Nowadays everyone wants to make a web TV. But outside of all the glamorous announcements and the new fancy video players used by these new web TV stations, very little innovation in content production has yet come to the surface. Here are my personal recommendations for small online publishers who are about to create their first online TV station or web video channel.
Broadcasting video to anyone who has a live Internet connection on earth is now within the reach of hundred of millions of people with high-speed connectivity, though only a small fraction of them are yet aware of this.
By utilizing free or low-cost online live video streaming services you can start broadcasting to the world in a matter of minutes. All you need is a webcam, a headset, a good microphone and a high-speed Internet connection. The rest can be easily delegated to Ustream, Mogulus, Kyte.tv, Stickam, Operator11 for the "live" part and to Brightcove, Splashcast, YouTube, Blip.tv or Veoh for the final, not-live, distribution phase.
But beyond finding thevideo publishing service that fits best your needs, what maybe a bit more challenging to face is what to put inside your content to make your online video show a successful one.
A great number of those who have started on this front, has been replicating, often with lower talent, resources and execution, the ideas, themes and television "formats" you have been watching on mainstream TV for the last 20 years.
But is this really innovation? Why should someone who is not your friend or personal acquaintance watch your show instead of the "equivalent" one on mainstream media? Outside of all those who follow your brand new online video program because they, like you, are "studying" this new medium and are curious to see what you have done, how many true passionate spectators can your web television show bring-in? How many of your spectators can find true "value" in your video program and go away feeling they have "gained" something after having watched it ?
Here a few humble and simple suggestions on how I would define my own web TV format based on what I have learned through my own experimentation.
Stop replicating the television shows you have been seeing on mainstream TV for years. I know you can use your buddy bloggers and have lots of fun at it, but sincerely... outside of your personal circle of fans and beyond those that will initially study you as part of the new "web tv phenomenon", who will want not to miss your next show? Try mixing genres and dropping traditional television conventions: formal presenters, overwhelming use of the "we" when it is only "you" talking, having in-studio guests, big and fancy opening titles, are all trademarks of corporate mainstream TV. It's like you raising a flag and screaming "Switch to the next channel! I am just another low-cost clone of old traditional boring and mind-numbing TV!" Mix a bit of street documentary and cinema veritè approaches with "gonzo journalism" and first-person in-camera shooting. Edit parallel stories and threads on your theme as to provide multiple viewpoints. Use music. Move that camera. Use text and graphics inside your video. Throw in some screencasting. Do machinima. Mash-up some mainstream stuff too.
2) Ask Interesting, Difficult Questions - Discover Something New
As some of you are definitely into making interviews, showcasing new social venues and learning from those who claim to be experts as something my humble advice is to stop asking easy questions and making an effort to use a greater fraction of your brain to think up questions worth listening to. If you are there just to make your guests showcase themselves you will only be making a show for yourself and a tight circle of friends. Only when your questions are converted into real opportunities to discover something new, to learn from the genuine experience of others, and to hear a true human voice sharing her insight you will be building up a loyal audience of video followers. Leave the great names and famous guests to mainstream TV. Cultivate what is not largely seen, talked about and cherished.
3) Keep It Short, Very Short
Time is a rare asset today. You can't expect people to watch 15-minutes or longer shows unless:
a) you are doing something live that is so cool people do not want to miss watching,
b) you really have a "memorable" topic/guest/attraction that is not to be missed.
That's why you need to build either a short show, or a long show with lots of very small components that you can then re-use in your on-demand, podcast style programming. The right duration is almost always under 5 minutes. Everything longer than that must be really something very special (documentary, reportage, etc.).
4) Avoid Formal Announcers
Show presenters in the traditional sense of the word are doomed. They are fake by definition. Stop considering them. Your ideal announcer is you, no matter what face you have, or someone that has the topic you want to present on as much in her blood as you. Like a successful blog has generally a great voice behind it, here too, you need to have a genuine personality that performs a show by being herself. That's what makes the difference. If you don't have that or can't buy it, stay out of the way. Outside camera view, and write great questions to ask.
5) Allow Maximum Interaction
On the web people want to participate. On the web people want to be listened to. They know they can, they have seen it before and they are very compelled to make their own contribution whenever a good chance is offered. Make it easy for your viewers to participate via text chat, video, voice or by sending in materials and contributions to be shown inside your program. Having a way to affect and directly contribute to a live video show is a deep motivator for those who want to contribute as well as being a viral magnet for those simply viewing. Here I think is one of the areas with the greatest margin of potential innovation.
6) Skillful Aggregation Is the Noble Media Art of the Future - Aggregate, Filter, Remix
Newsmasters, top link bloggers and those who already build newsradars know how effective and valuable is for readers to find "intelligent news hubs" that scan and select the very content you are interested in reading. With the tons of video material being produced today wouldn't you think there would be a major need for this too? That's why before launching another net tv and thinking up how to throw away a few thousand dollars in equipment you should stop again and think if working at aggregating thematic video channel(s) wouldn't be a far better option than re-inventing the TV programming wheel once again. For example: You may not like looking at reality in the face when it comes to today's world news, but if you do my own self-produced RGTV News is a good example of how much you can achieve with very little budget.
The above is not a recipe for web success. These five points are only my first five suggestions to those small publishers wanting to take their passion to the web while using new media video production and online video distribution technologies.
I am sure I would have some more good suggestions to share, but I like to leave some space for you, reading now, to contribute and extend this first set. What do you think? What else would make a difference in your view?
Use the comments here below to add your own thoughts and suggestions as to what factors and variables you would recommend others to use when first defining their new web-based television channel.
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This is so true. I have been using Kyte Tv for a couple months now and I love it. I made my own channel and my own shows and all I needed was some pictures on my computer and a web cam.
To be fair, I am not targeting thousands of viewers and the general public but rather my own friends. They can watch my channel on facebook and myspace.
The ones that join kyte can produce their own content and post it on my channel
Great article and great format to serve it. Thank you very much Robbin!
I have a question regarding usability of web TV. I am doing projects for community and social organisations, but there is a hughe problem: language.
Apart from vpod.tv, youtube and dailymotion there is no other provider using other language than english. Do you know of other ugc providers with the quality of vpod in other languages?