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Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

What about the Writer’s Guild of America?

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Webseries creators have long had questions about unions. As a group, many of us write, direct, produce, some of us star in our works, run camera, and do all the editing. So the question many creators have is regarding whether to join a union (SAG, AFTRA, Writer’s Guild of America East/West, Producer’s Guild, etc.). In trying to answer this question for myself, I tracked down Ursula Lawrence (ulawrence@wgaeast.org) of Writer’s Guild East and asked her a few questions on camera at their headquarters in downtown Manhattan.

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.

Jeremy Allaire, Online Video Industry Leader, Discusses its Future

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Most segments of industry were hit hard last year! Remember just a month ago when we were all kissing 2009 goodbye ready to see it gone forever? Well Jeremy Allaire‘s company, Brightcove, managed to grow its revenues 50% year over year, in 2009. Their customers have ranged from media companies (The New York Times, Fox, AOL, etc.) to plenty of non-media companies (Reebok, GM, Ticketmaster, etc.). And, seeing an opportunity to develop customers on the lower tier of online media, they rolled out Brightcove Express for $99/month; perfect for your local newspaper just dabbling with online video or that travel company looking to grow its community of travelers!

Jeremy Allaire is no new-comer to this space, either. Having co-founded Allaire Corporation where he developed Coldfusion and then teamed up with Macromedia to develop Flash, he is truly one of the online video industry’s leaders.

Rocket’s Tail caught up with Jeremy Allaire at the Brightcove Headquarters in Cambridge, MA to talk with him a little bit about where the industry is right now, where it might be heading, and how that intersects with other industry segments.

Interactive Video As Easy as Tagging Facebook Photos!

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Rocket’s Tail caught up with Roger Wu at the NY Video Meet-up this week. His company, Klickable.tv, has a unique take on making videos interactive. Inspired by pop-up music videos of the 1980’s, Roger liked the idea of tagging a video and allowing people to engage with the content directly by then having pop-ups upon scroll-over or opportunities to click for more information or to even make a purchase. He described Klickable.tv as a wrapper that can take your already-published video (on say YouTube, or Vimeo) and allow you to create interactive opportunities as easily as tagging a photo in Facebook. The end-user experience is that of being able to click on a portion of a video to get information, links, and other fun interactions.

Here is the video interview with Roger:

Additionally, you can see Klickable.tv verion of the video by clicking here: http://rocketstail.tumblr.com/

I asked Roger a few additional questions just prior to this post:

1. Are their any limitations to the length or source of footage that can be used with Klickable?

Nope – we’ve had people stream 90 minutes through – just remember your audience, i’d rather watch 90 1 minute clips than 1 90 minute clip

2. When I wash a video through Klickable, and somebody watches that, does it count as a video view on the source video portal (say YouTube or something else)?

It does if you are using the video portal’s video player, which our free version does for YouTube and Vimeo.

3. Are their ways for video creators to make money with Klickable?

Yes, affiliate links, advertising, analytics, engagement, etc etc!!

4. Does Klickable do any matching up of content with advertisers?

We do. If you check out the “free” version we utilize LocalPages to serve up contextually relevant Pay per click advertising…

SodaHead.com Wants You to Disagree!

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Jason Feffer, one of the people who helped start MySpace, is creating a different kind of community; one that thrives on opinion. A quick perusal of SodaHead.com and one will find what looks like a typical online social community. But SodaHead brings a little something more to the table: community building widgets. The hottest widget is the fully customizable polling widget and an ability to integrate polling into other social networks (twitter, facebook, bebo, etc.). ABC News uses the polling widget on its front page. Rocket’s Tail recently sat down to talk with Jason Feffer. Here is what he had to say:

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