Lauren Dobbins Webb is a Los Angeles-based actor, living the dream and coveting pugs. Raised mostly in Atlanta, GA, she went to Macalester College in St. Paul, MN and then traveled to 27 US states and three Canadian provinces with the Missoula Children’s Theatre before landing in LA. She was last seen on stage as Ann Deever in Wasatch Theatrical Ventures production of All My Sons, for which she was awarded an “Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actress in a Drama” award from StageSceneLA. Recent film credits include the short A Blue Uncertain Buzz, currently screening at festivals. Look for her in the soon-to-be-released webseries Secret Millionaires and in upcoming shows at Theatre of NOTE and Improv Olympic. You can keep up with her fairly frequent tweets by following @laurendwebb on Twitter, or read her fairly infrequent blog entries at www.laurendobbinswebb.com
Hey, I made a webseries! Uh…now what?
So you did it. You jumped on the self-production bandwagon, figured out a story, found someone to shoot/shoot you, bribed a friend into letting you use their apartment, coerced some other hungry friends to be in it, and edited something into a (hopefully) cohesive piece that you actually want other people to see. First of all, good for you. If you got to the point where you have a finished product, way to persevere. If you are actually proud of it and want to release it to the Internet for all the world to see, even better. I’m sure SAG is amassing quite a dossier of “New Media Projects” that are never going to see the light of the Interwebs, so I offer my honest congratulations for making work you are proud of.
So…now what? I hear YouTube is popular with the kids these days…
The vastness of the Internet is a mixed bag if you have a web series to distribute. There are so many possibilities, in fact, that research for this article quickly turned into an exponentially growing can of virtual worms. There are many awesome sites that help with web distribution, but I’ve chosen to focus solely on sites that host content as well. Here’s an overview of hosting options to help you find the best home for your work.
Load It Up Yourself
Slapping your new content on YouTube right next to the Surprised Kitten video might seem obvious, but in addition to having your content on the most popular video website on the Internet, you could make some money that way. YouTube’s Partners program offers revenue sharing to accepted applicants through ad revenue or rental streaming fees. The qualifications to apply for the Partners program do require a fairly large already-established viewer base, but you might be able to get around that if you have a contact at YouTube. (Later this month I’ll be back with an interview with the creators of the web series Leaving Bliss, who became YouTube Partners despite not having a gazillion views already…)
Vimeo offers many of the same features as YouTube, with the added perk that you don’t have to wade through as many videos of people’s pets. More of the content on Vimeo seems to be created content, as opposed to look-what-my-kid-did-when-I-turned-on-my-camcorder content. The basic (free) account offers up to 500 MB of storage per week and 1 HD upload per week. They also store and let you download your original file. I personally like the layout and design of Vimeo better – seems to me that Vimeo is to YouTube what Facebook is to MySpace. That analogy only works visually, however – YouTube currently offers much more in-depth viewer and subscriber information than Vimeo does. However, Vimeo doesn’t have ads on their videos. Pick your poison.
Funny or Die is comedy-focused, celebrity-endorsed, and allows users to vote you as “Funny” or…. “Die.” If you get enough people to watch your video, comment, and vote “Funny,” you may get the honor of the much-coveted Funny or Die homepage placement. Be aware that their self-proclaimed audience is males 18-34, so if that isn’t your demographic, you may not get the number of views you would like. As with all content, know your audience.
Blip.tv’s mission is “to make independent Web shows sustainable.” It’s a one-stop shop for hosting, distribution, and marketing, and offers the option of adding advertising and earning 50% of any revenue generated by ads on your show. You can configure your Blip.tv account to automatically cross-post any uploaded videos to a myriad of sites, including YouTube, Vimeo, AOL Video, iTunes, Mefeedia, Facebook, Twitter, and even TiVo. This level of they-do-it-for-you syndication and distribution is part of their goal of helping every reach their Total Potential Audience. Pretty neat, if you ask me.
Dailymotion allows anyone to upload videos, but if you apply and are accepted to the MotionMakers program, you can upload videos files of unlimited length, receive HD encoding, have your videos labeled with a Creative Content badge, and possibly have your videos featured on the Dailymotion homepage. Their embeddable player also has customizable settings, so you have more control over how the embedded video will appear on your site. Dailymotion has a nice assortment of channel tags for original content (Official Content, Motionmakers, Most Visited), which makes it easy for viewers looking for original content to find you. Larger networks, including HBO, Comedy Central, MTV, and Hulu post videos on the site, so someone must be checking it out.
Upload and Cross Your Fingers
KoldCast TV calls itself “The #1 online discovery destination for the best web series on the planet.” It’s a lofty claim, but they do actually screen the uploaded submissions and only post ones they like. If your video is selected, it appears on the KoldCast TV site and is also available via Boxee, a program that allows you to watch content from the Internet on your television. Select KoldCast TV shows are also available on iTunes and Zune. Bragging rights are an added bonus of being selected by KoldCast.
If your video comes in under 5 minutes, you might consider submitting to casting director Bonnie Gillespie’s web distribution channel, where they “strive to provide nothing but top-quality independently-produced content.” They accept content that falls under several different categories, including interview, journal, music, and original characters. The Somebody’s Basement community allows users to rate and comment on your vids, and they provide their own embeddable player.
Prep Your Pitch
In many ways, the web is becoming more like the traditional outlets. TheWB.com, NBC.com, and several other studios and networks have exclusive online content on their sites, but to get your show on a site like these, take the language from Crackle.com, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, as the general rule: “all content requests must be submitted to Crackle via your agency representation.” If you and your pitch are ready to go, have your people call their people. Given the brevity of online attention-spans, you better make it an elevator pitch.
Now is definitely an exciting time to be a self-producing web content creator. With the Streamy awards coming into their third year and festivals such as the New York Television Fest recognizing new media content as eligible for submission to their pilot competition, we can anticipate content for the web and other new media platforms becoming more and more prevalent. And as we continue to figure out how to make money off of our content, the web is our oyster. So stay tuned for the upcoming interview which discusses monetizing your web series, and hopefully this article will help you jump on the bandwagon. Good luck!