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NTV pulling no punches on web series

January 30, 2009

Our friend Liz Shannon Miller over at NewTeeVee laid the smackdown on the web series Camp Breezy Beach (CBB) in a recent review.

If you read the review, it’s pretty harsh but also honest which you have to respect. It also sparked a lot of discussion in the comments section. I’m not going to comment on the quality of the CBB series itself because quite frankly, it’s irrelevant to this post.

The thing that is most interesting to me is that Liz’s review represents the polarization effect that web distribution will continue to create. What I’m seeing here is a show that has a very specific type of audience being reviewed by someone with more traditional tastes. We see this all the time with movie reviews. e.g., lots of critics hate Michael Bay, but teen boys love his movies.

When it comes to the web, this polarization of views is going to become even more common. First, we know the web democratizes film/video distribution, so there’s going to be an influx of creative content. Some good, some bad, some creative, some copycat, some just plain weird, etc. The point is, there’s going to be a lot of stuff out there – a lot of DIVERSE material. Second, all this diverse content is going to find niche audiences in the long tail of the web (i.e., we’re going to have a ton of fragmented audience segments that adopt these niche shows).

To me, CBB is a good example of a show built for a niche audience, not to be consumed by the masses. It’s the type of show that is going to be entertaining for a smaller set of people, and seen as “amateur” by most others. We have to remember that the polarizing effect that it has on a mass audience is the same reason that it has a tight, albeit small, fan base. It’s possible that if CBB was more mainstream, it would become less enjoyable for its hardcore fans.

So as I read the review on NTV, it reminded me that for many creators, the web should really be a long tail play, where they are looking to be the best series they can be to THEIR relevant audience. The traditional idea that a large audience is representative of success is the wrong way to define success on the web. Right now, the web isn’t built to have a blockbuster series or show. That’s reserved for TV (whether that continues is another story). Web creators really need to look at web distribution as a way of reaching their niche audience, learning and gaining feedback from them for their next project. Sure, at some point, you want to reach a larger audience. But that will happen when you have a marketing budget and broader marketing channels to work through.

Also, there will always be critics. And many times they will have very valid points. But it’s important to remember that the most important critic is the target audience you made your show for.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 30, 2009 2:15 pm

    Andrew –

    Good points. And Matt Enlow hits some as well.

    The question is really what does a creative team want out of a web series when they start down that path of making one?

    Mainstream recognition? Awards? Branded Sponsorships? Or just experience, footage for a reel, and a feedback from a small but interested audience?

    Some clamor for attention in as many ways possible, particularly courting reviews from bloggers and other outlets. Doing this means they are subjecting it to those personal opinions of the reviewers at hand.

    And if we truly care about growing the audience, even the niche audiences for web series, we have to embrace criticism. It’s only going to point out what is working right now and what isn’t.

    I probably fall into a few “niche” categories in my tastes, but I still want it to be good.

    Niche shouldn’t become synonymous with crappy.

    • January 30, 2009 3:20 pm

      Definitely agree with you, Marc. There is definitely a threshold for what should be considered good quality. Regardless of niche or target audience.

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