Internet Week NY Opened My Eyes to an Undiscovered World of Serial Web Programming

One of the Internet Week New York sessions I was most looking forward to was one called The Web Producers’ Toolbox, a series of panels devoted to developing, writing, producing, distributing, and promoting serial programming piloted on the Internet. As a marketing consultant, this session was not completely congruent with my experience but certainly one that piqued my interest. And we all know that video on the Web has revolutionized media and is here to stay.

The Web Producers’ Toolbox was put together by the New York Television and Video Festival (an event dedicated to discovering the latest in independent television, regardless of platform), For Your Imagination (a web video studio dedicated to branding, packaging, and distributing web video in multiple formats), and Tizly.tv (a web publication that covers web television content and the industry).

The panel that Paul Katonis of For Your Imagination and Jamison Tilsner of Tizly.tv brought together collectively made for a fascinating educational experience for a person completely new to “Web TV”. The two standout panelists for me were Nikol Hasler and Jonathan Stern mainly because of their content.


A midwestern-born mother of 3, Nikol is the writer, creator, and producer of The Midwest Teen Sex Show, a web program set to be piloted on Comedy Central sometime this summer. I watched three episodes of the show, which is currently available on online at MidwestTeenSexShow.com and via podcast through iTunes. The episodes seem to be around 5-7 minutes each and their mission is to put the subject of sex out their as a topic that should be discussed (by teens and otherwise). It’s tongue and cheek and very honest at the same time. Broadcast media hasn’t been able to bring themselves to touch this stuff so Nikol’s found herself a niche. And it looks like she’s about to get even more exposure via Comedy Central.

What seemed to be shared opinion among the panel, Web programing is beginning to carve out its own space as a medium and that making it to “real television” isn’t necessarily the goal. Building an audience seems mostly related to the quality of content and is largely done via social media. MTSS’s site is actually a WordPress blog just like this one and makes sharing the video content very easy. Nikol claims to have an audience of 300,000 per episode.

Jonathan Stern is the writing and producer of Wainy Days and Horrible People, two of the shows that make up the many on a website called MyDamnChannel.com. Both of these shows were very funny but Horrible People looks like it might be the most fun. From my brief viewing of the first episode, it looks like an excellent parody of the soap opera.

Production costs range between $2,000 and $15,000 per episode. If I recall correctly, Nikol’s initial pilot was produced at the lower end of this range and Jonathan Stern’s show were at the higher end. Nikol embodied the real spirit of this new platform and seemed to inspire potential producers in the audience that if your content is good enough and you’re passionate, the world of web video programming could be your oyster. Video hosting businesses like Magnify.net, which seemed to be prominently featured at Internet Week NY seem to give producers a variety of options for hosting produced video and user-generated video.

What About the Business Model?

Are these independent writers and producers making any money? Can they make any money on the web when advertising models for even top-visited media sites seem to be in question? These were definitely questions that the group began to ponder and were to discuss in more depth later that afternoon. Unfortunately, I missed the main discussion but from what I could gather, some money is made from advertising (as there are ads on MyDamnChannel.com) and also from distribution of the content in other formats like DVD. No one seemed to have a pay-per-view model? But who knows? Given Hulu’s success, maybe there is a hope for a successful business on the web that will support the independent video storyteller.

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