In the past few years it seems that a change in the tides is afoot in the entertainment industry, particularly in regards to the Internet. With attention spans seemingly smaller and smaller, makers of content must tailor their work in a way that keeps the Internet roamer in place; at least long enough to see the end of a video or finish an article. Enter the web series, a condensed version of the television show that produces short videos ranging anywhere from two to ten minutes or longer. These shorter videos appeal to the antsy Internet user because they can sit for a half an hour and watch upwards of ten or more episodes of a series; they get more for their time. With shorter videos and auto-play technologies viewers become invested in a series within a short period of time. To give a personal example, my senior year of high school I found an original series called Dorm Life. The fake documentary follows a group of college freshman all living on the same floor, 5-South at a fictional school in California. With episodes ranging from five to six minutes on average, episodes are brief, engaging and hyper-focused on one aspect of college life per episode. When I first discovered the show I went through five or six episodes in a single sitting before realizing that there were only two seasons; I decided to limit my viewing to two or three episodes max in one sitting. Conversely when I introduced the show to a friend of mine, they finished the entire series in a night. Here it seems that interactivity is key to the engagement of viewers’ attention. In terms of Dorm Life, the show can be viewed on Hulu, which is accessible to both Hulu and Hulu Plus users, as well as on their official site. The show’s website is set up like a college bulletin board that is interactive and features links to purchase “floor t-shirts” and gain access to “floor webcams”. Here the viewer is incorporated into the world of the program and invited to be a part of 5-South.
The interest in the show is there but how can content makers and distributers like Youtube and Google benefit monetarily from user interest? To better examine this point, I will turn to a popular web series that premiered on Youtube called Video Game High School. VGHS came out in 2012 after popular Youtuber, Freddie Wong raised funds using Kickstarter to create a world in the future where video games comprise the primary form of entertainment and those who play well become celebrities; after going to Video Game High School of course. The web series is like no other of its kind due to its action-packed, almost movie-like quality. Freddie Wong attributes the series’s success to the accessibility to his fans, which allows the show’s creators to respond to fan feedback and provide content tailored to fan interests. Again, interactivity is key to the success of these web-based series. In terms of generating revenue off of this interest, product placement is just one of the ways that Wong and his coworkers make money and keep control over their show. While Youtube will benefit from the hosting the show, Wong also incentivizes users to watch the new season of VGHS on his website Rocket Jump, which features the same material but in forty-eight frames per second (Kafka). This helps generate interest to his personal website and allows him to benefit directly from his content. Clearly, Freddie Wong understands how to reap the benefits of producing a web series on Youtube, while giving power to the fans as well as keeping some for himself, while making money for Youtube and Google. From example it is evident that the web series is both in the hands of the content makers and subscribers as well as the system in the form of Youtube.
Sources: Kafka, Peter. “Meet Youtube’s Michael Bay.” All Things D.. N.p., 12 Aug 2013. Web. 28 Oct 2013. <http://allthingsd.com/20130812/meet-youtubes-michael-bay/>.
Shields, Mike. “The Collective Scores with Video Game High: Youtube Gaming Stars Behind FreddieW Churn out Successful Scripted Series.” Adweek. N.p., 19 Jul 2012. Web. 28 Oct2013. <http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/collective-scores-video-game-high-142004>.