Saturday, 27 December 2008

All smiles as web shows come of age

Great article forwarded to me by Kirill writer, Andrew McCaldon, from last week's Observer.

Excellent overview of the recent history of Online Drama and Comedy by Ajesh Patalay.

From The Observer:-
lonelygirl15 Bree with her Purple MonkeyIt started with a girl named Bree. At least that's what she said her name was. She was 16, American and girlishly pretty. In June 2006, under the name LonelyGirl15, she posted her first video online. It lasted a minute and a half, was shot in her bedroom and showed her talking direct to camera. She namedropped a couple of other video bloggers (vloggers) and pulled a few funny faces. 'What you need to know about my town,' she said, 'is that it's really boring. That's probably why I spend so much time on my computer, I'm a dork.' That was it. Typical of the confessional teenage vlogs circulating the web at the time.

A few days later, the next video appeared, showing Bree goofing around with a puppet monkey. In the third, she talked about being home-schooled and imparted some trivia about Antarctica. Pretty mundane stuff. It wasn't until the sixth vlog, entitled My Parents Suck ..., that the tone shifted: in it she complained that her parents had forbidden her from going out with her friend Daniel on account of her 'religion'. It wasn't clear what religion this was. Within hours the video had notched up 50,000 hits. (The previous postings had counted 50,000 to 100,000 hits in the course of a week.) Two days later the tally was up to half a million. Suddenly LonelyGirl15 was a phenomenon. With each new video, as parental tensions heightened and suggestions of the occult crept in, the buzz grew ever greater.

Ajesh Patalay also lists 10 web shows to watch:
1. Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy
2. Smart Girls At The Party
3. 50 To Death
4. Easy To Assemble
5. Kirill
6. Sorority Forever
7. The Guild
8. House Poor
9. Blahgirls
10. Sanctuary

It's a great article, but... there's just one TINY fragment of a sentence with which I really can't agree:
"Scoring a web series hit, however, is still no cinch. Even shows whose view count passes 100,000 in the first week (a fair index of success) can find it hard to sustain."
100,000 in the first week = a fair index of success?
That sounds a bit like "sunset media" industry talk.

Surely one of the strengths - opportunities - of the web is the ability to build a following from scratch. To whatever number of hits... over whatever length of time.

Unless I've misunderstood the article, applying a criteria of "TV Overnights" to the 'first week of uploading' feels incredibly bogus. There may be a time for shows to reach the stage of gaining 100,000 hits per week. But to judge the success of a show by numbers "in the first week" feels hugely misleading.

How about the size of the community around a show?
How busy the message boards or forums?
How many unofficial fansites linking to the home site?
How many members or fans signed up on the home site, or bebo, or MySpace, or Facebook?

Surely these are better indicators of the health of a show. The quantum shift for all of us is stepping away from the methodology of measuring TV shows or film "on release", towards tracking communities of fans over time.

We haven't developed ways of measuring, recording and sharing these 'other' indicators. Not to an 'industry standard'. And it doesn't fit the way sponsors or networks currently operate, so I think we'll continue to see sentiments such as
"shows whose view count passes 100,000 in the first week (a fair index of success)"
in the industry for some time to come.

What do you think? On "Comments" below.


KellyB said...

My favorite line is

"The UK's first big online drama" ...

storygas said...

Ah -- yes -- thanks -- well spotted Kelly!

That would be TWO fragments of sentences in the article with which I cannot agree!!