ComedyPro’s “Digital Decision-Makers” panel featured executives from digital comedy’s biggest names, counting Betsy Kotch, the executive producer of Funny or Die, among “Epic” Lloyd Alquist of Epic Rap Battles and Josh Pool, who heads development and produces at Above Average. Along with some of the powers that be at Maker Studios, New Form Digital, and Big Breakfast, these panelists had some valuable wisdom on the “lightning fast industry” we call digital video.
The panel began with an apt question for those in an industry that seems to shift on the regular with the blink of an eye. What changes have there been in the online video space since just one year back?
Answers indicated that more carefully curated content, changed playlist interfaces, and the rise of SnapChat all served as hallmarks in the past year of the online video timeline. That being said, what will mark this current year in the digital realm? The ComedyPRO panelists offered some perspective on this front, thus the major takeaways from ComedyPRO…
1. Brands aren’t necessarily the bad guys for creators.
While Julia Moonves, the director of network development and entertainment at Maker Studios, insisted that none of the company’s creators completely avoid brands (nor do any embrace 100% of the brand contracts that come their way), she also acknowledged a simple fact. “For some creators, this is how they make a living, and now there is great money to be made with branded content,” she explained. Plus, brands help when you have more expensive video ideas to pitch.
2. Reactions are in…because so are “civilians.”
Between the Fine Brothers’ “React” franchise and Maker Studios’ Steve Kardynal performing Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” (and other, well, provocative songs) on Chat Roulette, people like to watch people watching…what they’re watching. It’s an experience that highlights that personal aspect of digital video, the same one the got vloggers’ their initial popularity during the long ago days of YouTube’s budding partnership program. It appeals to viewers to see “real people” react on the web.
3. The unique flexibility of digital isn’t going anywhere.
As per the series “High Maintenance,” brought to the panel by New Form’s chief creative officer, Kathleen Grace, the fact that no particular storyline or episode length is required for a web series can make it truly special. This one offers a bunch of disparate episodes connected by a single, fine thread — that of the drug dealer who appears in each and every one, but rarely gets much of a backstory himself. Everyone at the panel recognized that were the show shopped to a network, it would have to develop more of a cohesive plot, which seems a bit like it would take away from its vignette-style beauty.
4. “Separation of church and state” prevails.
Only in this case, substitute church with “brand” and state with “editorial.” Spencer Griffin, vice president of Big Breakfast, insists the two don’t mix where he works. The content they make for brands is designated that way from the get-go. So even though the brands aren’t the enemy, they aren’t the best friend holding hands, either.
5. Staying topical means working quickly…or creating evergreen content.
As always, trends come and go fast in the digital world. In order to keep up, you’ve got to work at their speed. That’s why Kardynal’s “Wrecking Ball” Roulette video worked so well — it hitched onto a current trend (making fun of Cyrus’s highly sexualized music video) and wasn’t very complicated to put together. On the other side of the coin, Above Average’s Josh Pool showed the platform’s Kickstarter parody video promoting “Tiny Diapers for the Tip of Your Penis,” which will remain funny as long as the crowd-funding platform stays relevant.
6. Digital video is for everyone.
If President Obama starred in a Funny or Die “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis” video (and it helped encourage 4 million people to sign up for health care), then it means that the online video space isn’t too taboo for anyone.