[This is directed at anyone who has made or has even thought about making their own original web series. If that's you, then please listen up.]
Are you ready? 2009 is here and this is the year we get serious. The economy is in the crapper and that’s all that major media seem to write about. But in case you haven’t noticed, there’s a revolution going on in entertainment. And you are leading it.
One of my favorite things about what I do is meeting web series creators. Creative people doing creative things are everywhere and thankfully many of them have chosen to dive into creating episodic web television. Literally every single day I get to watch something new. I can’t tell you how much I love finding a new web series hidden under a rock somewhere that a group of talented people brought to life.
There is an explosion in web series out there. This is game changing. Don’t let me belittle this fact – we have a revolution on our hands.
Here’s what I’m asking of you all: to step it up this year and think big. This isn’t about celebrity. This is about leadership. I’m asking all of you to be leaders of your creative visions.
First of all, before you actually go down this path, I need you to ask yourself if you are ready for this. I mean really ready for this. It is going to fundamentally change your life. Anyone can make something and throw it up on the web, but building a successful web series franchise takes a whole other level of commitment.
Your Audience is Out There – Go Find Them
I mean this, actively go out and find people who might be interested in your series. You have a series about the perils of dieting and dating in your thirties? Awesome. There are plenty of people who can relate to that. But they probably aren’t hanging out on YouTube every day watching Jessica Alba clips. Go find them. The word is niche.
To all the actors and writers out there, you have to get over the idea that someone else is going to promote you. This is an old school Hollywood relic of an idea that has to go. It’s time to find your own audience and connect with them directly. Having an actual personal connection with your audience means you have to be the one that responds to comments, emails, tweets, phone calls.
You are the only one who owns your brand and you are the only one who can make real connections with it. This isn’t an easy idea to fully embrace. We are ingrained with the arcane and stupid idea that we just need to be discovered or seen by the right people and our careers will suddenly be awakened. Get that load of crap out of your heads right now.
Look at Greg Benson and Kim Evey (producer of the web hits The Guild and Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Machine Show) and co-owners of Mediocre Films – these guys work their asses off connecting with their thousands of YouTube subscribers and other fans. Send them an email, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Or Felicia Day, who has become one of the heroes of the independent web series community, she listens to her fans and connects with them. Even better, she allows them to connect with each other and champion the series as insiders—ambassadors—not distant fans.
Think Startups Not Pilots
Web series are startups. Creators are entrepreneurs and need to think that way. Seriously, ditch the old Hollywood mindset right now. Stop waiting for someone to pick you, find you, groom you or pitch you. You have everything you need right now to grow your audience. So get off your asses.
Put every bit as much of the attention you put into your creations into your press outreach, your social media connections, your fan correspondence, your business development. A lot of you know every frame of the final cuts of your series. I need you to take that obsession into knowing every pixel of your web sites. I can’t tell you how many web series I’ve seen with the most garish pieces of junk web sites. What gives? It’s like trying to sell people on a car with two shot tires and no paint. Doesn’t matter how fancy your engine is if they aren’t even going to open the hood.
Streaming video will go down as the single greatest advancement in entertainment since the television set. We owe Chad Hurley (founder of YouTube) and dozens of others for getting us where we are today. They have literally handed over the keys to a new entertainment medium, for free. There used to be only three channels that controlled all the moving images in you living room and now every single one of us can have their own channel. That’s a big deal.
It’s time for all of us to start making a living doing this. It comes down to this: attention is moving online in leaps and bounds. That’s happening no matter what the economy does. And no matter which numbers you look at, the trend is this: online video advertising dollars are heading into the billions this year.
At Tubefilter we have made it our mission to champion you all – to tirelessly help bring attention to your work and the story behind it. We are serious about growing the audience for web television (your shows) and we need your help. I am asking you to help. Start watching each others shows and meeting each other, even if it’s just online. If you’re in the LA area, come to one of our monthly Hollywood Web Television Meetups. (The next one is Januray 15th.)
This winter we got together with some of the leading companies in the web series space to create the first-ever awards show just for web series. We’re shining our collective spotlights on you guys – the people that are making this happen. So if you haven’t already nominated your series and your talent for The Streamy Awards, make sure you do. And spread the word.
Fight Like Hell
I’m asking you to be renegades. To fight like hell every day (and night) to grow your audience. Your second cousin and her friends in Iowa have no idea what the hell a web series is? Change that.
About a month ago, I ran into Felicia Day in the local Coffee Bean and here she was, fresh off her groundbreaking deal for The Guild season 2 with Microsoft and Sprint, asking the guy behind the counter if it was okay to pin up one of her promotional bookmarks for the show. The guy said yes, and she pinned it up there and went on her way. You see, for all the millions of fans of her show out there, she knows that there are still plenty of people who have never heard of it or maybe never even watched a web series before. Do you get what I’m talking about here? There’s a reason you should be listening to her.
So who else do you need to be listening to? Well, for starters, how about Jason Calacanis, founder of Mahalo (along with Weblogs Inc, and Silicon Alley Reporter) who literally hands over his playbook (in the middle of the game) on how he builds rockstar businesses. And then there’s Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht, two of the founders of Digg and co-creator of the hit web series Diggnation. Also: Brian Solis who will shatter everything you thought you knew about PR. These guys aren’t celebrities, at least not in the traditional sense, but people listen to them. And they listen back.
I’m asking you guys to start doing that.
We all know who Britney is, but do we listen to her? (Ok, too easy.) We all know who Lauren Conrad is, but do we listen to her? I mean really listen to her. You’d be hard pressed to find a teenager in this country who doesn’t know who she is and what show she’s on (The Hills). But what else? I think she has a clothing line.
And then there’s Joss Whedon. His bio is legit, sure – creator of hit TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Impressive, no less, but hit TV shows come and go all the time. Why is he different? In fact, right now he doesn’t even have an active show on TV at all.
Still, I can’t tell you how many times at digital media conferences this year I heard various ‘professionals’ who would acknowledge Dr. Horrible as a remarkable success only to immediately qualify that with something like “Yeah, but that was Joss Whedon.” What the hell is that supposed to mean? Does he have superpowers of mind control that we’re all sheepish victims of?
Look, he literally walked into the offices of ABC Family and asked for about 150k for Dr. Horrible and they passed. They passed on what has become the most financially successful web series project to date. He rallied together his brothers and friends and said let’s do this on our own. We know how that turned out.
This goes for all the old-guard studios and new school web studios too. You want to know why Coma was a dud? It wasn’t for lack of exposure. There was a million dollar media buy in Wired magazine complete with a Blu-Ray copy of the series in every single copy of the October issue. But can you name even one person associated with it other than Michael Madsen? And do you think he honestly gave a hoot whether or not anyone watched it?
And Strike.TV, I’m talking to you too – Mary Feuer might be the only show creator on the lineup that’s not content with just handing over publicity and marketing to someone else. And it’s been paying off. Her series With The Angels has stood out. I can interact with Mary and her team in at least half a dozen places on the web and that’s kept me watching the series.
This revolution in entertainment means we’re all on equal footing here. Don’t talk yourself out of doing something great just because the ‘big guys’ have more money or a bigger name than you. Get that out of your heads for good.
The next Felicia Day or Joss Whedon is out there. This is the year to get serious. Trust me, the ones who do we’ll be talking about in the same sentence as those two this time next year.