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THE STATE OF SEXY: Nudity, Expletives, and Other Stuff YouTube Finds Objectionable

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Recently, Brendan Bradley (Squatters) started posting a new series (Brief Coverage) on his channel. Of the six videos currently posted, thumbnails show the female host in various sexy underwear. Two of the thumbnails include her face. The thumbnail for one of these videos recently prompted the question on Facebook, “is this porn?” A heated discussion followed.  For me, it became an opportunity to share some recent observations on the state of sexy.

For a long time, the going thinking regarding YouTube was that success was all about numbers, specifically numbers of views. Since hot-sexy (however that was defined by viewers) has tended to drive the highest number of views, videos with those subjects have driven views and notoriety. The flip-side of that coin is that the YouTube community (in some instances) and the YouTube advertisers (in other instances) have prevented material that some find offensive (in either category) from receiving monetization. In some instances, videos (like at least one in #BriefCoverage) have been completely removed from the site.

The impact can be broken down into two basic categories:

  1. Stuff that gets removed from the website or sent to the purgatory of 18+ content
  2. Stuff that doesn’t receive monetization or gets low CPMs…

My sense with #1 is that you’re on your own, it’s community driven and you’re videos remain posted at the mercy of the viewers (and YouTube internal reviewers, which number in the far-too-few). However, with #2 you are at the mercy of the advertisers and the demand for content in certain categories. We have two shows in the Ziz Comedy Network that each received monetization over the past month. One show goes after the thriving male-interested-in-slightly-sexy-content. That episode (The Largest Penis in the World) received something in the neighborhood of 22K views over a thirty-day period and made somewhere in the neighborhood of $26 – $30. The other video (Bun in the Oven) received approximately 2K (yes, two thousand) views during the same period and made virtually the same amount of money. What was the difference? This second video is aimed at new moms with a comedic message of women empowerment consistently targeting this audience with content, title, tags, etc. The other difference is that the first video captures the same audience as a gazillion (that’s the literal number) other videos on youtube while the second is doing something that is a lot more unique (relatively speaking).

You can define success in a number of ways. There are great reasons to go after high view counts or high cpm rates (or both). YouTube (though often thought of like a utility) is first and foremost a business that needs advertisers to sustain itself and needs to grow beyond its reputation outside of the webseries community: as the place that you don’t want your 13 y.o. to go alone. In that context, it’s easy to understand why and how certain things happen on YouTube. Unfortunately, for now there are three basic categories for YouTube videos with anything that a user or advertiser might find objectionable: undiscovered, adult, and removed. My sense is that as the broader community of online video viewers evolve so will the rating system and the ways that certain kinds of content finds its way to users. As that happens, it will make room for a much broader range of high quality content that, while not necessarily perfect for the Disney set certainly might be perfect for a differentiated, intelligent, and discerning audience.

Whether or not Brief Coverage is designed to do more than showcase the assets of Liz Katz, I leave to the viewer to decide. But, the conversation it fostered on Facebook reminds me of a question our start-up consultant asked me when we were first forming as an organization: “Are you planning to do porn?” Perplexed and surprised by the question we answered with a resounding: no. “Good,” came an immediate response from our smiling consultant. “There’s just too much competition.”

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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.

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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