Jim Louderback

October 31, 2013

Dumb Ways to Fail on YouTube 5: What’s the Frequency Kenneth

Filed under: Commentary,Internet TV,YouTube Tips — Tags: , , , , , , , — Jim @ 11:53 am

dan ratherNow that Revision3 is part of Discovery (and renamed Discovery Digital Networks), I’m once again exposed to traditional television production cycles. Shows here are planned, purchased and produced in seasons. These are typically finite frequencies – 6, 13 or occasionally 26 episodes, with very clear start and end air dates.

Want to fail on YouTube? Do the same thing. Thinking of your content in seasons – or even worse, delivering content at random intervals – is one of the most common ways to fail.

The most successful creators on YouTube know this intimately. Pick any top 50 channel at random, and you’ll probably find a set schedule of release that’s slavishly adhered to – whether weekly, daily, and even at set times during the day. Many top creators are even building new tightly-related properties for their channels that will increase weekly frequency while continuing to follow to a rigid schedule. The incredibly talented Dane Boedigheimer just launched the first of a family of weekly scheduled series to enhance his “Annoying Orange” franchise, while Harley Morenstein – known for his weekly Epic Meal Time – just launched another regularly scheduled gaming channel.

It’s a hamster wheel. Creating successful franchises on YouTube means that once you start you literally can never stop – or face audience erosion. Here at Discovery Digital Networks we call it feeding the content monster. The audience is always hungry – and has very little loyalty to boot.

I learned this early on in my Revision3 days when we brought a show over to Revision3 called “Epic Fu”. Created by the incredibly talented Zadi Diaz and Steve Woolf (and originally called “Jet Set Show”), Epic Fu was one of the early YouTube successes. The creators decided to move their show from Next New Networks over to Revision3, but ended up taking a few months off during the transition. Alas, even though they were slavishly dedicated to regular release, that gap caused a disastrous fall-off in views. With all the other new shiny on the web beckoning, the audience moved on, and we never really figured out how to bring them back.

“But Jim”, I can hear you complain, “what about shows like ‘Video Game High School’”? The popular series just came back with season 2 – about ten months after season 1 ended – and it’s still huge.

True, VGS is an anomaly – and a great show to boot. But even here there’s evidence that regularly scheduled content between seasons contributed to season 2’s success. During that 10 month hiatus, Freddie W and Brandon Jla released 22 new pieces of content on their channel, mostly video game themed. Even so, there was still a drop off between average YouTube views of season 2 vs. season 1– although that could easily be explained by the additional distribution the latest episodes received on their off-YouTube site and other places.

I’ve always thought of web-original video as more akin to talk radio and news than traditional television, and my experience bears that out. Regularly scheduled releases – at least weekly – and no gaps are required if you want to be successful. As a creator, you really want to develop habits, and regular temporal triggers make those habits easier to adopt. So take a tip from Daily Grace, Phil DeFranco and just about every other successful YouTube star: Irregularity is a path to irrelevance.

Dumb Ways to Fail on YouTube 3: Riding the Meat Puppets!

Filed under: Commentary,YouTube Tips — Tags: , , , , , , — Jim @ 11:43 am

Meat_PuppetsAssociation with a celebrity is a tried and true way to move the needle. Just put Tom Cruise in a movie, Tom Brady in a commercial or Tom Hanks as a guest host and watch viewers and sales go through the roof.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t work that way on YouTube. We’ve seen a parade of celebrities try to dominate this new medium by riding on their celebrity coattails, and have fallen flat. Everyone from Madonna to Miley Cyrus and Shaquille O’Neil has seen dismal results.

I’ve talked to a number of High Q-Score individuals, and attempted to guide them to success on YouTube – or mostly to scare them away. Because on YouTube it’s not about how famous you are – it’s about how authentic and accessible you will be.

You just can’t expect to toss up a few videos every now and then and never return. That celebrity halo that sells so much soap is just noise on YouTube. You have to actually work for your views – and that’s not what most celebrities want to hear.

That’s because at its core YouTube is a community. You can post videos and you might even get a handful of breakout hits. But without really engaging the community you’ll fall flat over the long term. And most celebrities just don’t want to put in the hard work to grow those group. It’s completely understandable, by the way. YouTube is still an emerging medium, and anyone with a notable Q-Score will make far more money by plying their trade on TV, radio or in theaters rather than on the web.

There is a massive exception though: music videos. In addition to being an incredibly personal medium, YouTube is also the world’s jukebox. A catchy song and some arresting visuals will keep ‘em coming back again and again. And if you can get naked on a wrecking ball in the process, even better!

But aside from music videos, a celebrity-themed channel where the celeb fails to show up at least a few times a week is a recipe for disaster.

March 17, 2011

9 Random Thoughts From SXSW 2011

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , , , , , — Jim @ 5:37 pm

This post originally appeared on Ad Age’s Digital Next blog.  I wrote it on the nerd bird home from Austin to San Jose, where I shared a metal tube with Randi Zuckerberg and 150 other recovering attendees.  Alas, I was so unfocused, I forgot to write an intro paragraph.  But you’re lucky, you get me a bit more lucid.  So without further ado, here are my random takeaways from SXSW 2011

Pepsi supposedly spent a cool million dollars on its SXSW presence, with a huge stage, free Pepsi One for everyone, music, BBQ and a partnership with Foursquare. And they weren’t the only brand dumping major bucks. GE’s crazy solar-powered carousel was a confusing anomaly, and mostly ran empty. Even AOL, while dumping a broad swath of talented employees, dropped a half-million on the event — according to one of the displaced that I talked to.

Much of the really cool stuff wasn’t even on display inside the convention center. CNN rolled out its TV Everywhere strategy, along with a nifty new HTML5 site design in its very own restaurant, across the street from Pepsi’s soda and barbecue cafe. I had a fascinating demo from the CEO of Interlude.FM, showcasing continuous streaming and branching video, but even though the technology is public, their presence was invisible.

GM had a neat promotion going, to augment its huge sponsorship of the event. A handful of new Chevys drove around town, letting anyone hop in and get a ride anywhere within five miles. I stumbled upon one of them at the most opportune time, and was carted across town by a charming young Police Academy trainee. She didn’t know Austin too well — but she did let me switch the built in XM from Radio Disney (she was hoping to hear the latest Justin Beiber song) to the Grateful Dead channel for the duration of the trip. The car was pretty plush too.

I ran into a friend of mine from JWT on Monday, and he said that last year he couldn’t even get the company to pay his way, yet this year more than 40 execs were blanketing the show. And along with agencies, brands and Hollywood have discovered SXSW too. Even the hyper-rich were cavorting around Austin over the weekend — a handful of them turned up at our VIP section during our Diggnation Stubbs party, and rubbed shoulders with Demi Moore, Aston Kutcher, and web celebrity Felicia Day.

Acerbic internet personality and startup cheerleader Jason Calacanis is certainly a polarizing individual. But still that was no reason for a disgruntled attendee to toss a drink on him at our party. Despite being a three-time black belt, Jason restrained himself from punching the boor out. Unfortunately, that was not an isolated incident. This year it seemed like there were a lot more rude drunks than ever.

Airplane WiFi is definitely great — except when you’re on a plane full of SXSW attendees. I flew the nerd bird back and forth from San Jose to Austin, and the GoGo service was practically useless. They definitely need to up the bandwidth on those geek flights.

Cellphone service, though, seemed to be pretty darn good. Despite the proliferation of iPhones on the AT&T network, no one seemed too upset about the service. That’s a far cry from a few years ago when the subpar network helped fuel the AT&T backlash.

The panels continue to be hit or miss, according to the attendees I talked to. One of the few that generated any significant buzz, on social TV, was plopped into a room barely big enough to hold a football team — and it was horribly over-attended. So those that couldn’t get in formed an un-session of their own in a vacant room next door led by the NY Times social editor Jen Preston called RebelTV. Alas, the show staff kicked them out halfway through.

It seemed like twice as many people attended the interactive portion of SXSW this year, swelling the crowd to near 30,000 people. That led to gridlock in downtown Austin, as attendees tried to get from far-flung hotels to the conference and then back to their beds. The show might well be outgrowing the town — but it’s inconceivable that the show would work anywhere else. Lots of attendees opined that the show had jumped the shark, but it seemed just as vibrant, crazy and fun as ever.

December 17, 2009

Whoring on Facebook, Now the New Normal

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , , , , , — Jim @ 8:05 am

image On Facebook, I’ve been the social equivalent of the town whore, while I treated LinkedIn more like my own personal Skull and Bones society. Up until a few weeks ago, that approach seemed both wrongheaded and countervailing to most other people. But recent changes have proved my strategy to be sound.

The only problem is now I need a third social network for my real friends. And unfortunately that’s neither today’s Facebook nor LinkedIn. I’ve got a non-obvious hunch as to what it might be, which I’ll reveal at the end.

I get friend requests from a lot of people on both Facebook and LinkedIn – due to my prior work at ZDTV, TechTV and PC Magazine, along with nearly 20 years of conferences, speaking and writing. On LinkedIn, I have a strong exclusion policy: if I don’t know you, or don’t remember meeting you, I won’t accept your friend request. LinkedIn for me remains my real work social graph, and that’s been a great tool for building Revision3.

Although I probably miss some potential connections by this policy, in the end I think you should at least have some familiarity with those you claim a work connection with – particularly because headhunters and recruiters are using your LinkedIn friend lists to help rate your capabilities and potential.

On Facebook, though, I was wildly promiscuous. I’d be friends with anyone! This led me to a situation where my Facebook social graph was filled with both friends and family, and those that – for some reason – wanted to connect. It’s a great group, but I certainly don’t post private photos, thoughts or wall-scrawls there.

My approach has been vindicated recently by Facebook’s latest, fairly idiotic change to its privacy policy. Back when users of the service had at least some promise of confidentiality, friends could post risqué pictures, rude language and damning insults, without fear that a boss, a co-worker or a stranger would find them. Now, seemingly inspired by George Orwell’s 1984, openness is privacy and obfuscation transparency.

In a rush to embrace Twitter’s real-time web, and the power of search-engine marketing, the company flipped the bits – and made everyone’s private data public. Sure you could switch it back, if you noticed the change, and had a Masters degree from the Velvet Jones School of Web Interface Design to interpret their frustratingly opaque privacy interface.

Hey Facebook users: stop pretending your data is protected from prying eyes. It’s all in the open. You can try to complain, but you can’t fight city hall. Better just to let it go, and embrace Facebook for what it is: the biggest bathroom wall in the world, and one that anyone can write on and that everyone can see.

There’s value in that. Value to users and value to marketers. Companies can now target you directly based on your friends, your interests and groups, even by what else has been captured in those photos of you. Think of the opportunity for Budweiser, for example, when it finds you swilling a Pabst Blue Ribbon last summer. You’ll get half off a six pack – and who doesn’t want that?

So if LinkedIn is for your core group of work contacts, and Facebook is for your publicly-facing persona, where can we go to let our hair down with our friends?

Oddly enough, as I discovered last night, two new location-based services have the potential to fill that gap: Foursquareand GoWalla.

Each of these apps lets you connect with friends – true friends – and then helps you locate them when you’re out on the town. With each, you “check in” to a restaurant, concert, movie or park, and with that location-based information the program finds your friends nearby and lets them know where you are.

They work great. Last night I was in New York, and checked in at my favorite tapas spot, Bar Jamon, with Foursquare. Unbeknownst to me, my buddy Phil Nelson was in town for the night too, and he’d just checked into his hotel up the street. He found me on Foursquare, pinged me on my cell phone, and we ended up sharing a plate of chorizo and a Priorat together.

I’ll never, ever let anyone but my real friends know where I am. And I truly hope that these two services respect my privacy. I can totally see one or both replacing Facebook as the dominant repository of both my true-friend social graph and my location graph as well.

If I were Facebook, that would scare me. Neither Foursquare nor GoWalla add in the communications, photo-sharing or other capabilities of a classic social network. But I’ll bet that they do soon. And over time I can see more and more Facebook users drifting away from the service – simply because adding location, and preserving true privacy, makes a social service much, much better.

This post also appeared on Jack Myers’ Business Blog Network

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