Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Original Content on the Web Does Work

The thudding failure of the online-born “quarterlife” original series on network television Tuesday night, garnering some of the worst ratings in NBC’s history (after experiencing a declining Internet audience too), was loudly touted yesterday as a possible impediment to online-to-offline dreams of original-content creation that Hollywood has been nurturing.

Well, it’s not. One show, which just did not work, is in no way representative of a trend, any more than the box-office failure of the movie “Snakes on a Plane” meant online marketing and hype was finished.

The Wall Street Journal’s excellent Jessica Vascellaro wrote a great piece today on the subject of online content creation, focusing on social-networking efforts, such as Bebo’s “KateModern,” an original online show from the creators of “lonelygirl15,” as well as stuff being made by MySpace and others.

The goal is to keep users more engaged. More importantly, it is to fight the continued audience attraction to user-generated videos on YouTube, which is owned by Google (GOOG). It dominates the online video market, as you can see from this chart below (click on it to make it larger).

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BoomTown has written about the Bebo hit several times (including a video visit to Bebo’s HQ in London last summer and an interview with a “KateModern” producer in November, both seen below), as it represented the right way to start to develop original online content.

And that would not include pulling some failed television pilot out of a drawer, making it on the cheap, cutting it up into shorter segments and slapping it online.

Instead, true success–besides the material actually being good, which should be a given–requires the content to be interactive, pioneer new filming techniques and be made specifically for the medium, using its tools, rather than being shoehorned into it.

“KateModern,” for example, has been changeable by the second by its audience and the creators have moved the action along with startling speed.

But it still has someone professionally producing it. Set in East London, it follows a “troubled young art student named Kate and her three closest friends: an Australian wild-child named Charlie, a young entrepreneur named Tariq and a mischievous computer whiz-kid named Gavin.”

As The Journal’s Vascellaro correctly writes: “Past efforts by Web companies to turn themselves into online versions of television networks have been hampered by the difficulty in changing ingrained consumer habits–while people are happy to watch short video clips from time to time, few until recently saw the Web as a forum to follow regular episodes of series. For online-only shows, weak advertiser interest, subpar production quality and lack of promotional muscle were added hurdles.”

Indeed. But that will change quickly.

Here is our too-long video of the visit to Bebo and the interview with “KateModern” producer Pete Gibbons:


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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo