Archive for the ‘media’ Category
The Holy Grail for anyone involved in media has been how to monetize internet entertainment. Independent filmmaker, writer-director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Dogma, and many others) has created his own model for a successful entrepreneurial internet show business enterprise that works for his audience. He has become the ringmaster in a multi-ringed comedy circus that is starting to make real money.
Silent Bob (his movie character) is silent no longer. Starting with a single, free podcast, 3 years ago, he now has a network of over nearly a dozen weekly podcasts, has his own theater to record them live with paying customers, tours the country doing live shows, and that’s just the beginning…
The TV talk show format is moribund, to say the least. Though Conan’s reincarnation on cable is interesting, it is still following the same, boring-ass format everyone else uses that was originally set in the 1960′s. Guests are booked to plug their latest movie/TV show/book/whatever. There are no conversations, hosts read pre-screened questions from cue cards. The few who attempt conversations (like Charlie Rose) tend to be extra-dull or so full of themselves you can’t stomach it for long. It’s not entertaining.
Talk radio, with a few NPR-like exceptions, is no better. If it’s not screaming ideologues from all sides of the political spectrum, it’s infomercials. Maybe a few sports talk hosts attempt actual conversations.
Then came podcasting on Apple iTunes. Free, original, niche, DIY programming.
Regardless of the fact that all Apple cares about is selling you the devices to play podcasts, the tools to create them, and owns the major distribution channel for them, an immense amount of creativity was unleashed – most of it bad, but that was not the point. For virtually no cost, anyone could now create anything they want and have it distributed around the world.
You Tube is similar. But despite all of Google’s as well as many other third party aggregator’s efforts, there still is no easy way to curate and organize the content there. Apple TV, Google TV and others still have not gotten it right. It will happen someday, but has not yet.
Enter Kevin Smith.
I’ve had a lot of respect for Kevin Smith for many years. He has always taken his own path – regardless of the critics (and the box office). And he is funny. Since early 2007, he and his partner/producer Scott Mosier created their own podcast, called SModcast. What began as essentially weekly hour-long two guys sitting around shooting-the-shit, profanity-laced, sometimes gross, humorous conversations where no topic is off-limits, has just had its 150th episode – quite a feat for any show. I started listening about the time they released their third or fourth show.
At the time, Smith had also gotten a reputation for his no-holds-barred, funny, live Q & A sessions at ComicCon and a few other places. A few months after he began SModcast and while I was a VP at Final Draft, we hired him to be our keynote speaker at our Screenwriter’s Showcase. As I was escorting him from the Green Room, I mentioned that I had listened to all the shows and that they were great. He seemed a bit surprised and said, “You’ve listened to them all? ” (As a keynote he killed, BTW)
Since then Smith has slowly expanded this single podcast into a media mini-empire:
- A network of at least 10 regular, free, mostly weekly, different SModcasts, with various characters & associates from Smith’s life (my favorite is Hollywood Babble-On – HBO with Ralph Garman of KROQ/Kevin & Bean Show)
- Live SModcasts and Q & A’s across the country – including Carnegie Hall (Smith travels by bus like a rock band since his Too Fat To Fly Incident on Southwest Airlines)
- Leasing the SModcastle Theater in West Hollywood last summer – where the podcasts are recorded in front of live, admission paying audiences
- In the past month, Hollywood Babble-On & Jay and Silent Bob Get Old have moved to the Jon Lovitz Comedy Club at Universal CityWalk – bigger venue, higher admission cost
The amazing thing is Smith participates in many of the podcasts every week – even while shooting a movie this fall (Red State will premier at Sundance in January). Of course, there is a podcast for the movie, too.
This week four of the shows made the iTunes Best 2010 Podcasts in the Audio category (out of the top 25) – Hollywood Babble-On, Jay and Silent Bob Get Old, Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave, and Highlands: A Peephole History.
Very impressive. And he is making money, too.
Some facts from an interview he recently did for Fast Company:
- SModcastle shows… 50 seats at 10 or 25 bucks a head depending on the show, one or two performances a night, four nights a week, in a place that rents for $4,000 a month
- SModcast gets $2,000 for an advertising spot, with two spots for Adult Toys running in a typical hour
- He performs weddings (SMarriages) at SModcastle for $5,000 each
- There’s plenty of merchandise for sale (of course)
With all this talking, Smith has honed his skills as a talk-show host. Early this month, he recorded an almost 3 hour SModcast with science fiction/fantasy writer Neil Gaiman and Neil’s wife, self-described art chick & member of Dresden Dolls, Amanda Palmer. It was called Starfucking with Kevin Smith.
This is a good example of what 21st Century entertainment can be – especially for talk shows. It is intimate & engaging; targets a niche audience; contains intelligent, witty, adult conversation; and offers interesting music and entertaining readings.
Brilliant. Not your father’s Tonight Show. Definitely not for everyone. But perfect for Kevin Smith. And his audience.
That audience is huge. He has over 1.7 million followers on Twitter (that’s as many people that watch the new Conan most nights). He tweets humorously, obsessively, and interactively. He is a very creative and clever writer and he plays this 140 note instrument very well.
He is a true internet media mogul.
What’s next? Slowly, more multimedia elements – jingles, audio and video clips, etc. – are being incorporated into the shows (even though you can’t see the clips on a podcast). Perhaps someday they will begin video podcasting. Now that will be interesting…
Smith seems to be having a ball running the whole deal. He loves talking & entertaining people. He can geek out when he wants to. He is making a living creating an entertainment product that a lot of people enjoy. He is doing it his way and making money. That’s what every internet entrepreneur strives to do.
Update – Monday Jan 24, 2011
It was no surprise to hear Smith’s announcement after the Red State premier at Sundance last night that he was going to self-distribute the movie under the Smodcast Pictures banner. Many people immediately jumped on him calling ‘bullshit’ while others applauded.
I think that is a logical progression that evolved naturally given what he has accomplished in the last few years.
As he says, Indie 2.0 (as he terms it) is going back to the past business model when movies went from town-to-town as part of a larger road show. He will have value-adds at every performance (Q & A’s, other Smodcast celebs, artifacts from movies) and – no surprise – ticket prices will be considerably higher. His fans will consider it a great bonus and he will probably succeed.
Anybody can make a movie… What we aim to prove is that anybody can release a movie now as well.
Anybody with almost 2 million Twitter followers should be able to do so. He’s worked hard to develop his audience and now he will reap the rewards. His is a ringmaster of his own circus.
It will also be interesting to see how he reacts when it is pirated.
Over the last few months, I have been blogging about my adventure in getting my buddy & independent musician Jimmy Z on iTunes Ping.
I was asked to condense all my tribulations into one long article that is now posted on Michael Brandvold’s great Music Marketing site, here.
BTW – Michael’s site has lots of great resources & suggestions for independent musicians.
From the earliest days of video games and CD-ROMs, Silicon Valley and Hollywood have attempted to work together. Many hundreds of thousands of words later, we’re still trying to work it all out.
Super talent-agent Ariel Emanuel, CEO of William Morris Endeavor (the inspiration for the character Ari in the show Entourage) spoke last week at the Web 2.0 Summit. His client, Julia Boorstin (from CNBC) interviews him on topics ranging from a discussion of the future of content distribution to how Steve Jobs got over on the music labels to piracy to monetizing via going direct.
Content is the asset… Content creators are the assets.
I don’t care what (content) costs, I care what its worth.
Apple built a great business for Apple. They music companies failed (to build a good business).
Hollywood’s job is to figure out how to create the market for content – or we’ll be just like the music business.
Eleven apps were demo’d, and some great food and a cake from Eco Chef and App creator Bryan Au was served.
One outstanding app that was previewed was from Free2Work.org, in association with anti-slavery group, Not For Sale Campaign. They help keep consumers informed by reporting on corporate hiring practices, especially in their supply chains.
The app will allow consumers to scan bar codes on products and learn the conditions under which the products were made.
A more detailed report can be found here.
[Gina and I also reminisced about our mutual friend Gina Rubattino and hope she is OK, wherever she is]
A few weeks ago, Anne Jordan and Randy Gordon from Northern California ScreenArtists held a networking and panel event at Kerner Studios in San Rafael. The panel focused on the current state of the local production community and what might be done to help encourage its growth and success.
- Diane Baker (moderator) – Actress and Educator
- Debbie Brubaker - award winning Producer
- Rose Duignan - Executive Producer, Kerner Group
- Jack Hanson – Broadcaster, Reporter
- Mikey Kelly – Public Relations Entrepreneur, Broadcaster, Columnist
Though the problems we confront are not unique to us, we have the talent and wherewithal to overcome many of them, if we work together. The whole discussion is worth watching (and all links are included below).
Here is the video second section, notable for Mikey Kelly’s extremely interesting and informative encapsulation of the history of production in the Bay Area. You’ll be surprised at all the innovation milestones and activity that has taken place locally since the very earliest days of filmmaking (especially if you are not from the Bay Area).
Links to videos of the other sections:
On Monday, he came to San Rafael to screen the updated version of his 1987 campy-cult western Straight To Hell Returns at the Christopher B. Smith Film Center.
It is definitely a movie you either love or hate – there is no middle ground. For me, the absolutely absurdity of it makes it worthwhile. Watching Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello, Courtney Love, Dennis Hopper, and the other misfit outlaws on their rampage of killing, looting, and ultra-violence was much sillier this time around.
One thing that stood out to me was the almost complete lack of profanity – so tame compared to what it would be if it was shot today.
This newly restored version has a few added scenes and excellent special effects shots done by Collateral Image.
The question and answer session with Alex was led by the San Rafael’s Film Center’s programmer Richard Peterson. Tod Davies, Alex’s wife, also sat in and commented. Along with some great anecdotes, topics ranged from the long history of the much-used movie’s set, his other movies, George Lucas, Roman Polanski, Sam Pekinpah, Luis Buñel, Charles Bronson, punk rock as a marketing scheme as well as a revolution, surrealism, Christian iconography in movies and art, reality versus dreams in movies, and much more.
Sorry – the sound was recorded a bit low, so you’ll probably have to adjust your volume. Feel free to download.
In my opinion, Jeff Zucker made way too many disastrous personnel and programming decisions during his soon-to-be-over tenure as NBC/Universal President.
Many media blogs and outlets are reporting on a roast held for him yesterday.
The best line I’ve read so far was from Katie Couric ~ Jeff is living proof that Jews may control the media, but that doesn’t mean they’re good at it.
I also think it is funny they roasted him at a lunch and not a dinner.
‘Smut Capital’ a new documentary about San Francisco’s Tenderloin and the porn business during in the early 1970′s, is being funded through Kickstarter.
Through my video store in Marin, I had peripheral involvement with this local industry. It was an interesting time, to say the least… It would be great to see this project funded so we can see the whole story.
Here’s the trailer (NSFW):
Much better than speech-to-text or YouTube auto-captions, SpeakerText converts videos into searchable and clickable transcripts so that can be be used for SEO, social, etc. They do it with a combination of AI & human beings. Brilliant.
Here’s an interview with their CEO and co-founder Matt Mireles on Beet.TV (funny, that they don’t have the SpeakerText transcript…):
SpeakerText video demo:
I find Twitter to be the most powerful aggregator of sheer novelty that humanity has yet possessed…
Speculative novelist William Gibson
I was fortunate to have met him once years ago through our mutual friend, Dr. Timothy Leary.
I saw this animation created by Denstu on Peter Kafka’s Media Memo. Awesome.
As their reporter says “Direct from the Googleplex…” there is now a weekly web series reporting on the top search trends taken from Google Trends.
New Tee Vee comments that “The valuable thing that Google Beat provides is some brief context as to why a particular search term is trending, which is something anyone who regularly checks analytics will appreciate.”
Watching the show, it sounds like someone reporting on the weekly Hollywood Box Office. Do people at Google actually come in on Mondays to check the charts? Will there be a market for search trends in the future?
Here are 15 facts you may not have known about what neutrality on the Internet actually means.
Here are two humorous examples of what creatives have to deal with when discussing projects with producers.
I’ve met too many producers like these. These are not exaggerations.
Cinematographer vs Producer
While most of the media and blogosphere centered on Google and Verizon and their stance on net neutrality and wireless, the MPAA and the Writers Guild are taking sides on other sections of a new FCC proposal.
From the LA Times Technology blog by Jon Healey:
“The main point for the MPAA and its allies is stopping online piracy and imposing the lightest regulatory burden possible on broadband providers. For the Writers Guild, concerns about piracy are balanced against a desire for maximizing outlets for their work. While the major studios in the MPAA may like the idea of paying broadband providers for superior access to Internet users, the Writers Guild sees such online toll lanes as a threat to their ability to compete online.”
I recall in the early days of the Internet, it was compared to the ‘Wild Wild West.” It now looks like everyone wants to appoint their own Sheriff that does their bidding – like the cattle ranchers in the past. No surprise.
Meanwhile – Comcast, my ISP, has raised my cable modem rate by 3%, despite record profits.