Attic Rats, Preroll Ads & Show Your CPM

I was invited to join a web studio yesterday that provides a fixed CPM or cost per 1,000 views. That means the network promises you’ll earn no more and no less per video view… many of my friends have made that choice. It forced me to examine my current CPM and consider how that might change. Is it in my interest to accept a “floor/ceiling” amount? Or am I optimistic it will grow, and eager to benefit from that?

So today let’s look at attic rats, income for online-video ads, and contrast the sorry current state with what industry analysts predict.

Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision3, recently posted an intriguing article/rant about CPM prices… it’s titled “How Rats in the Attic Made Me Realize What’s Wrong With Prerolls.” Let’s examine the highlights to get a sense about why brands and online agencies have artificially depressed online-video advertising (despite shifts from print/TV to this medium).

Attic Rat

Problem (according to Louderback):

Unfortunately, even though those two video ad experiences are as different as rats and wine (KN note: Louderback was inspired having received junk mail for rat extermination and wine), they were probably priced at similar CPMs. That’s because the online video ad market – particularly the pre-roll market — hasn’t progressed nearly as far as print. Those were two markedly different experiences, with wildly different levels of engagement. However, for many buyers, agencies and brands an on-line video pre-roll is valued the same wherever it runs, regardless of viewer intent, ad placement and playback environment. It’s as if Trump and “Take Air USA” paid exactly the same for those two print placements – even though their impact is worlds apart.

Solution (according to Louderback):

If you’re a video ad buyer, understand the value differences between in-banner impressions and engaged in-stream video ads. Focus your energy on the latter, and you’ll get far better results than if you lump the two together. Even though engaged, in-stream video ads will be more expensive, they are still a great bargain – especially if when you target demographic or content affinity along with the in-stream purchase.

Now let’s pull a “you show me yours I’ll show you mine” to see what poor targeting has done to the online-video economy. 

Here’s a question for those brave enough to admit in comments below (feel free to use an anonymous name). What’s your YouTube CPM (income per 1000 impressions)? In other words, how much do you make per 1,000 views? It’s easy to compute: simply take your earnings in a given month, divided by the total number of views you get per month (divided by 1,000).

  • Example: you earned $200 last month. Your videos were viewed 100,000 times. So you divide $200 by (100,000/1,000). You get $200 divided by 100 equals $2.00 CPM.
  • Since YouTube keeps about a half, that would mean the company is fetching about $4 CPM… which is horrendously low if prerolls were used.
  • Show us your CPM?
Good news: eMarketer puts online-video advertising growth at more than 43% in the next year and 35% the next year. As marketers become more targeted and sophisticated, we should easily see a CPM lift of 20-30%.

Must-See Geek TV: Scobleizer & 23 Startups

Combine tech startups, Scoble (the Paul Revere of tech revolution), and a video camera. What do you get? Nearly two dozen videos of various tech startups.

  • Stop Eating Shit, and check out Fooducate. Inspired by the discovery of glow-in-the-dark yogurt containing carcinogen.
  • Send your pictures quickly to multiple social-media platforms via Photogram, an alternative to Instagram (more a sharing of art). The Tubemogul of photography?
  • Abukai helps you organize receipts when you travel.

And Scoble is the Social Media Messiah and has less than 6K subscribers. Can we help, people?

 

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.

Intravenous Twitter Drip of Online-Video Enthusiasts

Without bookmarks, RSS or e-mails, there are a few sites I remember and visit randomly.  It’s usually because I’m bored or curious (but don’t know what I’m curious about). For instance, TechCrunch, Cheapskate, TheOnion, Google News, Yahoo Buzz. What are yours?

On TechCrunch I found an article about Blekko, a search engine that avoids spam by only indexing sites identified by people (like 2100 university sites). You use slashes to refine your search, so I tried Nalts and /date. That awakened me to a SocialTimes piece Megan O’Neill (Tel Aviv) curated a bunch of people and websites worth following on Twitter if you’re an online-video enthusiast. It’s quite handy, but I’m biased because I made the cut. 🙂

The Twitter accounts include ReelSEO’s Mark Robertson, GigaOM’s Ryan Lawler, Shape Shifting Zadi Diaz, as well as a bunch of people I consider “Friends” by a broad definition (meaning I have met them in person, I like them, and we share interests). Author Steve Garfield, Revisiond3’s Jim Louderback, Michael Buckley (WhatTheBuck), iJustine, Charles Trippy, Kassemg (the guy I know least among these). By a pure definition they’re not exactly friends, though. But isn’t the term “friend” changing because of Facebook’s use of the term?

Hey on that note, what’s a close friend? I’d consider a “close friend” someone you’ve known for a year or more, you’ve exchange meaningful information, and you know well and vice versa (meaning you each know your family/friends/significant others). For me, a friend isn’t competitive, they listen, and they share values. They can differ in many ways, but enjoy each other’s conversation and company. Most importantly, they forgive lapses in communication (something important to me because I’m spread thin and often vanish). I can think of dozens of people who are too frustrated by my intermittent communication to consider me a friend, and others who I can call after a long lapse and it’s like no time has passed.

Photo by Jim Davidson (Bucknick)

Anyway, Megan also assembled a nice collection of online-video stats and news websites (these are her words below). I’d suggest adding a few sites sites like ViralBlog, ReelSEOUrgo6667‘s stat site called Social Blade, and Renetto’s MyU2b).

  • Unleash Video Unleash Video is a video entertainment sharing website.  On their Twitter account they tweet about videos and news from their website, but they also tweet about general news in the online video space and they always have something interesting to share.
  • Web Series Today – If you enjoy web series then Web Series Today is definitely a must-follow.  Web Series Today tweets about the web’s top video series and is the best source for unfiltered web series information online.
  • Viral Video Chart – If you love being the first of your friends to know about the latest viral video hits then Viral Video Chart is the Tweeter to follow.  Viral Video Chart tweets about all the latest and most popular viral videos on the web.
  • Viral Viral Videos – Viral Viral Videos is also a great source, tweeting about viral videos as they go viral.
  • Web Video News – Finally, Web Video News is a great source for online and web video news, research and trends, compiling news from a variety of different sources across the web.

My list of linked sites is somewhat arbitrary and antiquated, but I hope to revise it. Please let me know what else you read for news about online video, and I’ll try to refresh the list with these and others!

YouTube Plus “Next New Network” Equals “Huh?”

First- the disclaimers. I share in advertising revenue from YouTube. And I’m a content partner for Next New Networks, but not an employee or quite the size of these guys. I’m just some marketing clown with a video camera, no writing staff, but 175 million views. Big deal. My blog’s still ugly.

YouTube Rumored to Be Buying Next New Networks... Perplexing But Interesting

So I’m not privileged to any discussions between YouTube and Next New Networks, and know nothing more about the alleged acquisition than I’ve read here. While I have been aware of rumors of someone acquiring NNN for a couple months, I didn’t even seriously consider the possibility that Google/YouTube would buy it. So it was fresh news to me when I got a text from ZackScott today (he wanted to brag about his recent GoogleTV gift, and how he’s become a bigger sellout than me).

My thoughts on the potential of a deal. First, “Why It Makes Little Sense At First Glance”

  • YouTube took Google far out of its core competency (from search machine to platform)… Next New Networks is another dangerous stretch. A real stretch. I worked for an Internet agency that was accidentally purchased by a telecommunication firm. That kind of stretch.

I can only imagine some of the conversations between the right-coast, roight brained NNN gang and the left-coast, left-brained engineers. It could be like a toaster trying to talk to a boom box.

  • YouTube already has deals with many content creators, so I’m not sure what it’s getting beyond some bright leadership, a library of content to monetize in new ways, and some production/marketing experience.
  • The relationship is strong between YouTube and NNN, so how is this strategic enough to offset the perceptions that Google is now encroaching on the content space? Could this send the networks a signal that Google is now a competitor to networks and studios?

Why It Makes Great Sense

  • I’ve written before that Madison doesn’t like YouTube (click to read “How Madison Avenue is Killing YouTube“). And there needs to be a buffer between creators and agencies. NNN could play a valuable role in buffering agencies from touching the YouTube rose’s engineering thorns… if YouTube/Google allowed it.
  • The control of NNN content will give YouTube a sandbox to try new content-delivery models via phone, television and mobile. It’s a sandbox but with real humans.
  • There’s a name for this. It’s called vertical integration, and it can be healthy as long as it’s not creating a monopoly (which clearly isn’t the case here).  Owning a network can help YouTube engage with other networks more effectively. A simpler example: if I run a line of beauty products, its worth owning one salon… I get real-world experience that rivals laboratory R&D, and it can inform my products.
  • This provides YouTube a presence on the East Coast (where most of the budgets originate) that is more meaningful than a sales office. Sponsored content, I believe, will be bi-coastal.
  • It could be a step toward better content partnerships. CEO Fred Seibert is a producer of some of Cartoon Networks greatest shows, and a former MTV creative director. So he’s got some clout in the entertainment world that can make/break YouTube. Having network experience inside Google will help Google be less aggressive with the advertisers YouTube needs to court. Oh, and by the way… NNN is one of the few web studios that has endured the implosion of the “New Establishment” (the name I used in my book to refer to emerging studios).

I think I sufficiently hedged this post so that I retain rights to say “I told you so” if this deal is a great success, and hires me… or if it flops insanely.

What do you think? Or don’t you care? See this is my  problem… when amazing news like this breaks, nobody in my IRL circle cares. Folks at my client and in my family don’t give a rats ass, so I need to work it out here.

Cable Faces Imminent Threat. But Unwashed Masses Too Lazy To Care.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a 100-person Utah company, led by CEO Roxanne Austib, has raised more than $67 million from some prominent backers that include Microsoft Corp., Comcast Corp. and Walt Disney Co.’s venture-capital arm. The goal? Bring television video to homes via the Internet. I know. Crazy, right? What next? A computer in every home?

Move Internet Television: But Moving is Scary. I Like it Here.

If the company pulls it off, you could watch programs via the web, your television-shaped monitor (via a converter box unless it already has an Internet jack or wireless receiver), or via your stupid iPhone or iPad (which some bastard called “the fourth screen” today at a conference, and made my omelette travel back up my throat).

But you won’t.

“…Move isn’t laying cable or launching satellites (so it says it)… can charge consumers far less than traditional pay-television operators for a comparable suite of channels. Move hopes to undercut those operators further by offering a pared-down lineup-perhaps as few as 80 to 100 channels.”

Here’s where it gets interesting. Comcast just launched a service called TV Everywhere that, um, uses Move software to provide its paying prisoners free on-demand access via the web. So will Comcast keep Mmmmoving? Or drop Move like Time Warner dropped its retarded older stepbrother AOL?  I’d expect a bloodbath, and I will enjoy every moment. As the WSJ acknowledged, this “could turn cable providers into little more than utilities, maintaining thousands of miles of dumb pipe-pipe through which Move’s snazzily repackaged TV programming would be flowing.” Say what you will about Comcast, but I don’t think it will become a dumb pipe without a fight.

Would you like to know the very sad “secret weapon” cable maintains? We’re change-adverse, lazy idiots.

He looks like we behave under the trance of lame utility companies.

We take don’t like breaking up with important service providers even when they suck (how many excuses have you used to avoid adopting voice-over-IP?) We default to whatever damned boxes our cable/fiber/phone providers install. The model T Ford comes in black and black. We are statistically proven to prefer the burger with the McDonalds wrapper against the exact same burger wrapped in white paper.

We don’t trust new companies- especially on something important like a utility. What? Clear? Saw them at BestBuy and in lots of newspapers and billboards. But who are they? Verizon’s my phone company. It’s the only one I’m allowed to use. Just like the US Post Office is the only way I can send a letter. Groceries delivered via web order? No I like to smell my canned food before I buy it.

But the TRS-80 Comes With a Tape Recorder AND Basic.

Take TiVo for example. It’s better, but few Comcast or Verizon customers realize they don’t have to put up with the TRS80-like machines the cable/telecom companies issue like obligatory military uniforms. Even better, the AppleTV (for $200) will give you every damned television show or movie you could ever want for a couple bucks and 2 clicks… with no stupid monthly obligation.  Do we buy them? Nope. We’re saving up for an iPad as big as a goitre.

But the Unwashed Masses DO Need Their Fashion Accessories.

So perhaps Move soars over every hurdle and obstacle that cable and telcom companies can lobby into its way. Then it manages to (with a nervous and tempered endorsement from big media and tech players) launch a less expensive, easier, high-quality offering that effectively makes Comcast/Verizon a giant Bill-Murray wielding hose… Some early adopters try it and love it. They tell all their pretend virtual friends. But unless 100% of that $67 million is going into mass advertising, we unwashed masses remain confused, and stick with our drunk & swearing spouses we call cable/telecom. It’s our fault they abuse us.

It's our fault he drinks so much.

Yes, we unwashed masses continue overpaying for never-used cable channels, ignoring the blinking 12:00 on the Betamax, and continue our 45th year of renting standard-issue 30-pound rotary phones for $5 a month from Ma Bell. We unwashed masses already tried your fancy microwave machines and facsimile phones, and that will be enough for now.

The only phone that works with your telcom company. It's not so bad.

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’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.

Eat Your Heart Out, I Made “Internet People 2”

Editorial update: See this site for more information. Thanks, Travis!

Nalts Cartoon internet people brentalfloss

Oh yeahhhh… Nalts ranking it up with some seriously online killers. Thanks Brentalfloss! Feeling cool! Here’s the Internet People original, which will remind you of some classics (most of which you’ll hear about again from your mom soon since she discovered Facebook).

Oh- and then there’s this version (the angrier Nalts), which incorporates some of the live images. See Spintown7 for this video.

Nalts cartoon spintown7

YouTube “Comedian” Broadcasts Hair Transplant Live Today

Nalts, a most-viewed YouTube comedian, will be having a hair transplant at Bauman Medical in Boca Raton, Florida. To watch it live:

Alan (fallofautumndistro) will be MCing a 30-minute session from 12:30-1:00 EST at this blogv.com location. Updates, if anything changes, available on Nalts’ Twitter.

To learn more about the journey, see HairofNalts.com.

Why Web Stars Can’t Act, and Why It Doesn’t Matter

A recent HBOLabs series titled “Hooking Up” has surprised people in two ways: those who expected TV/film-like acting performances from web stars have been disappointed. Those who expected another web series to be ignored were wrong.The show has had nearly 50K subscribers, and hundreds of thousands of views per episode (less for the vlogs).

So this proved that a web series that accesses the fame of known creators in 2008 and 2009 will draw larger audiences than with trained actors. Indeed by TV/film standards, web stars shouldn’t even be called actors.

Each medium creates its own stars… and some survive the transition from stage to radio to television to film and now internet video. But Hooking Up is a reminder of two indisputable facts about web stars:

  1. We are not the world’s finest script actors.
  2. We can (even me sometimes) attract sizable audiences (especially by web video standards).

The series would have floundered like many others had it not tapped into the vibrant audiences of its top stars. Kids that would watch Ishtar 2 as longs as KevJumba and LonelyGirl15 were in it.

Let this be a reminder that to be a popular video creator, there are a number of skillsets required that are far more diverse than acting. If a video creator is brilliant at a few, but lacks a balance, than he/she has far less odds of success than the one with decent skills across the board.

  1. Ability to connect with the audience as if each viewer is a friend.
  2. A unique and interesting approach to videos.
  3. Good looks (I make up in other areas).
  4. The commitment to interact with the audience in comments and e-mails.
  5. Editing skills. I have the power to turn horrendous acting into B-movie acting via this alone.
  6. Street smarts on what audiences want. This means watching a lot of video.
  7. Low costs. Big productions bleed.
  8. Acting.
  9. Self promotion and networking (among creators and industry folks).
  10. Most importantly, unwavering persistence,  thick skin, and the ability to reenvent.

I’ll bet on a web personality that has most of these, and can’t act before a brilliant actor that’s too shy to interact with other creators or audiences.

Here’s what’s interesting, though. I believe these requirements will change as larger players enter the arena. Remember 2 years ago you just had to be an interesting vlogger that caught the attention of a popular vlogger. So the rules are changing.

2009 will still require all of these skills, but in years ahead we may well see that larger productions will find these skills in a few people, allowing the “best in breed” instead of the “full service personality.”

Confidentially (which is why I’m only telling the 19 of you that read this blog) I didn’t care much for my own acting on Hooking Up, but I have two things that saved me. My appearance on The Retarded Policeman (which is Emmy-Award winning) and the fact that some of the Hooking Up acting was so bad I’m Shakespearean by contrast.