Monday, 30 March 2009

HOW TO MAKE A HIT INTERNET SHOW (or web series)-#2 It's just one big beta test...

Here's an addendum to the original post which is now a work-in-progress.
(okay... I just wanted to say the word addendum).

Full 'post' here:-

2. Your (hit) show is just one big beta test.
Or "it's not about getting it brilliant first time, that's why it's brilliant".

When I was doing rounds of meetings with legacy media companies immediately after writing on Season 2 of KateModern, I found it very difficult to explain that the best online shows are not perfect when they start out. That's why they're perfect.

And I'd be met with blank stares -- "Why would you want to put out a show any less than perfect?" or, put a different way - "Why would you want your show to admit publicly that your show is flawed?"

But that's not how it works.
And Internet Hits are open and honest about the fact that they are looking for ways to be better.

If the audience can freely comment on the show (see "Comments should be unmoderated(ish)"), two things happen:
Fans feel they have invested a tiny bit of work in the show, so they are more likely to come back; and secondly... the show gets better as a result of that constant feedback.

"But why would you allow your audience to be able to tell you that your show sucks?"

Legacy media organisations are used to their content being as "perfect as it can be at time of release". Radio, Film, Television, Print - it's all about getting it 'right' before it goes out.
Even live tv and radio generally has a format or running order or slot to run within.

Online, good online, doesn't work that way.
So I found myself once again stumbling to explain that - "starting a show, it doesn't have to be good, but it does have to allow an audience to comment freely on it" - this time in a meeting with Dave Castell at Tough Cookie.

And for the first time, wasn't met with a blank stare.
He really got into the idea, but because of his web background managed to explain it with a phrase I now use for the process:-

DAVE: "Yeah, - you mean you're beta testing the show.
ME: Huh?
DAVE: It's something software developers do, isn't it. Because noone releases software in a finished state, do they. They beta test it - they release it as a beta, and say to the users 'we think this is good, but have a try and say if we can make it any better'.
ME: Oh yeah.

That's how Internet Hits work.

They evolve around the discussions in the community around the show. But the community also keeps coming back, because there is a place to discuss the show.
All comments are good comments.

As a writer... this is... What's the word. Terrifying.
The same people who can comment "I LOVED it when Charlie said 'xxxxxxx'", are also free to say something less kind.
But it really helps with the sense of shared journey.

We were convinced the 'fans' would hate the new character, Toe. It was based on a laugh with Sam Donovan, the actor who played Lee. There's no way we thought we could even shoot Sam playing his twin brother in episodes which rely on being played out in one shot, let alone anyone enjoying his arrival. But we gave it a try, and the fan reaction meant we even sent him off for the Paris episodes.

(The Family Phillips, written by Lawrence Tallis - storyline by Lawrence Tallis, Luke Hyams & Neil Mossey)

This leads to a couple more suggestions for Internet Hits - which should be new chapters:

- Make sure your show is unmoderated.
Generally on KateModern, anyone could say anything under the videos. The only comment moderation that took place was generally for legal, or 'taste and decency' reasons. This meant that whole new discussions would take place amongst the fans - the show then has life beyond the content we have produced.

- It's not about how many hits or views you get on release.
Again, difficult to explain to legacy media companies, used to judginig hits on overnight ratings, RAJAR figures, Saturday's circulation, or opening weekend box office receipts.

There's only one direction your hit counter will go, and that is up.

The only thing you can do as Producer, is work out how you can make that hit count go up more quickly over time, rather than measuring a show on what it's doing this week.

Sorry for the lack of pictures... will have to hunt some down to jazz this up.

Time to add this to the orginal
HOW TO MAKE A HIT INTERNET SHOW... and watch it grow.


Paul Miles said...

Great read, Neil. Look for a link at in about 12 and a half hours (I cheat and write all my posts at once).


storygas said...

haha - me too! - it's like there's a beta test of the internet sitting in post drafts.

Big thanks for the encouragement, (ack, looking back at this now, can already see bits to rework...)

storygas said...

"legacy media companies" for a start.

Still not found a term for the unsatisfying "Old Media"... "Sunset Media industries"... "Analogue media"... "Non-digital"...
all don't do the job...

Paul Miles said...

The goofy thing is that as far as I know, there's no standard term for the new media yet. Web TV, web series, internet videos. There's no catchall term that everyone's agreed on yet.

But, on the positive side of that, we really haven't established boundaries for the genres yet. We're not hung up on comedies, sitcoms, webcam shows, or whatever. Every show is what it is, which is neat. Aside from the "Hi, I'm talking into my webcam" show, there really aren't formulas yet. So that's nice.

As for what to call "old media", I think we could apply a little punk rock aesthetic and just call traditional media "old school" and web media "new school".