Cafe Witness

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This Blog Is Relocating

If you're a reader or subscriber of this blog, first of all, thank you. Secondly, if you'd like to keep receiving updates, please follow me over on my new site & blog.

Years ago, I started Cafe Witness as an outlet for my casual observations. (I've always considered myself to be an armchair sociologist who just happens to make a living producing media.) But since my "personal brand" (if we must use that term) includes all aspects of my personality -- including the cynical, sarcastic and idiosyncratic side most often on display here -- I feel comfortable merging this POV with my allegedly more "professional" side.

(Also, many wise people tell me it's good SEO to merge my two sites, and I prefer to merge them into the domain I own, rather than this one that's owned by Goooooogle.)

So please, follow me here (and update your RSS subscriptions accordingly). I can't say Cafe Witness will never be updated again, but for now, let's consolidate our efforts and see where that gets us.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

I'm Bored With Your Brand

I'm bored with everything about your brand. I'm bored with your logo, I'm bored with your public outreach, and I'm bored with the endless obsession over what your brand means to others.

In fact, if I never hear another word about your brand again, I'll sleep better at night. (And I say this as someone who works in marketing.)

Stop worrying about your brand -- and, more importantly, stop making me (and everyone else you don't really know) worry about your brand.

Just do something.

Do something amazing, innovative, world-changing. Start small but aim big. Or not; small is hard, too. Just get it right. Or try to get it right, relentlessly.

The more amazing, innovative or world-changing your actions, the more likely other people will start talking about you. And they won't be talking about your brand because you want them to; they'll be talking about your brand because they want to.

Except they won't be talking about your brand, really. They'll be talking about your actions. And actions are a lot bigger than a brand.

Image by Tambako the Jaguar.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

5 Thoughts on the Future of Media

As a former agent at UTA, Barrett Garese has better insight into the future of media than most of us do, and he's blogged a fascinating essay about where he thinks film, TV and web content is headed. (In a nutshell, he believes the key is to capitalize on the inherent differences of each platform, rather than insisting on convergence.)

While reading his essay, I realized my own response would be longer than appropriate for his comment column, so I've posted it here. My thoughts will make more sense if you've read Barrett's essay as a primer, but I think these points stand on their own as well.

I'll Stop the World and Converge With You...

The convergence of film, TV and web is happening, but that doesn't dilute the power of each individual experience -- film is still film, TV is still TV, web is still web, etc. What this DOES create is a NEW experience format: the convergent format, in which content is specifically designed to either:

A) feel different across all platforms (in which your viewing experience is specifically engineered to suit the screen size or format, possibly going as far as editing with different shots or angles, depending upon the delivery method), or

B) be different across all platforms (i.e., the web version of a show is completely different, while still complementary in theme, to the film version, etc.).

Your Home Theater is Not Actually a Theater. Discuss.

Audiences anticipate different experiences depending on the distribution method. We expect to immerse ourselves in a film experience (minus the live distractions), while we expect to be distracted from the TV experience (because we're at home). Thus, we're already anticipating a different kind of content to be shared across those variant platforms -- and when the end result doesn't match our expectations, our engagement with that content may suffer. (Or, it may surprise us.)

We also expect a difference in on-screen quality relative to the effort it takes to obtain the image (i.e., driving to a theater at 7 PM should reward me with a higher quality experience than watching something on my phone at 3 AM). And we expect the content to connect with us on differing levels dependent upon our applied attention -- mindblowing films can't be processed in 5 minute increments via stolen wi-fi during your lunch break, whereas 3 hours in a theater had better provide you with a deeper and more profound experience than 30 consecutive episodes of Tiki Bar TV (which, it should be said, I love).


The biggest expense for online content should be promotions. You can create an amazing show for $5, but you're releasing it into a medium that A) not enough people are paying attention to, yet which is B) paradoxically flooded with crap (which may explain A).

If I were to produce a new web series (after concluding Something to Be Desired), I'd be sure that the promotional plan was in place before the first episode ever hit the web; the days of "throwing it out there and seeing what happens" are best left to people experimenting in their own free time, not people who are expecting to gain the necessary traction to validate (both artistically AND financially) their investment of time, money and effort into a web property.

Whither the Studios?

Eventually, existing corporate studio behemoths will become distribution companies that happen to have (presumably exclusive) contracts with production houses. Rather than focusing on producing AND distributing their own in-house content, they'll profit from their primary assets (reach and volume) and leave the creative aspects to the producers -- who will in turn be grateful to not have to worry about being both creative and ubiquitous at the same time.

That said, there will always be exceptions. In the long run, it's still cheaper for Verizon to produce its own web shows than it is for them to subcontract with a production company, and it's still more profitable for an indie prodco to bootstrap their way into self-distribution than it is for them to produce their own content but only keep a percentage of those eventual revenues.

A Soap Opera Without the Soap Had Better Be a Damn Good Opera

Content producers need to rely less on advertising and more on the inherent value of the content itself. Gone are the days when content is produced as a lure to hook viewers into sitting through commercials -- nor can content *be* produced under a presumed business model that eyeballs = advertising opportunities = profit. Cut out that middleman and what are you left with?

You're left with an audience who'll pay you directly for what you create -- or for the experience it creates in them -- rather than a vessel with holes waiting to be plugged by commercials.

This also impacts media being produced for traditionally large-scale distribution. Just because a show isn't pulling in the millions of eyeballs it needs to validate its TV time slot, it doesn't mean that show couldn't be profitable at a lower operating cost with web-based distribution. If I were the producers of a canceled darling like Pushing Daisies (and if I still owned the rights to that property), I would shrink the budget, post 15-20 minute episodes (or segments) online, and invite the fans to pre-pay for next season's DVD in advance; that initial influx of cash could be used to fund part of the upcoming season, which means the prodco isn't scrambling to line up sponsors now and then waiting for a year-end DVD windfall to break even.


Image by perreira.

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