memes aren’t just a fluke anymore

10 Richest YouTube starts circa Fall 2010distribution, channels and the paradox of choice

a couple weeks ago, i finished putting together an outline of the superfreako business model. we’ll eventually put this into a deck and make that available here and on superfreako.com, but (spoiler alert!) a big part of it assumes that a particular development that many have been predicting for years finally comes to fruition: widespread adoption of truly independent content distribution. we see the coming of this evolutionary shift everywhere we look – Hulu, Netflix, HBO Go, even YouTube – but the harbingers are still more or less monopolized by entrenched powers that be, for the status quo. they do lower the entry level somewhat. as long ago as the fall of 2010, there were already ten independent content creators making over $100,000 per year (according to TubeMogul).

but what about today? well try this on for size: according to Forbes, Rebecca Black made over a $1 million dollars from “Friday”. okay sure, but all that means is that the occasional meme can make some lucky schlubs a nice chunk of change. what about the rest of us? those who have the talent and drive to consistently make decent movies for cheap, but still don’t have access to the kind of money to match our projects? the kind of stuff that’s more than meme but perhaps just shy of television in terms of production values? is there really hope for us or are all the experts wrong?

Google in talks to buy Hulu

well we’re betting there really are opportunities opening up, and that there will be more and better choices for small lean companies as 2011 turns into 2012. we’d like to be in ready and in the right place when those options open up, but what will they look like and how will we take advantage of them? the latter question will all be detailed in that business model deck once we post it – probably 2-3 weeks from now – but how about the former?

it seems to me that the biggest barriers between audiences and their widespread adoption of truly independent content sources are:

the first part is changing pretty quickly. there is more and better independent content appearing on YouTube everyday – and that’s in addition to the brand new YouTube Movies. Shangri-La Entertainment released a feature film on YouTube earlier this year, and YouTubers like Corridor Digital (aka Sam and Niko) and Freddie Wong post content all the time with higher than usual production values and even the occasional non-YouTube star cameo, but is there enough for people to actually want to use YouTube as an alternative to Hulu or Netflix or even regular old TV? not a replacement necessarily but an alternative?

YouTube Moviesand that leads to the second part: paradox of choice. the paradox of choice is a term coined by Barry Schwartz in his book by the same name. in it Mr. Schwartz talks about goals and happiness in a world where the number of choices people have are so unbelievably numerous and that the current abundance of choice often leads to depression and feelings of loneliness. in the world of independent content, this over-abundance of options is pushing audiences away.

so as the quality improves, what’s the solution to this strangling bounty of content?

channels, curators and aggregators. sites, applications or devices that cut through the noise and brings to the audience the content they prefer in a format that’s simple and easy to navigate – in other words, a Netflix for independent content. about a year or so ago i toyed with the idea of starting a site that would act as a kind of curator just like this, but it seemed like a lot of work in a field that isn’t really what we do. we make shorts, commercials and music videos, and hope to make features and episodics – we don’t develop software. we do make sites, but to make something like this would require much much more. plus we looked around and saw Blip.tv, Google TV and a variety of other alternatives and decided that such a site would take a lot of our time and energy away from our other, more familiar pursuits.

regardless, the creation and (more importantly) adoption of channels like these will be the last hurdle for independent content – the holy grail for independent content creators. i’m not shy about how much i like Google. we use Google products for all kinds of things – including pre-production and everything related to administration – and now that Google is trying to buy YouTube, this could be the harbinger of very good things for us. i know i might have said similar things about Google TV, but one of these days i’m bound to be right. even a stopped clock is right twice a day, right?

i’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

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