Hollywood still looking for online video hits

Busy day for online video today: not one but two “professional” video sites have launched — although one has no content to speak of yet, just an e-mail form and a press release. That one is 60frames.com, which according to the release was “incubated by leading Hollywood talent and literary agency United Talent Agency (UTA) and innovative Internet-based advertising agency Spot Runner” and has raised $3.5-million in funding.

As Liz Gannes describes it at NewTeeVee, 60frames — which has apparently signed filmmakers Joel and Ethan Cohen to an advisory board — looks to be more like an aggregation and advertising play, since it says consumers will “be able to view 60Frames’ original programming through top video portals, social network Web sites, and mobile and emerging broadband outlets.”

mydamnchannel.jpgThe site, which is being run by United Talent Agency exec Brent Weinstein, says that it will also help advertisers “create immersive online branding to better connect their company and products to targeted audiences.” Wow — I can hardly wait for that stuff. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Hopefully, 60frames has learned a lesson from the train wreck that is Bud.tv, and the failure of HBO’s This Just In, which I wrote about recently.

The second of the online video experiments is called MyDamnChannel.com, and sounds a bit more promising. It looks very similar to a site called FunnyorDie.com — the Will Farrell project that got much buzz for a hilarious series of videos starring his friend’s infant daughter as a foul-mouthed landlord (a video that has been watched a staggering 41 million times). MyDamnChannel even pays tribute to its predecessor in a parody of that video.

The new project is the brainchild of former MTV and CBS Radio executive Rob Barnett. The site has signed on comedian and Simpsons’ star Harry Shearer (who also writes for Huffington Post), musical genius Don Was, comedian Paul Reiser and filmmaker David Wain. Shearer has already contributed a funny clip in which he plays Dick Cheney (in a suit and very convincing prosthetic makeup) and sings a torch song about Scooter Libby.

Will these new sites succeed? I have no idea. But the site that wins will do two things: it will make it easy for people to effectively distribute its video, and it will be funny — and the second of those is by far the hardest.

Drudge the king-maker for online news

Via a post by my friend Paul Kedrosky I found out that the Drudge Report is responsible for one quarter — a whopping 25 per cent — of all inbound traffic to some of the leading British news sites, including The Guardian, the BBC, the Independent and the Telegraph. That’s a mind-boggling number.

It comes from a study of British online news sites by Neil Thurman, a researcher at City University in London. To put that Drudge figure in perspective, the site (according to Nielsen/NetRatings at least) accounted for more traffic than Google, Google News and Yahoo News combined.

Pretty impressive — even if Drudge does inflate its page views by forcing the site to reload every three minutes.

Update:

Martin Hofmann points out in the comments that the Drudge figure is based on a single month worth of traffic from more than two years ago.

Video: Arrington keynote at mesh 2007

As some of you may know, one of the highlights of mesh 2007 for me was the chance to sit down with my friend Mike Arrington from TechCrunch for a “keynote conversation” (as we call them at mesh) on the future of media. Thanks to the tireless efforts of video wizard Mark Mckay and the folks at mDialogue, there is a video of the entire keynote available at Google Video.

In the keynote, Mike talks about when he first realized TechCrunch.com could be a real business, why it’s less work to be first with a news story, what he thinks traditional media need to do to succeed online, why it pays for bloggers to get under his skin a little from time to time, and what he really thinks of Ted Murphy and the gang at PayPerPost.com.

 

Video: the bizarre stylings of Tay Zonday

Who is Tay Zonday? Who the heck knows. But in my eternal quest to bring you the Internet’s finest moments (among other things) I feel compelled to share with you this video of him singing his smash Web hit, Chocolate Rain, which as far as I can tell appears to be a cryptic song about racism set to an incredibly irritating and yet somehow catchy keyboard loop.

As with many things, from Lolcatz to the “All your base are belong to us” meme, the Chocolate Rain thing has been fueled by sites like 4chan.org, which exist purely to irritate the rest of the Internet in as many ways as possible. As for Tay, he’s got a weird kind of infantile geek thing going, like a cross between Michael Jackson and Urkel. And he makes weird faces. But for some reason, it has caught on — over 2 million people have watched the video.

 

K. Paul Mallasch on local journalism

After my recent posts on hyper-local journalism as well as NowPublic and the failure of Backfence, I got some comments from K. Paul Mallasch, a former Gannett journalist who runs a small, local “citizen journalism” or “networked journalism” site called MuncieFreePress.com in Muncie, Indiana. We exchanged emails about the failure of Backfence and about the right way to do local media, and I thought it was worthwhile excerpting some of his comments here (which he graciously agreed to let me do).

When it comes to local journalism and media sites, he says, there are two camps. One is:

“Those (like BackFence, NowPublic, etc.) who are trying to use the ‘big media’ (big business) approach to this problem – throw a lot of money at the problem, buy other properties, expand at a terrific rate, etc.”

K. Paul says that his site and some others that have had some success, such as Baristanet, are a very different kind of model — a more grassroots, ground-up model that lets the community determine what a site will be about:

“Me, H20town, Baristanet, iBattleboro, and others fall into the other camp, I think. We don’t really have a business plan per se. I joked a while back that I follow the Craig Newmark school of business customer service, customer service, customer service.”

Mallasch also says that he thinks print — perhaps counter-intuitively — is one additional tactic that hyper-local sites can use to nab audiences:

“One of my short term goals to increase cash flow is to start-up a print component (free, weekly tabloid reverse-reverse published from website content.) There’s another 5 to 10 years worth of (big) revenue in print … at least.”

“One of the things that stands out about BackFence is that they vehemently insisted they were an ‘online only’ product [but] print will bring much needed revenue as well as serve as a marketing vehicle for MuncieFreePress.com.”

K. Paul also says that he wants to raise money from the site, but primarily to compensate his contributors:

“As a case in point, over the weekend, I received a batch of photos from a volunteer firefighter in one of the communities I cover… Anyway, he’s volunteered to ‘take assignments’ and is supplying me with a lot of great content.

And he’s just one. I want to pay him (and the others) for their efforts. (If NowPublic were smart, this would be number one on their plate – it would take them way ahead of others out here…)”

Mallasch also says that while “a corporate approach will probably be one of the first to ‘succeed’ on paper (and get mentioned in big media), people like me and the hundreds of others who are taking the grassroots approach will still be around, I think.”

Thanks for your thoughts, K. Paul — much food for thought in there.