• 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Creating an Original Video Series

    Following is a contributed post by Frank Besteiro, VP and Head of Business Development & Partnerships, The AOL On Network. VideoNuze will consider contributed posts that are educational for video industry colleagues. Please contact me to learn more.

    5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Creating an Original Video Series
    by Frank Besteiro

    Over the past few years, the online video industry has evolved from a wild west of user-generated content and repurposed TV clips to one of the most exciting and buzzed about parts of the web. Major players like Amazon and Netflix have drawn attention by betting big on star-studded series that encourage viewers to indulge in marathon-style viewing. At the same time, media companies with their heritage in print and TV have been turning out innovative and highly produced content that engages their audiences in new ways.

    Though there’s no denying that it is still early days, there’s also sense of urgency in the industry borne of the fact that the ultimate winners in video will be those that get in the game early, experiment and start building a loyal fanbase. It’s for this reason that most online publishers who haven’t gotten into the game yet and are wondering if it’s time to jump onto the original series bandwagon. As someone who spends his days with the biggest names in the industry, I can tell you that this path isn’t for the faint of heart. Even though the potential payoffs are high, building a quality series and cutting through the noise is a major undertaking. Here are 5 questions every publisher should ask themselves before jumping into the fray.

    Do I already have a few video projects under my belt?

    Multi-episode original series are time- and resource-intensive and you’re well-advised to have mastered -- or at least experimented -- with more basic forms of online video before jumping in. If this is your first foray into video, start with a few 101 formats like how-to videos, product demos or live interviews. You may find that your strategy and approach need some fine-tuning before you head to the big leagues.

    Do I have a strong understanding of what my audience wants?

    If you’re going down the original series road, the importance of having a strong voice cannot be overstated. Finding this voice starts with an understanding of your audience and what they’re looking for. So do your homework at the outset -- conduct market research, hold focus groups and get inside the mind of your target audience to understand what makes them tick and why they would want to watch your show. If you’re a publisher whose legacy is in print or broadcast, it’s important to make your videos feel like a natural extension of the content your audience expects. For inspiration, look no further than Glamour magazine. The iconic Conde Nast brand regularly garners millions of views for each of episode of its regular series by delivering the irreverent sense of humor and lifestyle advice the magazine is known for. In Elevator Makeover, two experts make over an unsuspecting New Yorker while sharing fashion and beauty advice. Even the scripted series The Single Life is infused with the kind of dating tips and advice readers have come to expect.

    Does this integrate with content I’m producing on other platforms?

    If your core business is in print media or TV, it’s important to avoid making video feel like an afterthought. If your brand is already associated with characters people know and love, don’t be afraid to leverage them online. Launched in 2012, PBS Digital Studios has launched 15 original series on YouTube, many of which build off beloved characters from the broadcaster is known for. Fan favorite Mr. Rogers got the auto-tune treatment as part of their Icons Remixed series and has already racked up nearly 1M views.

    Can a video series help inform other areas of my business?

    Video can also be a great testing ground for TV. It’s the perfect place to experiment with more ambitious projects or any series that hasn’t been greenlit for TV production. Showtime and Adult Swim have used this method for Web Therapy and Childrens Hospital, respectively, and the CW recently launched CW Seed, a digital studio churning out shows like BackpackersHusbands and Gallery Mallory.

    Do I have a solid marketing and distribution plan in place?

    Failure to think beyond production or set aside budget for a proper marketing campaign is probably the single biggest mistake I see people make. The days of slapping something on YouTube and hoping that it goes viral are long gone. In addition to traditional marketing efforts, consider content partnerships, syndication deals and PR if you want to rack up the views. And, if your series features talent who already have an online following, it’s essential that they’re on board with promoting it via their social media channels.

    Despite the fact that video is starting to cement its reputation as a lucrative and powerful form of media, I still see many publishers try to get in the game with a half-hearted effort. The bottom line is that the landscape is incredibly crowded and viewers have more options available to them than ever before. Only the best series will rise to the top, so think it through before throwing your hat into the ring.