south park on the web 2.0 "revolution"

Posted by on Apr 4, 2008 in cinema, media, television, video | 0 comments

Via TilzyTV, see that Stone and Parker have spoofed the web 2.0 scene in a recent episode of South Park. Very funny. Yet, while Josh at Tilzy focused on the WGA and internet stars, I thought the episode brought an interesting situation to the fore which I’ll discuss after the clip:

Josh at TilzyTV notes that in the ep, Kyle says the following, which rings true (one of the great things about South Park- instilling a bit of truth info in the satire):

While the internet is new and exciting for creative people, it hasn’t matured as a distribution mechanism to the extent that one should trade real and immediate opportunities for income for the promise of future online revenue. It will be a few years before digital distribution of media on the internet can be monetized to an extent that necessitates content producers to forego their fair value in more traditional media.

That last sentence is very interesting for two reasons.

First, it’s a fact that professional writers and content creators are not getting involved with online content because there is no money in it yet and because most of the video content online is crap. While there are plenty of passionate content producers entirely willing to create content for the web for little or no money, it simply doesn’t gather an audience that can be sustained. It’s the result of there being no money to create good content (because quality requires time and yes, money) and the fact that so many online producers simply don’t understand or have the skill set that is required to create content of the quality and consistency that will lure big money, and thus the best creative minds and ultimately an audience.

When you create a pilot for traditional media, often with very little money, you have to attain a certain level of quality and entertainment value. You have to make a dollar look like a million. Quality attracts investors and money. This is a reality put into practice by producers of traditional media every day for decades. It is something that is put to the test in theaters everywhere for centuries.

But, it’s a reality that seems to be lost on producers of internet shows. It’s become acceptable to produce crap and use the fact that they had no money as a crutch and a bargaining chip, or as a “look”. Thing is, it never works when it is done in traditional media, so why would it work with online media when the money is coming from the same finite group of investors? It doesn’t. The fact that budgets on reality shows always spiral downward after the first season is one example of that particular money trap.

Yes, there is no doubt that it’s a catch-22, you are expected to create a quality show with no money in order to attract the money to create a quality show that everyone can then make even more money from. That’s how the game is played.

For those who are currently struggling to create content online with no money, this is the 800 pound gorilla in the room: the bar has to be as high as broadcast and cable in regard to production value, creative content, delivery and audience reaction even when you have no money. Just because it’s on the web doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be good. Because that is what the money people are waiting for- quality that they can justify spending money on online shows. And, they simply have not seen it yet from the independent sector.

Which brings us to the second important point: road tested traditional media producers and writers are in the wings, waiting for the money to start flowing. And when and if it does start to flow they will pounce and the money people will gather around them. And, as occurs in the indie TV and film world, those with the current connections will benefit the most.

Alas, the continual drum beat of it only being “a couple of years” until the money starts flowing for online content, I’ve been hearing that for almost ten years now.

We shall see.

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