggedy post puts that decision into context, since the move was a non trivial one for me.
Upon the introduction of any new medium, the early notable talent are often independent, persistent and multi-taskers. The “one-man bands” who cracked radio, film and television first were charismatic (Lucille Ball, Charlie Chaplin, Jack Benny, Merv Griffen, Jack Paar), but also savvy at promoting themselves. Parenthetically, I’m not comparing myself to these folks, and I’m distinct from a lot of NNN shows in that I really don’t have a show. My 900 plus “Nalts” videos are far more random, and NNN hasn’t asked me to change that model (though I might).
Just like other mediums, online-video’s early players have been individuals who lacked agents, deep pockets and connections. But the early YouTuber solo acts (who still dominate the most-viewed and most-subscribed channels) cracked the code… which was less true for the better financed and higher-quality web shows, backed by networks, production companies or even advertising agencies.
In the past 9-18 months, we’ve seen that shift dramatically. Here are the trends that attracted me to a “rat pack” or “brat pack” model. By that, I mean a collection of individuals who collaborate to build something bigger then they could be individually.
7 Reasons I’m Joining a “Creators Club”
- Cross Pollination: YouTube’s most-subscribed channels remain individual acts. Most of the top creators have increased their audiences by appearing in each other’s videos, or forming collaboration channels. BarelyPolitical, one of the most successful Next New Networks shows, is among them. What started as Ben Relles’ Obama Girl has since brought attention to numerous shows, individuals and performers
- YouTube & Beyond: Increasingly the convergence of television and web content will offer new distribution opportunities. I believe there’s strength in numbers. While YouTube was once able to maintain relationships with individual creators, that isn’t scalable. So an intermediary is important for both the “platform” (a term YouTube uses to describe itself) and individual creators. On television we call those “networks.”
- Following the Leaders: I’ve watched with curiosity what other individual creators are doing. Some fly solo. Others get “agents.” And still others decide to build informal collaboration channels… some that last and others that fade (7AwesomeWhatever series). I took special interest in HotForWords and BlameSocietyFilms signing with Next New Networks, as I have a lot of respect for those shows… both their style and tenacity. I’m a huge fan of the “auto-tune the news” Gregory Brothers (who go by the absurdly forgettable “Schmoyoho” on YouTube). Relles and NNN helped put them on the map, and they appeared just this week on NBC’s Today Show.
- Old and New Media: The companies that will manage the pending evolution of media will be those who have people who’ve managed previous transitions… but also the flexibility to depart from the past when it’s not applicable. NNN’s founder, Fred Seibert, was MTV’s first creative director and the producer of many of my children’s favorite television shows — from Fairy Odd Parents to Adventure Time With Finn and Jake. Meanwhile Ben Relles is the only other prolific video creator I know who also has a marketing background.
- East Coast: Many creators feel compelled to move west, where indeed most films and movies are grounded (not to mention software firms). I’m inclined to believe that in the next few years, there’s an advantage of staying closer to the likely source of income: Madison Avenue. Next New Networks is distinct, but even when compared to other players of “The New Establishment” (described in my book, Beyond Viral), it’s one of only a few based in NYC. Furthermore I’m close enough to the company and many of its creators to collaborate. Proximity is turning out to be more important than in 2004-2009.
- People: Ultimately people “sign” with networks, agents or employers more for the people than anything else. NNN has a good team with a bold mission, and it’s already turning out to be exciting to be part of something bigger than me. I’ve known Relles for years, and he wrote a chapter in my book. Seibert is a trip. Mark makes me shoot milk out my nose. Even Justin (who did my spotlight profile) taught me more in 2 days than I’ve learned in months.
- The Logo: Sorry. I’m superficial like that. NNN has the most bad-ass logo and outro. Sorry, Jim Louderback (revision3).