Friday, July 25, 2008

July 25th - articles of interest on the web

I've decided I need to start recording some of the stuff that I come across on other blogs and such. So, today is the first installment of my new "articles of interest" series. Basically there are tons of people talking about online video and I can't seem to always get to post about each one. So, here I'll just put links to articles that perhaps later on I'll come back to and blog about. We'll see. Other than that, it is basically a way for people to see what others are saying about that I think could be useful down the line, but so far, these are just articles that piqued my interest so I thought I'd share!

Are You Ready to Give Up Cable TV for Internet Video?
Wade Rousch, World Wide Wade
I actually started writing a long response to this in the comments section but decided to cut it short and put the full comment here on my own blog. So here goes:

I completely agree with Wade, but I have to say being a major TV junkie I can't seem to quit my cable habit. Sure, I'm spending well over $1k to my cable company each year (I too have the bundle)and no doubt I will somehow garner enough courage. I think I keep coming back to cable for these three reasons:

First, I like the mind numbing effect of turning the TV on and bearing with whatever is on the screen. Sure it doesn't sound glamorous, but I have to admit, on a Saturday morning I'll usually point my guide to VH1 and sit back for a few hours while I read my Us Weekly or New York Magazine and enjoy. Granted this is not active viewing, but I enjoy the glow of my HD set as I zone in and out of yet another episode of Food Network Challenge or House Hunters.

Second, and perhaps most importantly is the element of comfort. I love my couch. I like to watch TV on my couch point a remote at it and change it at will instead of sitting at my desk or having a hot laptop on my lap surfing around for something more to watch on a smaller screen. As my adviser said to me once "I have to make decisions all day, when I go home and turn on the TV I don't have to make any decisions about what I am going to watch or search for something. It just happens" (Of course, I'm paraphrasing a bit, but you get the idea).

Finally, I'm not there yet! I still find myself watching the "edited for content/formatted for your television" versions of The Princess Bride and Legally Blonde simply because they are on TV despite the fact that I own the DVDs. I sit through the ads, I endure the cleaned up language and deleted scenes, why? because it is convenient.

Watching online requires more energy and Clearly, I am not there yet, but I will be. So while I might enjoy watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Fiddler on The Roof on, I will still pay my astronomical cable bill because I can't kick my TV habit. I'm thinking I'll get there, but until then I will have to settle for not being an early adapter and keep my cable box warmly in my entertainment unit until something new comes along that is an offer I can't refuse.

Taxonomy of online video - web intended content

In a previous post I created three distinct categories of online content. Here I want to flesh out the 2nd category: Web intended content. Here's what I had to say about that:

Web intended: This type of video is more difficult and most definitely varies the most in terms of style elements and production values. Web intended content includes the following types of video which are produced both by amateurs and professionals: First, I want to support my rationale for not breaking down the barrier between amateurs and professionals. There tends to be an over emphasis of the term user-generated. I even use it once above. However, in our current state of web video we cannot clearly define who the user is. Previously the user might have been a web savvy Jane Doe who wanted to make a cute music video of her niece dancing to Beyonce. But then, let's take that a step further when Joe Schmo submits a video to ABC's America's Funniest Home Videos and then a viewer likes what she sees and she subsequently records that video and places it up on YouTube like the the one below:

Here we have a user-generated home video that before the dawn of the Internet might have only made its way to our homes via America's Funniest Videos (which incidentally was formerly called America's Funniest HOME Videos back in the day), but now we can watch this little tot shake her booty time and time again. However, it has this added element of the voice-over commentary from the AFV host and the canned audience laughter. It adds a different element and we no longer can call it simply user-generated. Here's another twist to add to this dilemma - on AFV's website they have a video of two cats and one falls off. It is dumb! There is no added production values, just us watching a video of cats. So, here we have a website of a TV show that features "user-generated" videos with us watching one of said videos and it isn't one that is part of the show (I can only assume that because of the lack of laugh track, etc. from the other clip). Anyway, if it seems like I am talking in circles it is mostly because I am. The distinction here between TV show, web clip and home video is blurry and tough to muddle through.

Returning to my original thought of teasing out the concept of UGC (user-generated content) the term implies that the user is part of the general public and not a professional. Yet with advertising firms and production companies using the UGC aesthetic to make their promotional materials seem like part of the mainstream (see my previous post on viral video ads) it becomes difficult to separate the general public from the content producers attempting to sway or influence that general public.

So, here I'm claiming that the line between an amateur and a professional are blurred. Not only are professionals adapting and implementing elements of the amateur, the amateur is more informed and has more technology at their finger tips than ever before. This trend is only going to keep the once parallel paths of content creation merging ever closer until we have a product that is ambiguous at best and essentially a hybridization.

One of the first of these hybrids was under the guise of lonelygirl15. A young girl named Bree came onto the YouTube scene back in 2006 with her vlog about her life in a boring small town.

She became very popular and had hundreds of thousands of subscribers when other users were onto her. "Bree" was nothing more than an actress hired by three aspiring screenwriters to tell a fictional story about a young girl. Even the NY Times and NBC's Nightly News covered the story. Here we have what looks to be a vlog and in reality is a carefully orchestrated and produced web series. This show was popular because it played with the Vlog genre of web videos and turned it into a serialized story telling device by a set of producers and writers. But, how far from reality is this example? Many people that Vlog could be embellishing or creating worlds of their own to share on YouTube. Either way, this video was successful at bringing the two arms of web-intended content together - the amateur and the professional.

Here is another great (and hilarious!) example of what I mean.
Will Farrel's "The Landlord"
See more Will Ferrell videos at Funny or Die

Clearly this is professionally made but it tries to look amateur-ish with the use of camera angles and grittiness of the picture. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay then take this to the next level by offering a "DVD extras" style commentary on their little video. The commentary seems to poke fun at both the look of it - "some people thought it took us 45 minutes to shoot this, it actually took 45 days" - and the contrived production element of the video.

See more Will Ferrell videos at Funny or Die

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Jimmy Fallon practincing online!

I just came across this post on and thought it was pretty interesting. Jimmy Fallon is set to replace Conan O'Brien when he fills Jay Leno's spot next Spring. So, what this blog post on Perez Hilton says is that Fallon is going to be practicing his show online. At 12:30 each weeknight there will be a mini episode (5-10 min) of Jimmy Fallon. This is so bizarre to me, why do they want us to see all of his bumps and bruises. I guess really it is like a frugal and resourceful grandmother, using all parts of the chicken. I guess if there is money to be made, executive producer Lorne Michaels wants to make sure he takes advantage of it. Still, will it be worth it to watch and if it is, could this be a sign of things to come - online late night talk shows? Hmmm... interesting indeed!

Here's an article from Wired on the subject.

Friday, July 18, 2008

"Search or Discover"

I stumbled upon this older article (4/4/07) and thought it had a very interesting discussion on the way people access the various different types of Internet video. In the article, Aaron Goldman discusses the TV Guide Online Video search and the difference between those who search for content and those who discover. Goldman doesn't not afford an answer of which occurs more, but his brief article sheds some light on the ways in which people are accessing and using Internet videos.

Here's a link to the article - read it for yourself and tell me what you think.

"When It Comes to Video, Do Consumers Want To Search Or Discover?" by Aaron Goldman (Media Post Publications, April 4, 2007).

In my own searching and discovering I think that you cannot place these two verbs into separate corners. Maybe I'll be searching for something only to discover something else along the way which leads me to another search to find more like it.

Here's an example of what I mean: I was trying to figure find out more about David Wain for my previous post about In so doing I found his homepage - the result of my search. But there I discovered something, he was on The State. I loved that show! I completely forgot that is where he began his career (or at least when I became familiar with him). So, I immediately opened another tab in my Firefox browser and went to to see if there were any clips from The State and there were - I was so happy to see some of the sketches again. Here are a few highlights. Although, my favorite sketch about Doug are nowhere to be found.

"The Teacher's Lounge"

"$240 worth of pudding - aw yeah!"

After watching a few of the clips on YouTube, I went back to The State's website and clicked around to find out that the episodes have been compiled onto DVD. There was a link for an article in Filter magazine about the group and how they began. Finally I saw a link pertaining to a movie called The Ten that the cast had starred in with other notable celebs including Jessica Alba called. After viewing the trailer I paused and noticed just how far off track I had gone from my original query about MyDamnChannel. So, again, I don't think you either search for or discover these videos. I think a lot of the time it is both!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Creating a taxonomy of online video

Creating some kind of map as to the various taxonomy of online video content is one of the major goals of my research project this summer. As I was starting to come up with concise and definitive categories of content it dawned on me how self-reflexive and aware content producers have become. It seems that each new viral video is a comment or hybrid formulation of the genres that came before. Nevertheless, it is important to have the basics down and to be able to define the elements that create each particular genre of online video.

As I see it there are three major types of online video content:
1. Pre-aired: Short for previously aired or distributed. This includes all of the streaming TV shows and movies as well as the downloadable forms of these programs. This content can be broken down into two types:
  • Legal content: Includes ad-supported, streaming video, pay to rent or pay to own downloadable content (i.e. iTunes service, unbox, etc.), and downloaded video players (i.e. Joost) that delivers TV and film content
  • Illegal, pirated content (P2P sites and torrents)
2. Web intended: This type of video is more difficult and most definitely varies the most in terms of style elements and production values. Web intended content includes the following types of video which are produced both by amateurs and professionals:
  • Home videos
  • User-generated mash-ups
  • Vlogs
  • Webisodes
  • Instructional videos
  • Short Films (i.e. content on Babelgum)

3. Captured content
  • news footage
  • TV clips
In the upcoming posts on this blog I will be working through these various categories and genres out as I attempt to culminate this online video mining experience.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My Damn Channel

I've been reading a lot of articles lately and compiling a list of all the various original video content websites are out there. I have quickly discovered there are more than I ever thought there might be and to be honest, upon first view, there are a lot of strange ones out there!

The one I wanted to discuss quickly in this post is My Damn Channel. This site is home to an entertainment studio that allows artists free reign on how they create and produce their content. In their "about us" video, they stress the random celebrity artists (Coolio, Harry Shearer and David Wain to name the more notable) and the lack of a network presence. Well, you can tell! There seems to be no filter and some of this stuff is purely bizarre.

Featured on the homepage is an episode of Harry Shearer's "Found Objects" program. This particular episode is 9 minutes of footage of Laura Ingraham on her since canceled Fox News show called "Just In." I think the point was to show this right-wing political pundit as being a diva and rude. However, the video speaks more to her desire for things to be accurate and handled properly. Several of the comments on this page mention similar sentiments. In sum, the footage is actually really boring and hardly a scandalous exposé of any kind. Maybe I'm not getting it, but I just thought it was dumb.

Actually the clips I found to be the most humorous were in the "You Suck at Photoshop" series. It is part comedy, part instructional video. The instructional online video is very interesting because it usually involves novices or non-experts demonstrating how to do things. Obviously, it doesn't take a leap of the imagination to take these from serious to satire, but it does however take a bit to make it actually funny. This guy Donnie is so self-deprecating and angry, but yet you really do learn something when you watch it. This series was nominated for 7 Webby Awards - seems that this 'little' how-to video has made quite a splash. See what you think...

To be honest, I don't even know what to think about "Cookin' With Coolio" - it is truly bizarre and borderline surreal. He has women in hot pants in the kitchen while he's cooking egg rolls.

No more prime time?

So, I'm a bit behind The Times, but I just came across this article in the NY Times by Brian Stelter from May 12. He writes about how there 6 million fewer people watching prime time TV this year than last year (according to ratings from this year's "May sweeps"). The article goes on to attribute this not to the writer's strike, but to the increase in use of DVR's and streaming online video. I find this figure interesting now (2 months later) because it quantifies and demonstrates just how rapid this change in how people watch television. Stetler calls it "time-shifting" - a term used first (it appears) in a book by Rechtschaffen in 1997.

One consultant, quoted in this article says that the increasing amount of time-shifting will mean the end of the network's "lineup." Woah! That got me to thinking... what if the "lineup" did go away, or more importantly if the viewer created their OWN lineup? There is so much that goes into creating a "lineup" and so many things that a "lineup" says about a show and a network's confidence (or lack thereof) of how it will perform in its time slot. When a show shifts to Friday or Saturday night after having a Thursday night spot, that is usually a cue that the show is a season away from being cancelled.

Aside from all that this article does beg the question that I've been dealing with all summer - how is TV online going to affect TV? With 6 million viewers missing the writing is on the wall that networks need to sit up and pay attention to what is happening online. And, impressively, it appears that they have done just that. By offering their programming for free online through their network sites,, etc. the networks have met the demand of their finicky and demanding audiences. We really can watch almost anything at almost anytime... as long as we have an Internet connection.

Despite my new found love for and my increasing tendency to watch online, it will not replace my television anytime soon. My TV is so lovely and so brainless. On a quiet Saturday at home I can turn on the Food Network and know that I'll be at least mildly entertained and I don't have to go searching or be hunched over a small screen and keyboard. I can simply lounge and watch. So, until they make it even easier than watching TV, I don't think I will be 100% converted and taken away from my TV set and cable box.

The minds who churn out this technology know this about me (well, maybe not me specifically, but audiences in general) and are making strides toward making online streaming and viewing as easy as sitting down on our favorite couch and watching mindlessly. With SlingBox, AppleTV, TiVo, DVR's, NetFlix on XBox, and many other advances we're getting closer to being able to surf our favorites shows online from the comfort of our couches and on our TV sets.

OnDemand channels and DVR's are the training wheels. The technology and capabilities are advancing quickly and it looks like only more change is around the corner as we get better quality videos on and advertisers seeing online video content as being nearly as important as broadcast content. The future is upon us, so sit back and enjoy the 15 second ads.

Monday, July 14, 2008

"Viral video" ads

I have discovered that the ways in which advertisers use of web video is a very large and nuanced topic of interest in the world of video content on the Internet. So, bear with me as I tackle one incident. To be sure there will be more posts on this topic as I attempt to chip away at this monolith as I continue to understand the mystical world of online video.

This past week I was watching CNN and they were talking about a "viral video." Now, before I continue, I find this term "viral video" to be very humorous because for me its original meaning connotes an authentic discovery of something that is passed along to friends out of a desire to share something curious, funny, or unique. However, in the hands of advertisers who produce it for the sole purpose of becoming viral, well, the authenticity is lost. Authentic here implies that the content producer/distributor of the viral video has no designs to create a "viral video." Perhaps I am nostalgic for 2005 and showing my age.

So, back to the report I saw on TV. They were discussing how advertisers are using techniques and aesthetic elements of amateur web videos to create a buzz around their own product. The funny thing about this report was that they noted how the video does not make it clear what the product is that is being advertised. Below is the video I am talking about.

It essentially makes the claim that when you put a bunch of cell phones together and make them ring, you can make popcorn pop. Umm... yeah, I don't get it either. How could anyone believe this? Well, evidently people did and Wired tackled the task of explaining the impossible physics behind the video. Perhaps I'm jilted, so, suspending my disbelief, I move forward. If these cell phones ARE able to do this, why then would I want to put that microwave producing, popcorn popping device up to my ear or in my pocket?! Seems more like a warning sign and not an advertisement. Well, as it turns out, that is just what the advertisers wanted me to think because this "viral video" was created for a company that makes bluetooth headsets! Tricky, tricky!

I digress, the point of this post is to see a snapshot of the "cleaver" and different ways in which Madison Avenue is getting in on the YouTube game and creating content specifically to convince the viewer that s/he is not watching a commercial.

Another good example of this is a BMW ad that was also reported on CNN - this time though, it was created to resemble a documentary film about a small town in Bavaria. The video is called Rampenfest and was directed by Jeff Schultz. At about 30 minutes in length, this was very difficult to watch and keep my attention. It looks beautiful though and has all the makings of a true indie documentary film. However, when I watched it I knew it was an extended ad for BMW. Yet, I would like to believe that I would not have fallen for the trick and thought it was a real documentary. The actors are so odd and there are three characters who I think are played by the same person. Either way, it seems as though BMW was attempting to create a smart, funny piece to appeal to a younger, web-savvy audience. I'm not sure that it accomplished this, but it did get some press coverage, which is usually a secondary goal of these so-called "viral videos."

The below video is essentially a trailer for this online video:

On the same report from CNN, there was another story about an video that features JCPenny's new "Today's the Day" ad campaign. In the clip the two teens (a boy and a girl) time themselves in their separate bedrooms as they practice putting their clothes back on. Not only are we seeing mostly naked teens, the video seems to promote and even demonstrate a way in which they can "get away with it." The clip ends with the boy arriving at the girl's home as the girl announces to her mom that the two of them are going downstairs to watch a movie. The clips ends with "today is the day to get away with it." The controversy erupted soon after it was put live and has since been taken down in most places JCPenny claims that it had nothing to do with the video while others remain skeptical. After all, we are talking about JCPenny as a result, aren't we?

As an aside, here is an interesting article (from 2007) on the cost of making viral videos. I would be curious to see what these figures look like today.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The First Dance

TLC has a knack for making a "reality show" out of anything. Rock the Reception is no exception.

I am a big huge stereotype when it comes to being a single girl and obsessing about weddings. I have thought about it since I was a little girl, I romanticized it in my early 20s and still haven't kicked the habit of checking out people's registries and wedding websites as I get closer to my 30s. TLC knows who I am and knows that I am not the only one. They have a full slate of what I call milestone "reality" programming - A Dating Story (no longer on the air), A Wedding Story, A Baby Story. Then head over to the Style Network and you have Whose Wedding Is It Anyway? , I Propose, and 21 Day Wedding Party. Even the We Network has their share (Platinum Weddings, Bridezillas, and Rich Bride Poor Bride). It is stating the obvious to claim that weddings have spiralled out of controll and there is no wonder why my obsession with weddings has lasted longer than maybe it should have.

So, what does this have to do with the web? Well, here it is. I was doing my daily morning ritual of checking and saw the banner ad for TLC's new show Bikini or Bust. I thought it might be a new weight loss show (that's a whole other blog post!) but it wasn't. What I did find when I arrived at the TLC website was an announcement for another show which I will be SURE to tune into - Rock the Reception. When clicking on the image on the main homepage it took me to a bigger version of that announcement with little other information. I felt cheated and went to Google to find out more. What ensued was a half hour of fun choreographed wedding dance videos!

Much like the office pranks I spoke of earlier, this is another sect of the amateur videos gone professional when we take a look at the vast array of what is out there for my enjoyment. Segments of the show have leaked to the Internet (which is interesting - who would have thought there would be that much interest in a show like this to bring people to post spoilers!) Yet there are those tried and true ones of actual weddings (not produced for a TV show) where the cameras are rolling and the bride is grooving. One of the more awkward examples is of this young bride and her father during their special dance when all of a sudden they break into the NKOTB The Right Stuff dance. Honestly, this is more bizarre than entertaining.

The first of these I saw was in link form sent to me by one of my best friends over 6 months ago. It is hilarious - the spontaneity of it, the sheer surprise, definitely a classic. Now, at two different weddings that took place just last month, brides and grooms are creating their own interpretation of "The Evolution Of Dance" during their special first dance. Those are truly bizarre and uncomfortable.

For me, I prefer more talent then creepy factor. The people who participated in Rock the Reception clearly have some moves (or at least one half of the couple does) and the choreographers are able to pull that out and the result are some fun videos. Here is one of my favorites, partly because the bride seems more awkward and the groom seems to really be into the music. Not to mention, I really like this song and thought it was fun that all of the bridal attendants were in on the fun.

For years people have been claiming that weddings are turning into to big of a production and that costs are out of control and now here we have an example of an actual production. In this scenario, the bride and groom are the entertainment at their own wedding. While not a foreign concept since the clinking of glasses forces the newlyweds to lock lips upon command of any wedding guest. But this is different. This is literally a production number, choreography, music, costumes even (check out the bride's tear away gown in the one below!)

Rock the Reception is set to premiere on July 15th on TLC at 8:30. The show stars Tabitha and Napoleon D'Umo (who are also currently choreographing the summer hit So You Think You Can Dance on Fox) who teach and choreograph engaged couples an exciting dance number that often times can involve the entire wedding party. The elaborate dance number is always a surprise to unsuspecting guests, but for the most part it seems to be well done and lots of fun.
Update: Here's the NY Times review of the show.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"You're going to make it after all!"

Despite being 38 years late to the party, The Mary Tyler Moore Show is officially one of my "shows." I find myself watching it every chance I get - all thanks to

Now, since I am a student of Television, I can say that I have previewed a bit of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and most certainly understand its importance from a historical and academic point of view, but all that aside, it is just a really good show. And to quote my favorite professor - "it really holds up!" has tapped into something that is important when assessing the current Internet video landscape - old TV shows. Think about it, if the random computer user went onto Google and typed in The Mary Tyler Moore Show today they would get a link to access which in turn would take them to 3 complete seasons of the program - all for free and all legal. Besides it being legit, it is also so easy to use and it's design is attractive.

Back in March of 2007, NBC Universal and News Corp announced a partnership to create a website that would allow users to view quality content for free. This ad supported site would include popular television programs as well as full length feature films. Finally in October 2007, the beta site for launched and there were rave reviews! Today many still find Hulu to be the out in front favorite for streaming TV content despite the fact that not all of the major networks have climbed aboard. Despite that fact if you type in a CBS program such as Swingtown Hulu will direct you to the website.

The other cool thing about is that you can embed entire episodes onto your own website (see below!) Also, if I wanted to tell you about a particular portion of the show, allows me to pare down the show and embed just that portion. Again, pretty cool.

But really for me, the best part is all the shows on I love that there old shows on there that I can watch whenever and wherever I want. I mean, honestly, where else can I (with a conscious - i.e. not stealing/pirating) watch an episode of The Dick van Dyke Show, Alf or The Office, I can just go to

Admittedly, I've stumbled upon this site because of my research project, however, with the lackluster summer TV lineup I found myself last night watching a couple of episodes of MTM Show despite the fact that a Food Network Challenge (Birthday Cake Surprise) was on my TV.

Which brings me to the big question in this hodgepodge of a post - Are people more inclined to watch reruns online rather than new (yet fluffier) summer fare on their TVs? Well, if the chart from is any indication, perhaps this is the case.

In this graph we see the four major networks websites compared with As a researcher, I cannot in good faith make ANY conclusions about this except to say that traffic has increased in the last few months since the season finales aired. The graph is comparing the network websites not the viewership of the television networks themselves. That said, I'm wondering if because the content on the TV channels is not garnering interest, the same rolls over to the websites and therefore, online viewers who usually watch their shows from the network homepages are not doing so as much when their shows were in season. Whereas, the viewers are remaining steady. What would be more interesting is if the line increased at the same rate that the others decreased. That is not the case here, obviously.

So, these are some of the things I've been thinking about today. Enjoy and be sure to let me know what you think. In the coming week I'll be discussing more about the various online destinations for TV content as well as places for original web content. It is truly amazing (also exhausting) to know how many options there are out there!