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The thing I still hear almost everyday when it comes to web series production is what should be the proper length for an episode?
I think that as long as you engage your audience and keep them interested, length shouldn't be an issue. What say you?
Apologies, I assumed profiles when clicked through would include a link to any posted video - http://webseriesnetwork.com/video/lost-anglos-episode-1-clothes
It's not an analogy so much as a theory that some (mostly non-web series viewing) people won't click on an embed because of time investment. Of course it doesn't stop anyone from shutting off a video because they don't like it, but I think a lot of people won't click videos with longer runtimes because they don't want to spend too much time on one thing while they're surfing
The theory is that the lower the running time the higher the likelihood to view. Do you mean that's not true? Would be interested in any statistics/referral to site
To say length does not matter simply ignores the complexity of the marketplace. Whether you are making a feature length movie or a series of short videos you have to figure out how you are going to reach your audience.
To imply that we live in the same media environment today as the one that existed in 2005 is equally wrong. The amount of content on the Web has exploded over the years and discovery needs to be part of a larger strategy.
Now clearly if you have a marketing budget or a major corporation promoting your project then things are a bit different. But how many people here are in that situation? If not, you need to figure out how you are going to reach and grow your audience.
Now if you make an entertaining movie and put it online and it garners cult status for some reason then you may not have to worry. Then again, you might wait a long time before it gets discovered.
Many have found that the way to grow an audience is to start small and build by interacting with their viewers. This is really what made Web series blossom in the first place. It is a well tested model.
If you plan on taking on TV/film with long form content you had better be prepared to deliver at the level of The Newsroom (the topic of the day), Pulp Fiction or Blair Witch to use a few examples. Yes a low budget production might get lucky by tapping into the right dynamic for the time but that does not mean that it is going to work for just any story, no matter how compelling the writer might think it is. Timing and topic can be everything, but it certainly does not mean that in general terms length does not matter.
I think that the length of a web series depends on th target audience. If the audience is specific to a genre (zombie, sci-fi, etc...), the audience will be more willing to hang on and will also watch the series at a convenient time which will allow a longer time to watch the video.
For a broader audience, such as comedy, the shorter the better (my opinion, not a rule by any means), because there is a huge amount of content out there and if the audience isn't loyal to the show, they'll be quick to move on.
Marketing changes all that but there is a common ground to get to between what the audience seeks and what the story requires.
Wow, great dialogue everyone. Good points have been brought up. To get back to my original statement at the beginning of the thread, I said I think that as long as you keep your audience engaged, length shouldn't matter.
I think you guys are hitting the nail on the head. It all depends on your audience and the type of story your telling. As Aurelien stated, "Marketing changes all that but there is a common ground to get to between what the audience seeks and what the story requires." Well said.
I do have to agree with Rich on the running time theory. Just because something is shorter doesn't mean it will more likely be watched. I personally watch content based on title and description alone. Are some of them short, yes, but I've watched things 10 minutes long and got just as much enjoyment or more out of it just like a 1 minute vid. Are one or the other better? Thats all subjective the viewer. Some are going to like longer and some will like shorter. Thats what makes web based productions so much fun, they're very diverse. Anyone can find anything.
One thing I'd like to add on marketing since you touched on it is that [no amount of marketing or advertising will ever make the audience like what they don't like.] Effective marketing and advertising simply helps create awareness and excitement for the product for the audience to want to check it out. Then its up to the audience to decide what they want.
I watch online content from 15 seconds to 2.5 hrs long. So yes, once you have an audience you can do a lot. But ALL of the long form content that I watch is content that has EARNED my trust from years and years of very very very hard work. You simply do not start out with that luxury.
If you are new, you have 15 seconds or less to gain my attention unless you come highly recommended from a social media contact who vouches for the value of the content. You better close the sale in 3 minutes or less if you want me to watch more.
The point many are making is that building and growing an audience is for most a vital part of the process. Most viewers simply do not have 30min - 1hr of time to allocate to something new. That is the harsh reality and with every day that passes it becomes increasingly harder.
Now if you do not care about the size of the audience and simply hope that one day it might build one then go ahead. If you have a concept that might catch on because it taps in to some social dynamic that is just beginning to crest then go ahead. Someone quoted Ghandi before. What they failed to mention that Ghandi did not just pursue any idea that he thought was right. He carefully monitored the mood of the population and tapped into issues that were "ripe for the plucking". So, yes there maybe certain long form content that can survive based on specific circumstances, but it would be dangerous to think that it will work with any idea/story just because it can be made.
For most, they are going to have to earn every SECOND of the "audiences" time. If you can entertain them for a few minutes they are likely to come back for more. Once you have earned/built your audience then you can test out alternatives. This is a tried and true method of marketing a series online. It may not be the only one, but its one we know works for those who do not have huge marketing budgets.
I like how you write from the viewers point of view. People are more inclined to watching recommended content instead of trying new things. Also, your comment about watching content that has earned your trust hits home. 'Western X' is a web series I've been following for three years because Mike has earned my trust and I've seen all 9 episodes. I even recommend that series to people. I know people want miracles, but it takes work and dedication to earn and sustain the trust of an audience. I roll my eyes when people publish a web series and expect it to "blow up" right away and if it doesn't, they give up and start blaming everything.
WSN started with just me, then we grew to where we are today and in between I've made it a point to connect with our audience, respond to comments and participate in Forum discussions. In 3 years we've been around, I've written more than 3,000 web series-facing blog posts and I was the only one calling our industry "web series" when everyone else was calling it "web TV." Now Yahoo! is advertising its shows as web series (see burning love below), not "web tv" or "original series" like the so-called experts were calling it.
To succeed in the medium you're in you must respect that medium, study viewer behavior and get in the foxhole with your audience. Unfortunately, if you build it, they WILL NOT COME as in the old days. You have to role up your sleeves and put in work to earn the trust of the audience.
"and get in the foxhole with your audience."
...is a good way of describing the process. It is very, very, very hard work and it is NOT glamorous. But, it seems to works for those who are prepared to invest the time it takes.
There's a misconception that I have all this time on my hands to devote to WSN. But the truth is that I make WSN a full time job, meaning I have two full time jobs, my real life and other business projects being the other.
My secret is having my laptop and iPhone at the hip so when someone comments, I immediately respond on the iPhone. And when I have to blog, my laptop is arms-lenght away. I disciplined myself to make responding to comments utmost priority. And now its almost second-nature that if I don't engage my audience I can't even function.
I figured if my audience takes the time out of their busy lives to read/watch and comment on my posts, I owe it to them to acknowledge their comments. I've left comments for other creators who don't even bother to write back, and then they take to Indiegogo asking for donations. I'll be the first to tell you that engaging fans is no cake walk, but it must be done if you're gonna grow your fanbase or hire someone to engage your fans for you. Bottomline... it must be done. Period.
Wowzers...this has been a good conversation. I think every view point here has had truth in it. Personally when I produce shows I try to plan around a potential audience, knowing they want to be entertained and that attention spans are low on the internet, but I refuse to sacrifice telling the story I want to tell. With "After The Beast: Dark Ascension" I deliberately started with a beginning that would try to catch the casual viewer's attention (panoramic view of apocalyptic destruction and the main character fleeing the scene) but then after 2min the story slows down to establish a mood of isolation. Two more minutes later the action pics up and is pretty relentless until the finish. But during those minutes of "quiet" the viewership drops a good percentage. This is despite the beautiful scenery, building tension and a military helicopter flyby.
Although story comes first for me, there is truth to the idea that the internet is full of people with one minute attention spans. Bore them for a second without explosions or drop-dead funny cats, and they will drop you.
Of course the difference here between internet content and say, an art film, is that the ADHD viewers aren't going to go see the art film in the first place. They'll go see Transformers. With the internet anybody can stumble onto your content and then love it or hate it.
So...episode length in my opinion doesn't really matter, as long as you are engaging YOUR audience. A 2min explosion fest may be all Jimmy wants, but Jane may like 30min of well produced drama. The trick is finding your TRUE audience and marketing your series to them. (Plug for Rich's consulting services here!)
Find where your audience hangs out and then market to them! Real marketing costs money but it's the only way to get your series out beyond your Facebook's friend's friends (with a few exceptions)