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Tailslating Year in Review

December 31, 2008

It’s been a fun year. I’ve really enjoyed networking with people in the online video industry, and I’m amazed at how many people are in this space. It truly is a growing category and I look forward to what the next few years brings.

I was also flattered that this blog was picked as one of five new media blogs worth reading by Liz Gannes at NewTeeVee. I want to thank those who have taken the time to read my ramblings on online video. In 2009, there’s going to be some big changes to tailslating. I won’t go into details until they’re fully ironed out, but I’m looking forward to the next step and transformation with this blog.

The Hayley Project (THP) finally launched in October, and it’s been a tremendous learning experience for me. Hopefully, for the filmmakers reading this blog, it’s been helpful to you too. I really hope you’ll do the same when you launch your series. Currently, webseries distribution is a collective learning experience for all of us, and as long as we stay open and transparent about our mistakes and learnings, we can benefit from one another.

So here’s the obligatory 2008 in Review, focusing on key distribution learnings:

  • Know your audience – The online video space is getting more and more cluttered, so you have to be focused on who you want to target. THP caters towards a younger audience and our demo stats support that we’ve found them. Online video is very much a “long tail” play
  • Keep your first episode representative of your series – One of our mistakes was that our first episode didn’t have the same tone as the rest of the series. From a screenwriting structure perspective, it makes sense what we did. However, in the online video world, you really only have one shot at a first impression. If a viewer doesn’t resonate with the first episode, they may not come back for number two
  • Release Trailer early – Get a trailer out early on YouTube and begin to market your show. Start to build your subscriber base on YouTube so that when you launch, you have an installed base of viewers
  • Leverage YouTube – Even if you plan on doing a standalone site for your series and brand, YouTube is going to drive most of your numbers. You must have a presence of YouTube if you want to get big. At THP, we even stopped distributing to some of the smaller video platforms because the maintenance wasn’t worth it. YouTube has all the social networking features you need to promote your show
  • TubeMogul – Tubemogul is a fantastic distribution and analytics site. I highly recommend using it. Monitor your daily views and see if you can optimize a release schedule based on when people watch your videos the most (e.g., we found that Fridays was not a good day to release episodes, so we picked Mondays and Thursdays)
  • It’s Not About The Money – Don’t worry about the money yet. We’re part of the partner program but we didn’t even turn on advertising for our episodes (just the trailer to test it). CPMs for YouTube is reportedly really low, and at this point, the goal is just to get viewership and exposure. Think about the money for your next series after you’ve made a name for yourself
  • Interactivity – Remember that online video is a new and innovative medium so play to its strength. E.g., we use twitter, we have our main character interact through the YouTube boards, etc. Do things that can’t just be found on traditional TV. And remember to thank your audience
  • Leave Advertising Impressions – When people subscribe to your series on YouTube, thank them for it on their channel page. Not only is it good “customer service”, it’s an additional advertising impression that might lead to someone else seeing the thank you on their page and clicking over to your site
  • Facebook Advertising – If you plan on using facebook advertising, I suggest you use it primarily to get people to your facebook fan page. While advertising on facebook is a relatively cheap way to drive traffic to your video page, if the person doesn’t have a YouTube account, you won’t capture a subscription. If you send them to your Facebook fan page, they can see your episodes and add the page to their account. You’ll probably get better conversion rates if you don’t take people outside of the facebook ecosystem. Note: I should test YouTube advertising this year
  • Recap Episode – If you have a long series, you may want a recap episode so that new viewers won’t be lost
  • Title Picking – Provocative titles and thumbnails drive more traffic. Our 15th episode “Sex Appeal” has the second most views behind our first episode
  • Test, Learn, and Be Flexible – As you’re going through the process, you may need to tweak or change things around. We had originally planned to release three episodes per week, but we were burning through our episodes too quickly without an appropriate lift in subscribers and views. So we pulled back to two episodes per week. Another example is the Holiday season. I had hypothesized that Holiday season would be a bad time to burn through episodes so we’re breaking until mid-January. So far, I think that was the right call. If you see things aren’t working the way you want, make changes. Just be careful not to alienate your fan base
  • PR – Don’t be offended when people compare your series to other shows out there. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it makes it easier for prospect viewers to understand what your series is about. Similarly, don’t be offended if some people don’t like your show. The fact is, the more targeted your show is, the more likely it is to alienate people outside of the target segment. For example, we know our series is more favorable among younger viewers than older ones, because that’s who our show caters towards. The only people whose opinion should really matter are those within your target audience
  • Blog about your series. Why not? You meet people and you become part of the community
  • Have FUN! Isn’t that the whole point?

Happy New Year!

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