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Innovate or Die

  |  September 19, 2008   |  Comments

Eqal, producer of lonelygirl15, is launching a new show. Its goal for the program offer advertisers a lesson worth learning. Part one of a two-part series.

Innovate or Die.

That's what it says on the stem of my Specialized road bike. And I think about that a lot as I'm hunched over that stem cranking away, at least in the few moments when I'm not praying that I don't get clipped by a car swerving into the bike lane.

Innovate or Die.

It's simple, easy to remember, and unerringly precise. And you could do far worse than to take it as a credo to govern your business, whether that business is content creation, marketing, or distribution.

In the recent past I've done more critiquing of the status quo in online video than praising. Thankfully that is not the case today; I'm quite excited to write about the new show from Eqal, creators of "lonelygirl15" and "KateModern."

Recently I had the good fortune to run into Eqal cofounder Miles Beckett at the Interactive Emmy Awards voting panel in Burbank, CA. Following the New York TV Festival, he and his fellow cofounder Greg Goodfried took some time to talk with me to discuss their newest show, "LG15: The Resistance." In addition to being found at their site, it will also be on Hulu, MySpaceTV, imeem, Veoh, and YouTube.

A couple of things are striking about the programming. First, it's not short. The first episode runs over 11 minutes. Second, it's not funny. In fact it's quite harrowing. Finally, it's interactive. Cue the "hallelujah" chorus.

Break-Away Running Time

Having an episodic running time of 11-plus minutes, while not revolutionary, certainly breaks away from the hey-let's-have-things-be-self-contained-and-of-necessity-short. As Beckett explained, they had learned quite a few things in developing their previous shows. With their funding now in place, they were looking to try out new things.

"First of all this show is going to be shorter in duration -- three months versus six -- which is something we learned from doing 'KateModern,'" Beckett said. "And every Saturday we're going to post one complete episode, so even if you're not following it on a daily basis you can catch up on what's happened during the week in one sitting."

Eqal will continue to post video snippets during the week that make up a full episode, but the full show drops on the weekend, as that's when the fans get together and discuss what's happened during the week, scheme about how to participate, and dive deeper into the programming, they said.

Cue the Laugh Track. No, Wait...

Then there's point two: the not-funny. Which is really refreshing. It begins with a young girl tied to a gurney with a voiceover revealing a plot to drain the blood from her and those like her. This isn't your standard lunch-break fare, but it's well done. Tonally, it's freaky and it passes my David Lynch test. Which is to say, I never quite liked "Blue Velvet" but it definitely stayed with me and weirded me out. "LG 15" provoked a visceral reaction, which I haven't felt with the majority of the programming I've seen.

I asked Beckett and Goodfried, "Why so serious?" They explained they were just listening to their fans.

"The fans who got hooked on 'Lonely Girl 15' were into the mystery of the cult and the blood traits. When we posted some less-action-oriented episodes, they let us know that's not what they were looking for," Goodfried explained. "They were like, 'Where are the people with guns and sunglasses?'"

Hallelujah!

I have to take my hat off to the Eqal guys. At a day-long conference recently, they clearly articulated a vision for their products, which they call Social Shows, and allowed that video is just one piece of that product. So they get how to foster community with their conspiracy-based storylines and identifiable characters. And by having a mix of daily and weekly programming, they offer the programming how people want to consume it. The diehards will check in all the time, post theories, and upload their own videos, while the curious can just log on weekly to follow the story.

Show Me the Money

Of course, it all comes down to making a profit. As this column is being finished, Becket and Goodfried couldn't announce who their advertisers were, but they were confident they would have two to three advertisers per month during the three-month run. The ad units would be a mix of product integration in the show as well as display ads on their site and across their distribution network.

But perhaps more important, Goodfried outlined their goals, which are well worth sharing. They are essentially trying to do three things, he explained. "First, we're training our viewers. How to watch. How to interact and when. Second, we're establishing a relationship and learning about that relationship with both the viewer and the advertiser. And third, we're building a library which we can then distribute to other forms of media. DVD for example."

Understanding who your audience is and what they want, nurturing the relationships with your advertisers while delivering a quality product and growing a library that should increase in value over time certainly seems like sound strategic thinking. And in a world of one-off viral videos and rejected TV pilots masquerading as the best thing going, Eqal is what you might call the real deal.

Next time: more on social shows and how marketers can work with them.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Todd Krieger

Todd Krieger is a creative thinker, a connector, and a believer in the power of a good idea. He likes playing among the diverse, and sometimes converging, worlds of publishing, entertainment, technology, and advertising and figuring out how best to leverage each for the benefit of the other.

His bona fides include stints at Microsoft, Yahoo, and Denuo (a boutique consultancy within Publicis). In that time he's produced hundreds of hours of award-winning interactive TV content, including NCAA Final Four Interactive and CSI Interactive. He also relaunched the broadway.yahoo.com vertical in tandem with American Express and helped bring to market the Internet's number one gossip site, omg.yahoo.com. While at Denuo, he worked with "The New York Times," Fox.com, and Condé Nast on how to transition their core print and broadcast assets into the digital world.

Todd has spoken around the world on issues of copyright, technology, and interactivity and has been published in "The New York Times," "Wired," "Premiere," "SPIN," and elsewhere. His book, "The Portable Pundit : A Crash Course in Cocktail Party Conversation" can still be found on Amazon. He lives in Venice, California.

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