When individuals with means and an entertainment background first discover a piece of online content that makes them realize the dogs on skateboards analogy no longer defines the medium, they undoubtedly conceive of a few business ideas that at first seem novel and easy to execute, but soon appear hackneyed and incredibly difficult.
One of those business ideas is the New Media Destination/Incubation Studio. The thought process goes like this: “Wow! People are creating a ton of great stuff to watch online! I’ll just aggregate the best of it on this website with a clever name and pay for super talented people to create more online videos to screen on this website with a clever name. Some of the videos will obviously go viral and others we can incubate online and then sell to television. Did a zombie just nom on my head? Because this is a no brainer! Zing!”
The original online playground of Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, and Chris Henchy first functioned as a video repository for Ferrell, McKay, and company’s comedic impulses while hurrying up and waiting on multi-million dollar movie sets. But soon after its launch, the site transformed into the go-to destination for culturally relevant comedy and celebrities seeking refuge from their own images and a helluva lot of viewers who like to watch their attempts.
Funny or Die currently attracts 17 million monthly visitors who watch about 50 million videos per month on the site. That kind of audience doesn’t put them in the Top 10 Charts of comScore’s US Online Video Rankings (Hulu currently holds the #10 spot with 27 million unique monthly visitors), but that kind of audience coupled with the brand’s star power and an investment stake from HBO does lead to entertainment opportunities outside the confines of new media.
In a profile of Funny or Die by Deborah Vankin at the LA Times, the reporter notes HBO just green-lit a third season of the TV series Funny or Die Presents. That’s in addition to Jon Benjamin Has a Van, a new half-hour comedy show ordered from FoD by Comedy Central, Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, a low-budget feature film with the alt-comedy stars from Adult Swim and those Zach Galifianakis vodka commercials, a handful of other television and feature films in various stages of development, a book publishing arm “still in its exploratory stages,” and a vision of Ferrell’s to one day premiere feature films on the site.
Somewhere between the upload of The Landlord and this Herman Dune music video starring Jon Hamm and a makeshift muppet, Funny or Die accomplished what so few other New Media Destination/Incubation Studios could. Real traction, real viewership, the establishment of a brand, and the successful development of properties across multiple platforms. Sure, the site benefited from great investors and incentivized celebrities, but so did similar entities whose websites are now claimed by cybersquatters.
A production philosophy based on quick turnarounds, “low impact” writing and acting, and relevant material gave Funny or Die the ability to constantly output content that entertains and resonates with audiences. This helped them grow their own audience, which helped the company make the jump to other platforms. The only other online destination to have huge success online and successful (or at least meaningful attempts) at television and film is CollegeHumor. The CollegeHumor Show and Prank Wars aired on MTV, films are rumored to be in the works, and their book is a must have for any soon-to-be college coed.
And wouldn’t you know, the two organizations have similar philosophies towards video. Super-fast production schedules, timely content, and a lot of it. Any readers who just discovered online video and want to become new media moguls should take note.