Comedy TV is Dead offers you many web-series creators out there looking at the results of their first (or second) season and wondering why they didn’t do better – by that I mean get more views. Anne Flournoy, creator of the excellent but flawed The Louise Log, has made her position clear on the matter; cream doesn’t always rise to the top on the Internet. Quite simply, most of her potential audience has no idea The Louise Log even exists, so she’s decided it’s time for her to more actively promote her show, and if need be, reel in one viewer at a time.
Sometimes I worry about the quality of comedy web-series in the short to medium term because I see some of the most creative and talented independent producers becoming discouraged in a period of time where their work seems to be getting lost in a sea of cat videos on YouTube and nostalgic reviews on Blip. It would be disastrous for this already slow growing and fragmented industry if too many of these talented and creative people give up in disgust after finding it impossible to make their work profitable.
There are currently a lot of unsolved problems out there, but more often than not creators are overlooking the really basic factors that are determining success or failure. Too much emphasis has been put on virality, especially as to how it applies to web-series. This post is about the basic things all independent web-series creators should think about before they actively promote their show but most do not.
Specifically though, I’m suggesting a structure accompanying the release of a new web-series season. Not after the fact marketing. That’s because I think it’s probably as hard to rebrand a show a year after its released as it is for a car salesman to come to your house and convince you to pay 10% more for the Ford Escape you bought last year.
No one cares about your show (unless you’re already famous)
It’s important (but hard) to remember when you’re wrapping up post-production and getting ready to publish your web-series that no one cares about you. Whilst your show is the centre of your world, it’s only going to become a part of other peoples if the series has some relevance to them.
Working hard and focusing on your own website like thebitterend.tv, xwebseries.com, compulsivelove.com or thelouiselog.com is a waste of time. It is an established fact that most users only visit a handful of websites a day, about ten. You will not be one of them so prepare your strategy to deal with that.
- It is meaningless to rank number one in Google for your webseries’ name, because no one’s searching for it.
- It’s a waste of time to try and build hits on your own domain (if it’s just for one show) because it’ll never be in anyones top 10.
This is the first stumbling block for most, despite the solution actually being really easy. The simple fix to this problem has been to associate yourself with other people, shows and keywords that your target audience is already looking for.
- Join or start a website that houses similar content to your own and frequently updates.
thatguywiththeglasses.com – Vloggers actively petition Channel Awesome in the hopes of becoming a member of this website because their views increase so much by being listed next to other web-cam reviewers. Read The Nostalgic Empire for more details.
Wonderly.com – A sub-brand of Big Frame currently only has one scripted show (Squaresville), but it promises to bring together shows that appeal to young women.
Machinima.com – Houses web series that are of interest to gamers. It’s extremely unlikely gamers were aware there was a new series based on the popular gaming franchise Portal, until they saw it on Machinima.com. No one searched “portal web-series” just to check.
In the case of The Louise Log, Anne Flournoy is going to have to be especially pioneering because I don’t believe there’s any community targeting her audience properly. They’re older, wiser and sexier than the average web-series viewer. Still though, let’s not let anything get in the way of our success, shall we? It would be almost as easy to create a new website designed to draw in these people and keep them entertained as it was to make a website only hosting a single show. What you need to do is..
- Decide who your target audience is and use tools like Google Trends to get some idea of where they are and what they’re looking for.
- Create a website designed to work with your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) objectives – be descriptive and clear – have a name and tagline that says who you are and what your content is about.
- Embed shows that are similar to yours and encourage those people to work with you – in the case of The Louise Log these might be The Slope, F to 7th, Love on the Line, so on and so on. Search websites like this one to find your peers.
- Decide what you want to rank highly in and practice your SEO – the rules of which are always changing.
You’re a brand, or your production company is a brand, your series is a product
The next thought here is that you need to simultaneously be communicating the values of your brand and the value of your web-series. The two things are not the same. If you’re launching a show but no one knows who you are or what you’ve done before you’re losing a lot.
The greatest example of this I think to-date is what Felicia Day did with the Guild, using it to launch herself as a brand and then using the last series of the show to launch the Geek and Sundry brand as a venue for her (and others) new ‘geeky’ shows.
- Web-series have a natural life span, they’re born, they grow and die. So it’s important that you connect your show with a more enduring entity.
Select your platform carefully
While there’s a myth that you’ve got to chase your audience around, success is about focusing on what works, discarding what doesn’t and not trying to do to much. The bottom line is that today, your two platform choices are either Blip or YouTube. That’s it, and you’re better off picking one or the other based on your overall strategy. You’re wasting your time with Koldcast, every second spent dealing with them is losing you money! Vimeo is great for your demo-reel not for your web-series. I could list all the other platforms that aren’t suitable for whatever reason but I won’t. Stick with Blip or YouTube.
For The Louise Log I’d recommend YouTube exclusively. Blip’s ads can be extremely disproportionate in length, making watching short shows an unpleasant experience and YouTube has the much more socially focused platform. People will blame your show for their viewing experience, not Blip, YouTube, Koldcast or anyone else so be careful who you associate yourself with.
Kickstart or GoGo
Once you’ve laid the groundwork the last step is to kickstart (or Indiegogo). Some people have unfairly labelled this e-begging. Those people have missed the point entirely. Kickstarting gives your campaign structure. It gets and keeps people invested and makes you think more about how to make your audience happy. Thinking back to what I just said, you’re the brand and you’re using Kickstarter to make your show – which is your product – as good as possible.
- Crowd funding validates your idea.
- It’s a forum for interested people to give timely suggestions.
- It helps others show you their support and feel a part of your show.
It’s a side note that people who fail on Kickstarter didn’t do enough research and miscalculated their efforts. Kickstarter is a self serving entity and will only promote campaigns that are doing well, to promote itself. It buries the rest and really provides no help at all.
- Kickstarter and Indiegogo won’t advertise you – you’ll have to do all the hard work, but it’ll give you a fantastic opportunity to pitch your show, talk about its merits, your story and why you want to create it. Having people know your angle and your story really helps them get on board with what you’re doing.
Now you’ve laid the foundation
The normal tweeting, social networking and interactions are going to be all the more effective because, if you’ve followed the advice above, others will be working on your behalf to push traffic to the same place and are building the same community as you. You’ll get more views by osmosis and find it much easier to build up and maintain an audience that’s less likely to disappear between future series. Greater views will lead to greater coverage which as you’ve guessed, leads to more views.
Sadly there isn’t a great wealth of websites writing about the web-series industry, all the sites that are focused on it (including this one) are relatively new and while their hits may be growing fast – to-date there’s no clearly stand-out publication that has the power to make you an overnight success.
My last thought which is specifically for The Louise Log. If it does come back with a new series, which I hope it does, it’s important that the new episodes are in HD.