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Webseries: Periodic Release vs. All-at-Once

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As a webseries creator, I have had the opportunity to release shows over time and had shows syndicated through various online platforms. In all of these cases, there was a natural logic to releasing periodically (a daily variety show, a cooking show, a political spoof during campaign season, etc.). But for the last couple years, our team has embarked on a circuitous journey leading to the release of The Oligarch Duplicity, a narrative ten-episode spy-thriller we plan to release in September. Like many web series, its short format lends to office viewing. But, having had a variety of experiences watching other web series, we found ourselves perplexed by the question of whether to release periodically or all ten episodes at once. Note that that I viewed much talked about shows this past year (The Bannen Way, Urban Wolf, Anyone But Me, etc.), in chunks of entire seasons during one sitting with the exception being Girl Number 9. I’ve been back to that show’s website more than once, only to be frustrated by the lack of information about how to finish the story, darn-it-all! If these represent a dichotomy of experience for narrative web series, what is a web series creator to do?

I posed this question to a number of people in the web-television industry who all have reasons to hold strong opinions on the topic. The variety of answers (and reasons they provided) demonstrate that there is no one-right-way, but a myriad of factors to consider and just as many choices to make. Many thanks to all the contributors for their thoughtful responses! Summary of responses first, then full responses listed below:

For a webseries with a very finite number episodes (say ten), is it better to release them all at once or periodically (daily, weekly, etc)? Why?

Short Answers:

I say all at once with an episodic release pattern (daily? weekly? no less frequently than weekly!)

  • Miles Maker, Story Author, Auteur and New Media Strategist

It depends on genre and the distribution platform.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to release them all at once. I think part of putting out a web series is marketing. And you need to have something to push.

2x/Week – Gives you time to build up following, also keeps their attention. Might even do more in the beginning and then go 2x/week. Study the greats. What did they do?

I’d say daily, but that’s just from experience, I like to think of it as an event.

I go toward the daily, weekly, monthly approach.

All at once. Because of the way people consume content on the web.

I would release a series periodically.

My gut tells me to release weekly.

Releasing daily, or even twice a week, can help keep the show top of mind and hold viewers’ attention.

no one definitive answer. like anything else in life it’s case by case.

I strongly believe that releasing over time is the right thing to do.

It depends on the overall distribution plan.

I prefer to see things released at once (I may be in the minority).

Weekly if it’s a good scripted webseries and you have 8 to 10 eps.

  • David Ripert, Senior Manager Content & Partnerships, Dailymotion

I would go with releasing them over a long time to slowly gain an audience

I tend to say releasing them periodically is better.


Full Responses:

Miles Maker, Story Author, Auteur and New Media Strategist

I say all at once with an episodic release pattern (daily? weekly? no less frequently than weekly!)

This way you can offer your viewers a sense of regularity like traditional TV programming, and the cumulative audience engagement will grow exponentially. Not to sound too scientific about it but sporadic web series’ tend to gain and lose momentum because of their lack of a predictable content schedule viewers can FOLLOW–if viewers are interested, they wanna know at 7pm on Sunday the new episode is available to view and every Sunday thereafter for an entire season of X number of episodes, capped with a season finale.

This will also add to the branding perception the industry has of the project–hobbyist vs. viable content producer. Brands will see the consistency and perhaps hop on for season two–and web series sites are more likely to mention your series too.

just my $0.02

p.s. the average retention rate for a video nowadays is about 4min and most views for a social media-delivered video happen in the first 3 days. having said that, you may want to release every 3-4 days if not weekly, but any longer period of time than once/week loses any momentum gained as the Internet is very much I WANT IT NOW AND I DON”T WANNA WAIT kinda place.

Mark Gantt, Creator & Star, The Bannen Way

It depends on genre and the distribution platform. Your own site. YouTube. Or someplace like my damn channel. More details please!

Tina Cesa Ward, Executive Producer, Writer, Director of “Anyone But Me

I don’t think it’s a good idea to release them all at once. I think part of putting out a web series is marketing. And you need to have something to push. So if you put out episodes twice a month like we do, we have time to build up anticipation for it and also have something to send to talk to the press about. I don’t think you can get as much press if you just put all of them out there at once. You only get one premiere as they say and often press only want to talk about what’s new. If you release all of them at once, you only have that one moment with the press and then you’re done. If you released them individually, you have 10 moments (if you have 10 episodes)

Plus if people just like to wait and watch them all at once, they can still do that after they’re all released. But I think for fans there is some fun in waiting and being a part of a season. You can be more part of community because everyone’s watching the episodes together.

For me, if you’re releasing a scripted series, you shouldn’t release everyday. I think you have to build anticipation for your episode releases, make it more of an event. I have a theory that the NFL is so popular because they have one big day (not counting Thursday on NFL network) of games a week

so you have that build up for 6 days, and people make it an event. People don’t make getting together for baseball, basketball, or hockey an event because the games are on practically every day.

I think the web series definitely needs to be broken up into seasons. Not sure what the number should be set at, we just work with ten and release twice a month because we found that’s best for us.

Marjorie Kase, Co-Founder, MarKyr Media

2x/Week – Gives you time to build up following, also keeps their attention. Might even do more in the beginning and then go 2x/week. Study the greats. What did they do? …That’ll be $375. 😉

Bernie Su, Streamy Award Winning Writer, Compulsions

I’m assuming we’re talking about a new webseries or a series that doesn’t have a massive devoted fan base (The Guild, Easy to Assemble)

I’d say daily, but that’s just from experience, I like to think of it as an event.

Nick Robinson, formerly of Vuguru, believes that you do it all at once, and let them binge.

Anyway, my rationale comes from marketing resources. If you’re doing a weekly release (which I disagree with) it just makes it tougher, because now your marketing needs to extend across 10 weeks, and it may not keep the attention of the viewer.

e.g. You’re asking the audience to keep your series in mind over 10 weeks to presumably consume 5 minutes at a time.

I personally have a hard enough time doing that for one hour shows that relentlessly promote one another, so to have that retention for 5 minutes weekly episodes is way too difficult.

One final thing is that for Compulsions, Dailymotion had a 2 week site skin for us, so since we had all eight episodes out by the end of the 2nd week, a click from the skin could result in 8 views versus say 2 (had we released weekly).

I want to clarify that this is for something that’s very story/character driven and not for something like say a sketch show which would stand alone stronger, and thus perform weekly.

As a member of the web community I think a great litmus test is to consider how many people have seen every episode of a specific show. (Again taking out shows with huge existing fan bases)

This could just be a personal thing, but I can tell you there were only two shows (that I didn’t work on) that I kept with where I watched the final episode the day it came out, one was Sorority Forever (every weekday for 8 weeks), and the other was The Bannen Way (every weekday for 2.5 weeks.).

Granted there are way more factors, like whether I like the show or not, but I think you see where I’m coming from.

Ben Mendleson, Interactive TV Alliance

Because of the overly convenient nature of the Internet… I think it’ll become increasingly important to play around with release windows. And there’s a smart way to create a need through exclusivity, while still giving access to a larger archive. So, I go toward the daily, weekly, monthly approach.

Jack Ferry, Creator “$99 Music Videos”

All at once. Because of the way people consume content on the web. When I watch a web show, I want to watch episodes back-to-back. That’s how I watch MOST web shows.

Children’s Hospital was released all at once. And I watched the entire season in one sitting. In fact, I get annoyed when I have to go back and watch the “next episode” week after week. I’m busy! I have lots of things to check! My email, Facebook, Twitter etc. I don’t want your web show to be work for me. If I go back to site, there better be a new full season there waiting for me!

Also, the web has helped create an “On Demand” culture. People want to watch whatever they want… RIGHT NOW. They don’t want to wait. I say, don’t make them.

Joel Bryant, Actor, Streamy Awards Nominee

I would release a series periodically.

You could release them all at once, but then you’re depending on essentially one marketing campaign to get eyes to the site. And that’s a very small window….and the web audience is small to begin with.

It gives you a way to build up an audience and create rolling buzz…as opposed to putting all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak.

The best plan: Try to get as many eyes on your trailer and or promo from the outset. And set a date for the premiere episode. Try to get as much buzz as you can with that date in mind. Market the hell out of that! You won’t have your full audience, but you should be able to build anticipation.

Then, as you roll out subsequent eps., you can do the e-mail blast/advertising/etc. per episode. This gives you a reason to invite new folks, re-invite old ones, or do whatever you can each week/month/whatever to get people to view the series.

The beauty of the web is that folks can always go back and watch the series all at once or easily catch up on missed eps.

Finally, when all 10 eps. are out, you can do yet ANOTHER blast along the lines of: “Watch the whole series in one sitting! All of season 1 now available online!!” If you can hook an audience, the roll-out just allows you to continually try to hook more viewers. You shoot your whole wad in one mass premiere, then it’s an all-or-nothing bet. And that’s not a very good bet. Esp. on the web.

That’s just my opinion, though….

Jamison Tilsner, Evangelist, Kantar Video

My gut tells me to release weekly, but I’m not sure what generally generates more traffic.  I’d say you should take advantage of the opportunity to make news as much as possible, and releasing slowing gives you that opportunity

Gennefer Snowfield, Founder and Branded Entertainment Expert, Space Truffles Entertainment

A big hurdle for web series is getting past that drop off rate that happens about three episodes in, much of which is related to maintaining mindshare among viewers in such a media saturated space. So releasing daily, or even twice a week, can help keep the show top of mind and hold viewers’ attention. To augment viewership, engagement strategies should also be employed that pique audience interest to delve deeper in the storyline and give them opportunities to interact with the series. The point is that it’s not just about a web video, or how often it’s released, but the experience the viewer has with — and around — the content. One of the primary benefits of the web is that it is an *interactive* medium, so harnessing social tools that allow fans to participate in the story [and with other fans] will get them personally invested in the series, and drive them to champion it throughout their various networks. At the end of the day, the most memorable experiences don’t ‘go viral’ — they get shared.

Hayden Black, Creator, Goodnight Burback, The Occulterers, etc.

no one definitive answer. like anything else in life it’s case by case.

Eric Mortensen, Director of Content Development, Blip.tv

I strongly believe that releasing over time is the right thing to do.  Just by virtue of uploading new episodes every week, you’re reminding people that the project is out there. Each upload is a little PR release.  Both humans and robots (Google, etc.) get reminded of the project each time.  You can also learn a lot from each episode you release, improving as you go. And finally, you increase the chance that some lucky break (like a newspaper article or very high advertising CPMs) hits while you’re still actively releasing episodes.

Steve Lettieri, Founder, StoryForge

It depends on the overall distribution plan. If you’ve got a feature-length project that you can zip up at the end and distribute on DVD, VOD, etc., then get it out there as quick as possible. So daily til it’s done. Otherwise weekly works I think… especially if you’re doing post-prod as you go.

Ephraim Cohen, Head of Strategy and Industry, Fortex Group

I’ve heard different sides but I prefer to see things released at once (I may be in the minority) or at least larger chunks than just one. I want to make sure people are really hooked in order to get them to return.

David Ripert, Senior Manager Content & Partnerships, Dailymotion

Weekly if it’s a good scripted webseries and you have 8 to 10 eps, so you can build momentum and get people to come back. It is rare that people will watch 10 videos in a row on any site. Now if you had 20 or 30 eps, daily would make more sense.

Todd Norwood, Creator, Meet the Mayfayers

I would go with releasing them over a long time to slowly gain an audience, who would tune in, so to speak, week by week. However I’d probably do two episodes on the first day. Either release week by week or every day for two weeks.

But that’s just me. That’s what is so cool about the internet, there is no one way.

Assaf Pines, Content Product Manager, Metacafe.com

There are pluses and minuses to each route, but I tend to say releasing them periodically is better. This way, you have time to reassess your marketing strategy on the fly and fine-tune as needed. If you release all at once, “the cat’s out of the bag” and you lose some buzz/mystery.

Spreading out your videos also increases your chances at success because each video will get more eyeballs on the “most recent” pages. If you release them all at once, they’re all most recent for 24 hours, and then disappear into the backlog. If you do it weekly, you’ll have something new on this page every week, and maybe one time it will take off into a hit.

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One Response

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  1. Weekly and stick to your schedule…please!! Just because it’s “New Media” doesn’t mean you throw out all that’s been learned or implemented from the TV industry. You have just the right amount of episodes for a Season 1. Release them weekly (not on weekends) so your audience knows when to expect new episodes. This will also build up marketing steam as more and more people hear about it and spread the word. Monthly only works with 4-6 episodes. Daily only works if you have lots of marketing dollars or a major distro channel supporting you.

    Patrick Bardwell
    Founder & President
    Slebisodes Web Series Guide

    Patrick Bardwell

    July 16, 2010 at 5:27 pm


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