The New Breed of Vlogs

Original Web series, vlogging (define), and video podcasts have come a long way.

Once a way to literally make bloggers’ voices heard, vlogs have evolved into a highly creative channel within a channel. Thousands of vlogs continue to proliferate throughout the Web, chock-full of commentary, analysis, and raw emotion. Now, a relatively new breed of vlogs and video podcasts should start rising to the top of marketers’ minds. This new breed is serialized and drawing loyal followings faster than ever.

This new breed of episodic video isn’t that different from traditional vlogs and podcasts. It’s video, posted to often, and available through numerous delivery options, such as subscription, iTunes, social video sites, RSS feeds, and official URLs.

What’s different is these vlogs are starting to resemble more professional content. They’re scripted, often serialized, and creating and cultivating the kinds of catchphrases, communities, and followings vlogs haven’t before. They’re also ripe for becoming viable marketing and advertising opportunities.

Rocketboom was one of the first vlogs to break through and reach a distribution scale that made it a viable option for advertisers (it even held an auction for its first open ad position). It was also responsible for launching a celebrity, Amanda Congdon, who’s becoming a multimedia personality (she recently inked deals with ABC News and HBO). Rocketboom proved if you create an entertaining product and build an audience, you can not only create a media property but make some pretty good money doing so.

Then there was “Lonelygirl15,” a series with a storyline. Sure, we’ve seen original Web series before. But the power of video sharing on YouTube and Revver (where it takes a share of ad revenue) brought it into the mainstream.

When TV series break through, advertisers jump at the opportunity to get in front of a loyal following. While online episodic content works on a much smaller scale, it works nonetheless. For now, it presents affordable opportunities for advertisers and, sometimes, direct access to content and talent.

Although “Lonelygirl15” might be the only crossover episodic video that immediately comes to mind, many others out there have been gaining traction with audiences — and should be with advertisers.

AskANinja” is an “epi-vlog” created by Kent Nichols and Douglas Sarine and features a Ninja who answers readers’ questions about ninjas on camera. It’s hysterical. And it’s been extremely successful. Currently, the series boasts over 53,000 friends on MySpace, and various estimates have its current number of per-episode viewers anywhere between 200,000 and 300,000.

Homestar Runner” is an animated series frequently seen at the top of iTunes’ video podcast subscriptions. You have to see it to really get it, but it’s one of the most brilliant animation series in recent memory. It’s already received attention from such mainstream media outlets as “Wired” and “G4,” but elements are starting to cross over. A song from the series is featured as a bonus track in the popular video game “Guitar Hero II.”

The ‘Burg” lured audiences in throughout 2006. It’s set in the hippest of hipster places, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, and is considered among the most popular episodic content, already drawing significant advertiser interest.

Blip.tv hosts tons of episodic content, including a series that just scored an HBO pilot, “Goodnight Burbank.” It’s a series about a behind-the-scenes look at a local news program in, you guessed it, Burbank.

One beautiful thing about this new generation of episodic content is it doesn’t have to live in one destination (like it used to on Pop.com and Icebox; remember them?). Embeddable players, multiple platforms, and syndication have allowed viewership to explode and made it easier for audiences to share the programming with others.

But if this format is so successful, where are the advertisers?

They’re trickling in. This is considered a rather experimental medium within a medium many still considered experimental. But there’s a distinct opportunity for advertisers to cleverly, discreetly, or even obviously integrate with influential content that’s likely mainly consumed by influencers.

In previous columns, I’ve made a case for online video ratings to standardize audience measurement for programming such as this. It would allow advertisers to make an apples-to-apples comparison of programming across the Web, no matter how the content is delivered. What’s beautiful about this content is it isn’t necessarily created for advertisers, as television programming is. It’s created with honest passion and love for its craft, and influential audiences respond to that.

As advertisers, it’s our job to find the content that reaches those audiences and create goodwill through advertising (a topic I’ll address in a future column). In situations like these, goodwill can simply mean an advertiser being responsible for keeping content alive, making it higher quality, giving it a better Web site, or adding dimensions to the community.

If you want to reach the most valuable and influential of audiences, even if that decision is based on anecdotal evidence, start evaluating these opportunities now — while clutter is at a minimum and your brand can stand out as progressive, irreverent, and relevant.

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