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Digital Hollywood: Monetizing Original Content
Author: Robin Rowe

HOLLYWOOD, CA (Gosh!TV) 5/5/2010 – The business of television content on the Internet. “Build it and they will come” is the new digital age web business model. The question is, is there any money in it?

“It’s interesting to see how many people will actually tune in more with video ads on content they want to see,” says Mingle Media TV executive producer Stephanie Piche. “In our case it’s live web TV broadcasts so the complaints we do hear are due to missing part of the show waiting for the ad to finish. We produce live video broadcasts with either a 15 or 30 second pre-roll before the live airing.”

“Finding that tipping point of retention is key,” says Slebisodes president Patrick Bardwell. “The pre-roll must retain its brevity or the viewer will click away. The lower thirds ads [that YouTube runs at the bottom of some popular videos] are annoying and take away from the video experience.”

“Advertising is going to have to become more like content,” says SVP of Content and Marketing Josh Spector. “It’s going to have to be more targeted, and actually needs to be re-created from the ground up in many ways. Increasingly viewers want to watch stuff that’s real as opposed to dramatic. I think editorials and interviews have a much easier chance of success than many narrative video series.”

“Traditional video advertising is not working as well as it should,” says digital media guru Todd Greene. “Pre-roll is flawed in that the consumer clicked to do something specific…watch a video, play a game.” Video advertising techniques can take the form of pre-roll, lower third, post-roll, or a video banner outside the video playback window.

Sometimes the video promotional message is the message, blurring the line of what’s advertising. “A client had edited a collection of consumer experience videos they were going to use on their site,” says Greene. “Their corporate partner, a major media company, said heck no! They wanted that for our sites…and paid them a handsome sum for exclusive rights.”

“Either make money with really popular content or a lot of content, or both,” says GoDigital Media Group president Jason Peterson. “There is no room in the middle. You have to create a brand. You also have to create retention…remarket intelligently over time using RSS, MRSS, Mobile, Twitter, and Facebook.”

Where advertisers are not paying handsomely for web content, which is mostly everywhere, one solution is to produce the content cheaper. Video blogs are editorials and interviews typically captured on a digital flipcam set up by the interviewer on a little tripod. There’s no cameraman.

“Vlogs are a game changer,” says Piche. “User-generated content is accepted with the bloopers and no one is complaining about it. If it’s content you want to see, hear about, it doesn’t matter if the lighting is the best or the video isn’t framed perfectly.”

Besides commercials, potential revenue sources include subscriptions, and sponsorships that often include product integration.

“Product placement is the best bang for the buck,” says Piche. “When brands figure out they can get more mileage with content that is indexed and searchable…brought to you by BRAND X…they will start pouring more money in.”

“Micro-transactions like iTunes or YouTube rentals make perfect sense for episodic web programming,” says Greene. “Combine that with advertising and sponsorship and you have a winning model. Content has to be extraordinarily compelling. Look at Ok Go videos. Because their videos are so go, their videos sell music. While you can’t make a viral video, you can help a video go viral by making sure the right people see it and share it with their sphere of influence. Digital PR is the key.”

“In order for a video to go viral, it must have a launch pad,” says Spector. “It must initially be exposed to enough people that it gets the opportunity to go viral. You can’t just upload it to YouTube and pray it gets found. It never will, without some platform to launch it from.” That platform could be an email list, a popular Facebook page, or shout outs from bloggers.

“Metrics and ad-server/player integration are more important than ever,” says Peterson. “EyeWonder is doing a nice job in this space. People adopting the VPAID and VAST specification are also pushing the ball forward.”

“The key to making money on the web is attracting a loyal audience that others will pay to reach,” says Spector. “The more creative and integrated the ad campaign, the better. We’ve come to believe that the money is actually in marketing and distribution. We get paid to drive clicks and views as opposed to serving up generic ad impressions.”

“You need to have a tribe,” says Piche. “Know who your fans are. And if you don’t have any, create your online social networking persona and start connecting.”

Monetizing Original Content is part of the Digital Hollywood conference at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. Slebisodes president Patrick Bardwell, digital media guru Todd Greene, GoDigital Media Group president Jason Peterson, Mingle Media TV executive producer Stephanie Piche, and Content and Marketing SVP Josh Spector will answer questions during their session on May 6th at 2:15pm. The session is chaired by Gosh!TV managing editor Robin Rowe.

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