Cafe Witness

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Even Prostitutes Get Paid

Last week, Gary Vaynerchuk told the audience at SocComm that FOX, CNN, The New York Times, etc., were all "dead" because any one of us can use the internet to become a media mogul tomorrow, without anyone's help.

I disagree.

Not because I think FOX, etc., are thriving right now, but because I don't believe the problem is a matter of content control. It's a matter of distribution and awareness, and those are two areas where the multinational corporations have such a head start over the little guy that it isn't funny. (And I won't even get into the trust gap between well-funded, well-researched news sources and a guy with a blog in the middle of nowhere.)

So what's an independent media creator to do?

For starters, here's one way social media can start to level the playing field between "us" and "them":

Stop Putting Your Videos Everywhere That Videos Can Possibly Go

Quick - where's the best place to find web video? YouTube? Veoh? Blip? Vimeo? Viddler? No matter your answer, you're still right, and here's why: because they all show the exact same thing.

Imagine if traditional TV were to suddenly adopt that model, in which you could watch CSI: Miami on any channel, at any time of the day, in multiple formats and resolutions. Well, that's great... but why would we need 500+ channels?

We wouldn't. And we don't need 50+ video distribution channels, which continually pollute the already-impossible-to-navigate web video world with ever-more duplicated content.

Divided, We Stand

TV stays alive because each channel has a stable of shows that can't be seen anywhere else (until they hit syndication). Web TV hasn't made that connection yet because it doesn't believe in its own quality or validity. It's so desperate to be seen, it's willing to give itself away for free across dozens of websites, and then it complains privately that it isn't making any money or being taken seriously.

Here's a hint: if people can get you for free anytime, any place, they'll never consider paying for you at your own convenience.

Someday in the very near future, Blip TV (or one of their competitors) will step up and tell their top 20 shows, "Hey, here's some money. Keep producing one new show a week for the next year -- and DON'T cross-post anyplace else (besides your own homepage) -- and we'll take care of the rest." Then we'll finally see Web TV reach a valid adolescence, where audiences will pay for ease of reliable access to quality content, and show creators will begin to earn what they're worth.

Until then, if you want to see quality web video, just spin the Google bottle because the kisses are all the same -- free, wet and desperate.

Image by slowburn.

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  • I don't think the channels vs. web sites comparison is a good one. Web destinations are much broader experiences. And people won't likely go to any single place to watch content. They're going to watch it where they already spend time. They're going to consume it on their terms, just like they do with all other web content. Some people only watch video at YouTube. Others only have time to watch it on their iPod while on the train. And don't get me started on the people who still don't understand that there's a world outside of AOL. There are countless other destinations, aggregators, etc. as well.

    Exclusivity drastically shrinks your potential audience. And to get the scale you'll need to be successful in the long term, you'll need to find every last person who might like your show.

    I'm the director of content development at and you know what I say when shows ask me if they should be uploading to YouTube? I say "absolutely!" I don't tell them that they should be exclusive blip. I tell them that they should put it everywhere they can, as long as they can maintain control. Because when that advertising opportunity finally comes through, you'll want to have a big audience and full ownership of it.

    By Blogger Eric Mortensen, at 2:16 PM  

  • Eric: when *what* advertising opportunity finally comes through? The one a web video site brokers for them based upon that show's audience pull on that selfsame distribution site -- therefore regardless of how many views that show is earning on other sites?

    Or the one the content creators earn themselves because their content would have worked regardless of which website someone discovered them on, thereby making the web video distributors nothing more than interchangeable middlemen banking on ad revenue to stay afloat?

    It frustrates me to know that the business model for content creators -- as advised by content distributors -- is "go everywhere and wait for the ad people to find you." By this rationale, web shows need to proliferate every site on the web simply because the video sites either don't know how to differentiate themselves, or they refuse to form a self-defined business model and expect the content creators to make them successful by association.

    (Full disclosure: I use Blip TV to distribute Something to Be Desired, I've met Eric personally and I like both him and Blip. I'm just stating my concerns about the medium as a whole.)

    By Blogger Justin Kownacki, at 2:36 PM  

  • This market is still taking shape. I think we have to build a system where we all move ahead together. I don't think it's about asking shows to sit around and wait. It's about working together to build something sustainable. And, while I think we're making significant progress there, there's still plenty of work to do. And the work needs to be done by everyone...destination sites, distributers, shows....everyone.

    I spend my whole day trying to do what I think is best for shows. And the biggest thing I can do for them right now is help them grow their audience and reinforce their brand. That's within everyone's grasp. It's a sure way to help both individual shows and the entire industry. It's a step toward sustainability.

    And I advise them on how to make money, but I make sure that they understand that making big money is not within everyone's grasp yet. That said, I also tell them that more shows are making more money all the time. We're definitely moving forward here.

    We need to build an industry that ultimately helps *lots* of people sustain their shows. But it takes time.

    Frankly, I think you're just frustrated because you started doing this years before everyone else did. It's your own damn fault for being a visionary. :)

    (Full Disclosure: STBD is one of the first web series I ever watched, and the very first I ever became addicted to.)

    By Blogger Eric Mortensen, at 6:00 PM  

  • Doing it first doesn't necessarily mean doing it profitably (yet), but I'm still working that angle... ;)

    Yes, we're all in this together. But while the tech and distribution arms of this new medium have evolved in a very short time, I feel as though I've seen very little in the way of biz innovation over the past 3 or 4 years. Maybe it's that lack of matching reinvention that drives me to drink.

    By Blogger Justin Kownacki, at 6:16 PM  

  • By Anonymous Leonard, at 1:45 PM  

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