Friday, February 13, 2009

Things I've Learned About, Producing for the Web

When we first started producing The In-Betweens of Holly Malone, in 2005, web-series were such uncharted territory, they didn't even have a real name yet. We were calling them nano-series. There were a few serial based programs on the web, but mostly the web was a place where you'd look for one-off entertainment involving people falling down, exploding mentos or the like. We've learned a lot of things over the past few years, and I wanted to share some information for those who are interested in starting their own series.

1. Get in and get out.
When watching programs on the web, people have a very short attention span. Think music video. People will generally give you about 3 minutes of their time before they click off. Now what's strange is people are more willing to watch four three minute episodes than one twelve minute video. I can't tell you why this happens, as I am not a scientist, but this is what we've learned time and again. Three minutes is a magic number.

2. Comedy plays better than drama.
To this day, I've only seen a couple of dramatic web-series. Typically, people seek out comedic content on the internet. Perhaps it's not such a leap from looking up a funny video on youtube, to watching a serialized story. This may change over the next few years, but for now, aim for comedy.

3. People are willing to forgive more on the internet.
Production value is a key factor that you should always have in mind. If something sounds like it's down a very hollow tunnel, or it's not in focus, people won't be interested. However, the type of camera that you use is not as important. People are used to watching videos posted by flip cameras on blogs, so you don't need the highest state of the art HD camera that George Lucas will be using to film his next Star Wars saga. Use what you can get your hands on, and make sure it's produced well. Story tends to outweigh production design.

4. Consistency is important.
For anything to gain a following, you need to maintain a consistent posting schedule. We try to post every other week, but if you are able to post weekly, that's ideal. Just don't post weekly for four weeks and then have nothing for three weeks and start posting again. It is better to post every other week and not have a lag in between. Also, plan on having at least three months of content - though six is ideal. You need time to build a following. You don't want to start to get interest and then have nothing left to post.

This means that when working on web content, you are likely to be working on it for a long time. Which brings me to my last point.

5. Make sure you have fun
Since this content is something you're likely to live with for at least 3 months, but closer to 6, make sure you pick material that you like to work on. Work with people who you have a good time with, and keep a clear perspective on the whole process. As it stands right now, you're not likely to make a lot of money working on a web-series. There are definite benefits, but getting labelled the next Bill Gates isn't one of them.

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