The start of a (much-needed) web TV hierarchy

  

Now if only I could search Hulu here too

 

But I swear my Vlogs are a Show...

There’s a ton of video content out there, and not much of a way to browse it. Let’s think a moment of what guides us in our decisions to watch things online: recommendation engines embedded into videos, featured content on front pages of video sites, emails/twitters from friends…and that’s about it. A lot of gems fall through the cracks, never given a chance to catch the public eye in a big way. It’s difficult to get your web series to cut through the clutter of UGC, network-produced, and just-plain-bad-but-trying content, and part of the reason for this is a lack of defined content areas where different types of videos can live.

Hypothetically, you’ve got a web series. You’ve been around your city’s scene for a while, so you managed to get some C or B list faces in there, and the result is really great. But you’ve done it all independently, so unlike the few major independent web production companies, you don’t have the connections or relationships that will get your content out there widely. You’re gonna put some marketing dollars behind it, and you need people to discover it. More importantly, you need advertisers to see that your content is clearly a cut above the viral videos and “cats peeing in toilets” so that they might be more interested in giving you cash.

So where do you put this show? If you launch your own site and use your own flash encoding, you will die a slow death in obscurity, like some of the finest artists of the 20th Century. Put it on Vimeo and you get street cred, but again tough for people to find it. YouTube gives you the most opportunity, but then there’s that whole cats-peeing-in-toilets thing, and one wonders if the people who will pay you will take you seriously (until you get a billion hits of course…).

This conundrum is why I skeptically applaud YouTube’s redesign this week, pictured above. The web needs destinations where users can find produced content – that is, content made for the web, with a budget and an eye on aesthetics. Google is taking the first steps toward creating a hierarchy for web video, one that does not necessarily (as of now) give preferential treatment to studio-produced content, but at least gives it a place to live and flourish on its own, away from the UGC and more casual videos that, while important, might unintentionally label premium, produced content as something else.

But here’s where it gets tricky. These produced-content centers still have to be open enough to allow the Guilds and Dr. Horribles of the world to have a piece of the pie when the time is right. That’s why I’m still skeptical of the Shows page; I don’t know if there’s a way to get on there without making a distribution deal with Google – and in fact that might be the whole point, from Google’s perspective. But surely we’ve seen that the most powerful original content on the web doesn’t come from the big guys, so in order for premium content destinations to work, there has to be a route through which independent stuff can rise to the top. (That could be the fatal flaw of Hulu, which while posting significant numbers still pales in comparison to the traffic YouTube’s most-subscribed UGC channels aggregate).

If that were allowed, everyone would benefit from the increased traffic. Shows could sell integrations, content centers could sell inventory in and around the shows, and everyone would walk away happy and a little bit richer.

There are steps being made toward this end. Tilzy.tv’s OnFronts announced this week certainly won’t hurt, and neither will similar moves that are apparently in the works by Hollywood-based Tubefilter. But it’s the big guys that count. If YouTube hired someone to vet out trending, produced content, and allowed that to float to a specified place on its site, we’d all be able to find this stuff a little easier, and the hits would finally hit harder.

2 Responses to “The start of a (much-needed) web TV hierarchy”

  1. Sarah Bunchman writes:

    Hey Evan, looks like the Tubefilter link is broken, fyi!

  2. ebregman writes:

    fixed. thanks for reading and commenting!

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