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February 26, 2007

For those of you who follow the LonelyGirl15 saga, the creators finally did something that I expected they would do a long time ago. They really dialed-up the interactive elements of the series during a recent episode by thanking and naming specific viewers who helped solve a riddle. With the Internet such a collaborative space, it makes sense that more Internet series will be interactive. This is a key differentiating factor from traditional TV competitors. The question is how much interactivity should there be?

Two quick issues I can think of… First, there’s fixed costs associated with running a production. Many times, it’s easier to shoot everything over an intense period of time. If a series’ storyline requires too much interaction with a viewer, you will have to extend your shooting schedule, which means you have to coordinate schedules multiple times and you may not be able to maximize your use of camera and equipment rentals. In other words, your required budget starts to creep up.

The second thing to consider is what percent of an audience truly appreciates the interactivity? For example, if LoneylGirl15 has roughly 250,000 viewers per episode, how many of those viewers are so engaged that they post on boards and/or try to solve the riddles that the creators leave? 5%? 10%? Would LonelyGirl15 still be successful without these interactive elements? Maybe. My gut tells me that a vast majority watch the show via You Tube but don’t actually bother to go the website or participate in any of the additional features. The flip side is that even though the percentage of the most engaged participants is small, they’re also your biggest influencers. They’re the ones who tell their friends about the show. And word of mouth plays a huge role on the Internet so I think you have to cater to these die hard fans first.

If you have no idea what LonelyGirl15 is, read this Wired article to hear how it became successful. Below is the video where the fans are credited for their help.

For another interactive series, check out Its All In Your This show relies heavily on viewer participation to move the plot forward. It’s basically a choose-your-own-adventure series.

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