Will Your Show Scale?

I’ve been planning on doing a few different shows for quite a while now. Just about everything is in perfect position… however, before going forward, there’s an important consideration… scaling.

My friend Tyme White is always yakking about scaling. “How does it SCALE?” “That’s not going to SCALE!” blah blah blah blah blah…… Unfortunately (fortunately?) she’s right IF you’re looking at your show being a success from when you’re still in the early planning stages.

The way I’m going to define scaling for the purpose of this article is the ability to grow your show, social site, whatever. Just GROW it. Increase your membership. Increase your viewership. Improve your google rank. Get more people interested. Receive more UGC (User-Generated Content). Get more page hits…..

The reason scaling is important… Rather, the reason that YOU should consider your project’s ability to scale is that you might be broadcasting to a niche market. Let’s say, for instance, you want to make a show about DiY Clothing (DiY = Do it Yourself). There are only going to be a certain number of people interested in making their own clothing. A segment of that population watches videos on the internet. A segment of that population will be aware of your show. A segment of THAT population will like your show and recommend it to other people and/or come back and watch it again. A segment of THAT population will become ‘passionate’ about your show and become your core fans.

Threadbanger.com => Rob & Corinne, Justin & Marissa
That’s great for a start, but once you have an audience, what do you do next? How do you get MORE audience? Can you get more? ARE THERE any more people that don’t know about your show already that might be interested? How can you find them? How can you get them interested? What can you change about or add to your show that will reel in an entirely new set of passionate, core fans?

I remember when I became aware of / fascinated by the concept of scaling. I was hanging out in Bed, Bath & Beyond…. I know, I know. It wasn’t my fault. Blame it on Dan McVicar. :/

Bill Cammack & Dan McVicar
Bill & Dan

Anyway… I’m hanging out by the checkout line, and there’s this endless stream of people slowly making their way to the register to pay. So I start imagining how many people are passing me, and it occurs to me that it’s A LOT! 😀 Then it occurs to me that more people passed me in the last 5 minutes than the total number that subscribe to my show in iTunes. :/ THEN, it occurs to me that if I stood there all day, the number of people that passed me would be greater than the number of people that subscribe to many popular, established internet shows. What I took away from that contemplation was that even if you’re considered popular within your own space or echo chamber, there are still more people to reach…. A LOT more people.

One of the most successful internet video shows that I’m aware of is Rocketboom. In 2006, each daily episode was being downloaded ~300,000 times. Even with numbers like that, comparisons were being made to cable television shows, not network shows, which count their viewers by millions. Recently, this show called “Quarterlife” got booed off the stage for ‘only’ pulling in 3,860,000 viewers on NBC… Obviously more than ten times the daily Rocketboom viewership.

Of course, none of this means anything to people that are expressing themselves by putting video on the internet and have no interest in numbers, stats, revenue-sharing, sponsorships, etc. For those that do care, and whose show’s future may very well depend on scaling, it’s important to consider the “what if?” of potential success.

Actually, before you figure out whether your show is scalable, you need to figure out if your show is SUSTAINABLE, which is an entirely different issue. For the most part, there are no “seasons” in internet-show-biz. It’s a new week… You need a new show. Period. Whatever your cycle is… daily, weekly, monthly… you need to come up with a concept that you can produce consistently and deliver on a regular basis. If you can’t do that, scaling’s useless because your viewers will drift away due to lack of output on your part.

So, do like Tyme does… “Ask NOT, Will it Blend?… but Will it SCALE?”

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  1. Yea, I was working at NBC when all the Quarterlife excitement was in the air, but it seemed like no one there really understood the way online video worked. I mean, have you ever tried to watch an NBC show off their website? It’s a pretty lame experience.

    But I liked this post a lot – it made me think about the scalability of, not only “shows”, but projects. Are Amanda and I prepared to have Pedal grow in the way we really want it to…? How do we prepare for that. How do we evaluate our strong and weak points. Lots to think about.

  2. Hey Mike. 🙂

    I didn’t watch more than three episodes of Quarterlife when it was on http://quarterlife.com because as someone who actually LIVES that life, I found the storyline not to be credible at all in the way people reacted to having themselves blogged and their lives broadcast. It was like they never consulted *ANYBODY* who videoblogs to find out what would really happen.

    As an editor, I didn’t see how they were going to string those episodes together in a fashion that would be punchy enough for the segment breaks to have people come back after the commercials. A larger problem than that is “WHO do you market this show to that actually watches television?”. Before I bother to turn on a television, I’m going to click over to your site: Project Pedal and watch Episode Six:

    So the people that MIGHT have cared about Quarterlife already saw it on the net. The people that DIDN’T care were marketed to… somehow…. I wouldn’t know, because I *make* television… I don’t WATCH it. 😀

    Thanks for the props. It’s interesting that you mention the word “project”. My original title was “Does Your Project Scale”, because the same applies to websites, social sites and films, like you’re making. As far as your production team’s concerned, you should definitely consider what happens if Pedal grows. You should also consider what happens if someone sees the work you’re putting in and wants to hire you to do other films or commercials… If someone sees your style and thinks it would be perfect for their project. Does that take away from the future of Pedal? Does that add to it? What happens if a channel wants to pick up Pedal and show it in weekly chunks? Are you prepared to re-package? Are you saving split-track versions of your audio for each episode? That way, if you need to change music or dialogue, you can do so with minimal hassle….

    Yes, I think we should all take some time to consider “what if?”… Thanks for the comment! 😀

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