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Why I Love Politicians and What We Can Learn from Them

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We are headlong into the silly season of presidential campaign politics. If you doubt it, it’s time to crawl out from under that rock you’ve been sleeping under. Then, once you plop down on the sofa with your laptop, smart phone, or in front of your television, you’ll figure out who the key players are. This week as we launch Puppet John Law, a series lampooning the process of running for President of the United States, it makes sense to explore why I love politicians and what we can learn from them.

 

I have worked in an integral way on numerous political campaigns; sometimes on the winning side, sometimes on the losing side. I count a number of politicians—in both political parties—good friends. Despite what you might think about their political positions, my experience indicates that (most) politicians start out wanting to make a difference and do right by their constituents. They believe they can further the cause of their electorate, that they can best represent their constituency, and that they will serve the people better than their opponent.

Money and influence sully campaigns and have since the beginnings of democracy. But even today, with all the influence and money that flows through political campaigns, one truism can be gleaned from politics and applied to web television.

“How do you win an election? One vote at a time.” One only has to think back to the George Bush/Al Gore election to remember just how true that is. Even today, we see the Republican primary contenders traveling state-to-state, fair-to-fair, house party-to-house party. Why? To meet people! Raising money is part of the equation, but the goal is to win the support of opinion leaders in communities (communities of people living together, worshipping together, or country-clubbing together, or who share a common ideology). These politicians take their message out to various communities and make the case for how they are unique, different, and better than the rest.

When you listen to top YouTubers talk about keys to their success, it’s not so different. Many of them spend inordinate amounts of time responding to comments and fans, outreaching to communities that would resonate with their show, and working to convert the passive viewer into an active fan who likes, shares and talks about their show. It’s about what makes their show unique, different, and better at connecting with an audience.

Some may argue that the key is to simply create great content. But, discoverability also comes from knowing who would likely connect with that content and helping them find it. How do you build an audience? One view at a time. That’s a great place to start.

Puppet John Law is created by J. Sibley Law with animation powered by HandTurkey Studios.

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Elements of a Hit Web Series

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Branching out to other publications, please see my latest guest column in Tubefilter:

Elements of a Hit Web Series (And the One You’re Probably Missing)

There’s a secret to building a hit web series; to writing the perfect story or cultural commentary that people can’t help but share. It’s elusive and the people who accidentally stumble upon it grow fewer with each…

Continued at Tubefilter:

http://news.tubefilter.tv/2012/02/02/elements-of-a-hit-web-series/

Steeping Success in Online Video

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Blip.tv asked one of the world’s leading research firms to find out more about web series audience behaviors by surveying 1,500 of its users. Then they shared the information with the public. Sweet!  But as a show creator, I want to know what their data means for me! Specifically, I want to know how I can parlay this into increasing the profits of my shows.

“We discovered that people really jump around and watched all kinds of content.”
— Joseph White, Digital Research Manager, Blip.tv

Speaking by phone, Joseph White, Digital Research Manager for Blip.tv, highlighted what jumped out at him from the study. He said this would be the year of cord shaving. In his mind, the general public probably would not cut the cords to their cable boxes or satellite dishes. However, many of them would spend less time watching broadcast programming and more time viewing online video. Of special note was the fact that viewers weren’t just niche viewers. “People and advertisers like to think that video game viewers watch that kind of content, and drama series watchers want only that kind of content. But we discovered that people really jump around and watch all kinds of content,” White explained. “We believed this was happening and the study confirmed it.” He went on to say they discovered that peak viewing happened during prime time, which “makes sense, because the largest bulk of people’s free time comes at the end of the day.”

Advertisers are concerned about when people are watching certain kinds of content. Obviously, if you are Boston Market, knowing that your ads will be seen by the highest number of people during the dinner hour is a tremendous benefit. Dailymotion’s VP of Content, David Ripert, confirmed that his network saw 6-9 pm as their prime hours, but the second highest viewing for them came at lunchtime. However, when trying to ascertain what that means for the creator of online shows, he explained, “Users are looking for entertainment and news; whether in clip form or full length, the quality expectation is higher and higher.”

Digging deeper into data about online video viewership, the Nielsen Cross Platform Report (Q1: 2011) is chock full of information about how people consume media and on which platforms. Though on the whole, television viewership increased by 22 minutes per month, some interesting facts emerge at the edges of the viewership. Generally speaking, the highest consumers of online video watch the least amount of television, and vice versa. To some that may seem like an obvious statistic, the kind worthy of a “doh!” But layered into that fact is who they are: women age 18-49 spend 4:57 watching online video each month, while their male counterparts spend 7:02. However, when broken down by ethnicity, the amount of time spent watching online video showed a wide spread: Asian (10:19), Hispanic (6:24), African-American (5:52), White (3:37). It’s no wonder that shows like Tony Clomax’s “12-Steps to Recovery,” “EastWillyB” created by Yamin Segal and Julia Grob, and “Odessa,” written by Jorge Rivera and James Peoples have found audiences and/or development opportunities. Certainly high production value and great characters help to surface these shows, but so do the racially diverse casts and the multiplicity of issues.

12-Steps to Recovery: EP 13 – Catch Social
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/12stepswebseries/12-steps-to-recovery-episode-13-catch-social-5686793%5D

When asked about the disparity of online viewership by ethnicity, Jorge Rivera said, “I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that in general, audiences are finding stuff online that meets their viewing interests in a way they aren’t on finding on traditional TV… That’s not to say that writing and casting ethno-centric content is the magic bullet, but it’s one small example of the greater experimental spirit of the Internet that makes it creatively more appealing…to everybody.”

East Willy B: EP 1 – You’ve Been Served
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/eastwillyb/east-willyb-you-ve-been-served-episode-1-5304840%5D

For her part Julia Grob suggested, “One reason may be the median age of the Latino population which is 27.4 years, vs. 36.8 median age of the US population as a whole. 22% of the Latino population is under 18! This means, the majority of Latinos are under 30.  We don’t remember a time where there wasn’t the Internet. We are trendsetters, on the cusp of new technology & new media — which would contribute to the higher number of hours spent viewing online video vs. the mainstream populations which is older and more likely to access video through old media methods (cable, dvd).”  While Rivera and Grob are mindful of these issues, Clomax took it a step further, saying, “The most important thing is to make sure that your content and subject matter crosses racial and socio-economic lines. If you’re producing something that everyone can relate to and you are appealing to all these different people, it will contribute to the success of the show.”

If [sci-fi fans] are as technology-forward as many suggest, Nielsen’s data
indicates that they are the super-users when it comes to online video.

Other niches of people also are known to spend copious amounts of time online. Shows like “The Guild” have capitalized on them. Many believe that sci-fi fans comprise their own grouping of technology-forward people who spend more time watching shows online than other groups. If they are as technology-forward as many suggest, Nielsen’s data indicates that they are the super-users when it comes to online video. “Mercury Men” (SyFy), “Ark” (Hulu), and “RCVR” (YouTube/Machinima) delivered their own slants on the genre, while at the same time adhering to a trifecta of high production-values, strong characters, and intriguing stories.

RCVR: Episode 1 – Little Green Men

Blake Calhoun, one of online video’s early and prolific show creators, is betting that he can find this niche and titillate them with his new show “Continuum.” (The first three episodes (of eighteen) are being shown exclusively on the show’s Facebook fanpage.) When asked about his audience, Calhoun said, “Genre shows and/or niche shows seem to work best online. This was definitely a consideration when I was developing “Continuum.’” He explained that releasing the first three episodes is part of a broader buzz marketing plan that includes the good fortune of having had the teaser trailer selected to play at Comic-Con. But is that enough?

Actress Melanie Merkosky as "Raegan" in Continuum

Answering that question, Steve Lettieri, who runs SciFinal.com says, “Character always wins the day for most successful web series, sci-fi or otherwise. Does the series have characters worth watching again and again? If so, then things like production values, visual effects, etc., can help separate you from the pack.”

“Don’t have unrealistic expectations about the early stages.
And, don’t ever, ever, ever stop because one person
—or one hundred people—are not jumping in to lend a hand.”

— Rob Barnett, Founder & CEO, My Damn Channel

In trying to read the tea leaves of this steeping cup of data I turned to Rob Barnett, who has created a lean and extraordinarily successful online video channel. When Time Magazine ran its article on the best websites of 2011, My Damn Channel was prominently featured. Barnett had some interesting things to say about what makes for a successful online video: “The old days of putting up great video and wishing for virality are over. The amount of new online video is growing at a pace too fast to fathom. If you’re in the business of figuring out how to use video to promote yourself, or an idea, or a cause, or a product of any kind, then you’ve got to create a business model and a game plan for every video that includes marketing in every possible way.” He even gave some hard data about what works in terms of length for online videos: 2-3 minutes max. He suggested that show creators need to gain permission from the audience to dive deeper into characters and produce longer episodes, but only after the audience wants it.

My Damn Channel’s: Dicki – The Boyfriend

Julia Grob and her team took that approach when they created the EastWillyB (with episodes in the 2-3 minute range). Then, their fans responded. “After launching the pilot, we received feedback from fans asking for longer episodes and more content,” she explained. Deeper dives into the characters and longer episodes may just be in the offing.

When asked what advice he has for show creators, Barnett’s passion is clear: “the best advice is always to follow your own inner voice. Our road was paved by finding great partners to help get us to every next step on the path. We only hired talent and staff we knew were as intensely committed to creating the best work as we were. Realize that every creative partnership has to have equal shares of trust, hard work, and commitment from every member of the team. Be about the ‘long money.’ Don’t have unrealistic expectations about the early stages. And don’t ever, ever, ever stop because one person—or one hundred people—are not jumping in to lend a hand. Relentless, passionate, constant pursuit of your goal always wins out in the end if you never bail on your desire.” Passion. Commitment. Quality.

[For web series success] “You should focus on five things: produce content regularly,
think about earning your audience rather than deserving your audience, target a niche,
go after a community that will embrace your content, and constantly interact with your fans.”

— Dina Kaplan, Co-Founder, Blip.tv

Back at Blip.tv, co-founder Dina Kaplan punctuated her thoughts saying, “The most exciting thing to us is how savvy producers are getting about producing and marketing shows. Two good examples of series doing things right are “Girl Parts” and “Vinyl Rewind.”

Blip.tv: GirlParts – The Wake Up Call
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/girlparts/episode-04-the-wake-up-call-5501671%5D

Kaplan continued, “They get that shows should have strong enough production values but should also really engage their communities of fans.” To do this Kaplan gave some insightful marching orders: “For a web series producer to be successful in 2011, you should focus on five things: produce content regularly, think about earning your audience rather than deserving your audience, target a niche, go after a community that will embrace your content, and constantly interact with your fans and even let your fans interact with other fans. This is how you will get the great multiplier effect that turns a series from a hope into a successful, sustainable business.”

Easy to say. And as online video begins shaving off bits of traditional broadcast viewership, there are great opportunities for deserving show creators. Those who factor in these many variables will inevitably have greater chances for success.

Written by J. Sibley Law.

Copyright © 2011, by J. Sibley Law, all rights reserved.

Trend-Setter Gets Invited to YouTube Partner Program

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Melissa Gonzalez doesn’t let the dust settle under her feet. She is co-founder of RS Pop-Up Shop, which blends online video, with fashion, branding, and a hot store front location in mid-town Manhattan on Lexington Ave. The former host of Latin Beat on BET also runs beautyfashionfitness.com. To call her a go-getter with vision would be an understatement. She’s been a Wall Street Executive, a television host, a style maven, and a successful blended-industry entrepreneur. This woman knows a few things. However, recently, she and a friend started a comedy show “just for fun” called: The Glory Box Girls. Though the chit-chat might edge toward racy (they’re on YouTube, afterall), something unexpected happened. One of their videos crossed beyond a thousand views, began receiving a lot of comments, and then YouTube invited them to include that video in their Partner Program. Melissa  agreed to go on camera can talk a bit about their entry into the Partner Program, some of the choices the program is influencing, and she agreed to come back and talk with us in about six months to discuss how it’s going.

Here is what Melissa has to say:

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.

The Definitive YouTube Guide

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Building an Audience, Optimizing for Search, and Making Money

The title to this post is fairly tongue-in-cheek. The reality is that if you catch any well-known so-called “you-tubers” off-the-record, they’ll tell you that all bets are off. Even panelists from last night’s YouTube Partner’s Meet-up, which was held at Google’s New York City offices, confided that the ubiquitous platform and it’s community seems to be very different from year to year. Panelists included: Michael Buckley (What the Buck), Ben Relles (Barely Political), Kevin Nalty (Nalts), and William Hyde (TheWillofDC). Each of these guys gave varying perspectives on their success and have taken different approaches to their content, much which I love. However, the most helpful part of the evening were two sessions lead by Margaret Healy, Google Partner, and what she shared about how their platform works and how to make the most of our shows. What follows are some of those insights:

Michael Buckley, William Hyde, Ben Relles, and Kevin Nalty

Building an Audience

Early in the evening, Healy posted a TubeMogul pie chart depicting statistics about where video views come from (no, not from the lettuce patch). Additionally, a number of statistics were thrown out to the audience, like the fact that YouTube is the second largest search engine (ostensibly second only to Google), that 24 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and that 40% of online video views happen on YouTube. Interestingly, during the Q&A, one partner asked about securing placement on the YouTube platform. Healy’s response was that videos didn’t get popular because of a YouTube spotlight. Essentially, YouTube’s perspective is, “you need to build your own audience.” There was encouragement for partners to network, collaborate, and even form friendships. There was a lot of talk about inbound traffic to YouTube utilizing video embeds, links, and the new email option that partners were encouraged to ask their subscribers to opt-in to (note: it’s a multiple-click process to opt in). There was talk about how to share subscribers and a ton of talk about interaction. Buckley pointed to how much time he spends interacting with his audience via the comments on his videos and that he is less focused on his website than on his YouTube channel. When a follow-up question was asked about how many hours a day he spends responding to comments he emphasized: “A LOT!” I was quickly reminded of a conversation I had last year with Joe Swanberg (Young American Bodies) when I asked him how building an audience was different online than it was in film. He responded to the affect that building an audience was just the same online: one viewer at a time. So, back to the TubeMogul pie chart: while 45% of video views come from within the site, 44% came from inbound traffic (ie. blogs, links, etc.). The next obvious question is, beyond sharing subscribers and getting people to link to a video or embed a video, what can you do to find an audience?

Optimizing for Search

How, exactly, does one rise above the noise and get her video found and seen? Healy had some interesting thoughts about optimizing for search (note the earlier statistic about YouTube being the second largest) and that Google search results now include video. Healy went onto say: “I know a lot of you guys spend about 10 hours perfecting you video,” boy, does she underestimate, “and about 10 seconds writing a description for your video.” That was when she introduced Al (short for algorithm). She explained that while the YouTube Algorithms do not watch the videos, they read all the text available (title, tags, and description). She gave CookingWithDog as an example of the kind of specificity needed in descriptions to help optimize a video for search. She did a quick Google search for “cooking bento” and the cookingwithdog video was available above-the-fold. Once on the video page she opened up the description and there was the entire recipe. Then she offered a tip for those of us with text rich videos: turn on auto-captions, copy and paste the captions into the description, correct the captions, save, and then turn off auto-captions. Other things that impact the YouTube Algorithms? Any of the following will help: inbound links, frequency of posting (the more you post, the more Al will like your video), and getting included in official playlists. Also, note that the algorithms are designed to identify spam and misleading behavior as well as copyright infringement, etc.

Making Money

Once you’ve figured out how to build an audience all on your own and how to optimize your video so people will find it when they search for related stuff, of course you’ll want to know: HOW DO I MAKE MONEY?  If you want to make money on YouTube, you need to first apply to become a YouTube partner. Once you’ve done that, there’s a lot of stuff to know and figure out:

The first question is how exactly one makes money on YouTube. Very simply: advertising. Wait. No. The TWO ways to make money on YouTube are advertising and rentals. Oh, but wait…the THREE ways to make money on YouTube are advertising, rentals, and paid placement. Yes, the list is still growing. But, don’t worry…there is no comfy chair! (Special note about the third: YouTube allows partners to get paid for product placement but due to recent FCC regulations requiring the disclosure of paid content, please check the box during upload that says: “This video contains a paid product placement.”) However, the main way that video on YouTube is currently monetized is with advertising (pre-roll, post-roll, and overlays, and in-stream ad-insertion in videos longer than 10 minutes, as well as with AdSense).

YouTube has three ways they package their video inventory for advertisers.

  1. Category – When you go to upload your video, you should select which category your video is best suited for. Sometimes ad buyers will buy the entire category.
  2. Video Vertical – This is determined by all the metadata on a per-video basis (ostensibly based on views, content, and other qualifying factors such as extensive descriptions)
  3. Custom Packs – YouTube has an unlimited number of custom packs of videos that advertisers buy. Special interest right now for YouTube is video content geared toward moms.

Please note that the algorithms on YouTube/AdSense are designed to weed out racy content and other kinds of content that advertisers might find objectionable. It was difficult to get a clear read on what, exactly, racy and objectionable might be; but one must assume that objectionable will trend with the sensibilities of the culture at any given time. Healy’s suggestion was to make videos TV-ready to make them appealing to advertisers.

There were approximately two hundred partners in the room for the session and many of us “old timers” could be heard saying things like: “oh, I didn’t know you could do that now; that’s helpful.” Clearly, this was a great step for YouTube toward helping to build its collection of partners into a community. Hopefully, there will be many more YouTube Partner Meet-ups and YouTube will continue this more personal flow of information. I, for one, believe that it’s incumbent on we the Partners to build our community.

Why the Streamys Matter

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Much has been written about the fail-factor at the Second Annual Streamy Awards. Inaugural IAWTV member Kent Nichols wrote about it on his blog and Nominee and Radio Producer Chance McClain wrote about it from the nominee’s perspective on his blog. Rightly so. Even though I laughed-out-loud at the streakers, the unsavory jokes, etc., I cringed with Chance McClain at the thought of bringing my son to such a show (my eight-year-old and I are working on his first webseries and he is completely excited!). I hope he has a reason to attend the 3rd Annual Streamy Awards. What felt most disappointing, having flown from Connecticut as an attendee and member of the IAWTV, were the persistent industry-self-deprecating jokes from the stage. Like my work or don’t like my work, much of it has been viewed by the millions (though admitted some by only the tens). The truth is that it takes a dedicated team of people to craft a webseries. But, to make a REALLY compelling webseries takes even more than that.

Why They Really Matter

My first year as a voting member of the IAWTV, I had the privilege to view and vote on the many, many webseries that  were up for awards. Here’s what struck me: the high quality of the work that was nominated. Sony posted some great work (and wins, for that matter), but so did those charming musical kids from Radford, VA. Here’s me with Michael Gregory’s Aunt in front of the theatre:

The women of OzGirl respresented from down under tapping the unofficial network of indie web television, blip.tv, to achieve the self-described “web’s hottest drama’s” global reach.  Nominated were compelling dramas, incredible documentaries, laugh-out-loud-funny comedies. These works set the standard for what people will strive to compete with and exceed this year and subsequent years. Many of these works display the fruits of lessons learned in traditional media as well as from the years that YouTube reigned supreme in online video content.  Working against the running industry-self-deprecation joke was the fact that there was an award for Best Branded Entertainment where the international brands joined the competition (competitors included: Topps, Altoids, IKEA, Lexus, & Spherion). If it wasn’t clear during the event, it should be clear by the line-up of nominees that online video is important to major entertainment companies (Sony, MTV, etc.) and significant international consumer brands alike (see the aforementioned nominee list). Every winner in every category has done something unique and special and set a mark to be bettered. Every year new technology and techniques develop but as they do, they have history to improve upon. The slate of nominees and winners have set the stage for even better webseries in years to come. Simply put, that is why the Streamy Awards matter.

Putting on an awards show or any major live event is not like creating online video. There is no POST production, save the after party and a good postmortem. Budgets help. So does experience. With promises to sponsors (and an improved event in year three), budgets will grow. The show will improve…no doubt. What remains constant is that when there is an opportunity for the best and brightest to compete, it compels many of them to even better works. I, for one, am looking forward to the Third Annual Streamy Awards and hope to be assigned a seat next to my son, who will be nine.

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