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?”

Network-Quality Series Developed For The Internet

Chuck Barney, of the Contra Costa Times posted an interesting article on freep.com today, entitled “‘Quarterlife’ ready for Internet debut“.

According to the article, “Quarterlife”, a series by Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick (creators of the hit TV series “Thirtysomething”) is being touted as the first time a “true, network-quality series” has been produced directly for the internet.

Herskovitz is quoted as saying “It’s a very risky, expensive gamble, that’s for sure”, and the article later mentions:

While each hour of “quarterlife” — at $400,000-plus — costs substantially more than the typical online production, the overall budget for the project is “way less than half” of a typical network drama. Also, the crew is much smaller, and they’re forced to shoot on location because there’s no rent money for soundstages.

I’ll assume that an “hour of Quarterlife” refers to finished running time of the series. They have made (or are still in the process of making?) 36 eight-minute “webisodes”. The article doesn’t state their release schedule… daily? weekly? Either way, it’s 288 minutes of finished material, which is 4.8 hours, which @ 400k per….. comes out to One Million, Nine Hundred and Twenty Thousand dollars.

$1,920,000 = 36 x 8-minute shows? Hmm… maybe I calculated incorrectly… Let me try it a different way. 😀

How about if we break it down to minutes instead? 😀

While each hour of “quarterlife” — at $400,000-plus — costs substantially more than the typical online production…

(60 minutes = $400,000) / 60 => (1 minute = $6,667)
(1 show = 8 minutes) x $6,667 => (1 show = $53,336)

(1 season? = 36 shows) x $53,336 => (1 season = $1,920,096)

Hmm… ok… Good… ~$7,000 / finished minute for a “true, network-quality series” being produced directly for the Internet. I, for one, will be *VERY* interested to find out what the ROI will be for this project… as will the Yahoo Videoblogging Group, where we often discuss the intricacies of and potential for monetization of internet video. I’m sure the currently striking Writers Guild of America will be paying close attention to how well this project is received on the internet as well… especially for this reason:

The “quarterlife” concept was conceived three years ago as a pilot for ABC. The network rejected it. Instead of bailing on the project, Herskovitz and Zwick revamped it for online purposes. But they’re quick to emphasize that this isn’t just another case of producers dumping a failed pilot onto the Internet.

If ‘Quarterlife’ works out, financially… that means an entire world (literally) is opened up to television professionals as an alternative method to put bread on the table or even to have entire successful careers based on creating online content.

Caroline McCarthy, a CNETNews.com staff writer (c/net: the social), previewed the first six episodes of “Quarterlife” and is quoted in the article as saying:

“Obviously, it couldn’t have come at a better time for the show,” McCarthy says about the strike. “It might appeal to some people who are looking for something new to watch and are ready to change their viewing habits.”

This is an interesting point, considering many people watch television from their computers already, and some people don’t watch television at all, choosing instead to derive their entertainment from online sources such as web sites, aggregators and rss feed readers. If struck shows go into reruns, people may very well turn to online content such as “Quarterlife” merely to receive ‘fresh’ entertainment. While they’re browsing ‘the space’, they might end up checking out Rocketboom or other daily- or weekly-produced internet shows.

Yes… This will be very interesting. I’m looking forward to finding out what a ~$7,000/minute internet series will “feel” like. We can already tell what it will *look* like from the video posted to the “Quarterlife’ site. The show is scheduled to start on November 11th on MySpace, so “tune in tomorrow” for the jump-off, and let’s see if a “true, network-quality series, produced directly for the internet” helps to revolutionize the online media and content creation space.

Bill Cammack • New York City • Freelance Video Editor • alum.mit.edu/www/billcammack

Personal Expenses

When I was hanging out with Rox (Darling, from beachwalks.tv and barefeetstudios.com) @ BlogHerBiz ’07 back in March, something striking [at least to me] occurred. We did the conference thing and hung out for a few hours, and when she checked her in-box, she had *80* new emails…. EIGHTY!!!

I remember being surprised by two things. The first thing was that she had so many new emails in the span of probably four hours. The second was that….. she wasn’t surprised by this at all. She looked at her computer screen like “… here we go again…”… like this was something ‘regular’.

At the time, I was probably getting 15 emails tops in an entire day. 80 would have meant I didn’t check my email for an entire WEEK! 😀 … and that’s INCLUDING spam and bacn.

I remember considering the amount of TIME it would take her to go through all of those emails, particularly the relevant ones. I also thought about how more emails would be coming in during the time she was spending answering the 80 emails currently awaiting some form of action. She also DIDN’T start dealing with her email at that point, so I considered how much more would be built up until she allocated time and mental energy to her process. Months later, I watched an MSNBC video where Andrew Baron from Rocketboom actually DELETED all of his backed-up email! :O .

The ‘problem’ isn’t actually email… it’s TIME as well as energy. There’s only so much time in a day. Some of that time has to be allocated to new things, other time to current thing and still other time to clearing your desk or archiving old things. On top of that, there’s a familiarity of process that’s actually repulsive when it comes to doing several of the same kind of project simultaneously. For instance… Many editors that I know don’t WATCH television. 🙂 We MAKE television all day, so when we’re done with that, we want to do something different with our free time.

I think it’s especially important for freelancers to pay attention to these time and energy costs. It’s easy to overextend yourself if you don’t account for the ‘personal expenses’ of coming down from one project and getting in gear to do another one. It’s not necessarily easier on staffers either, depending on what you agreed to accomplish before leaving each day. A 9-5 could easily become a 9-7 or 9-9 depending on how many duplicate videos you need to create for packaging purposes or backup or delivery to different locations.

Looking back at my own archives, I realize that I lost control of my ‘personal expenses’ back in the beginning of July, two months ago. Ever since then, there hasn’t been enough TIME in each day to accomplish what I need to. Just the fact that I can take the time to think up, write and then post this blog is a testament to my regaining a handle on something that I wasn’t aware I could lose a handle on. 🙂

Probably back in June, I agreed to do a choreography video for my friend Violeta Galagarza, Founder of KR3Ts Dance Company, based in East Harlem, NYC. At the time, I ‘saw’ very clearly how I was going to get it done, and how long it was going to take me. Right after that, I accepted new client work, started editing a popular internet show, participated in a live internet show that required preparation, contributed a segment to a third internet show, thought up and created a video blog and accompanying social site, traveled out of state a couple of times and edited a cooking DVD. Priorities stacked up, and I have to apologize to Violeta for taking so long, but I literally have not had a block of time where I could get out of the mindset of mentally ‘living in’ my client work or other projects to ‘live in’ her project long enough to get ‘er done.

I realize I’m still too close to this phenomenon to succinctly explain it. 🙂

My advice is… If you’re in a profession where you need to FEEL the work in order to be good at it, such as video editing, pay close attention to the ’emotional’ toll that it takes on your system. You end up paying that toll in TIME. People will not understand this, so you have to manage it on your own.

Same thing with email or any other time-consuming process. Nobody’s PAYING YOU to reply to their emails, but they still expect responses. The time you spend answering emails is the time you’re NOT spending clearing your obligations from your virtual desk. It’s time you’re NOT spending working on your own projects or doing what YOU want to do. It’s time you’re NOT spending thinking progressively about something you’d like to accomplish in the future. It’s time you’re NOT spending learning new technology that someone created or exploring a new social site. It’s time you’re NOT spending watching video blogs to check out new techniques or just enjoy what your friends are doing this week.

I understood the look on Rox’s face when she saw how many unread emails she had accumulated in the span of a few hours, but I couldn’t empathize with her. I most certainly do, NOW! I’m going to knock this choreography video out and make sure I don’t lose track of my ‘personal expenses’ ever again! 😀

Bill Cammack • New York City • Freelance Video Editor • alum.mit.edu/www/billcammack

The NY Video 2.0 Group

Last night, I attended the NY Video 2.0 Group “meetup”. The focus of the event wasn’t the _making_ of digital video, but the business surrounding putting video on the internet. I found the presentations to be interesting as well as informative.

The host was Yaron Samid, Founder, Pando.com.

The presenters were (in order of appearance):

1. dotSUB – Michael Smolens, Founder
http://www.dotsub.com

2. Network2 – Jeff Pulver, Founder (www.pulver.com)

http://www.network2.tv

3. NBBC.com – Marc Siry, VP, NBC Universal
http://www.nbbc.com

4. YouAre.TV – David Dundas, Founder
http://www.youare.tv

5. Bolt.com – Aaron Cohen, Founder

http://www.bolt.com

Also, Chris Brogan, Community Developer for network2.tv had special information for the NY Video 2.0 Group about the upcoming Video on the Net conference in San Jose, California.

It was interesting to hear about “the shell” surrounding creativity, or perhaps the vehicles by which content is presented to the world via the internet and hopefully monetized all the way back down to the content creator. I think I can say that I felt “behind the scenes”. That’s an odd way for me to feel, since as an editor, I’m _always_ “behind the scenes”, but they’re behind MY scenes, and I know exactly what’s going on and what I’m doing.

To the average person, sites, applications and widgets just magically appear one day and get reported on in a blog or a show. Now I know where these things come from. People “moonlight”, creating businesses during their time off from their day jobs. People solicit venture capital (VC). People count on what they learned in their last business to make decisions for their new startups.

If any of those topics are interest to you, the videos I made from the meeting are available on Network2.tv, tagged “nyvideo20group” [link]

Bill Cammack • New York City • Freelance Video Editor • alum.mit.edu/www/billcammack