The Money Issue

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Sunday's Streamy Awards has been replaying in my head for the past two days and I've been thinking a lot about the self-deprecating jokes made at our industry's expense. One target in particular has been bugging me, the notion that no one is making money in web video. This bothers me because I've been working in the industry for almost 5 years and have seen most of my friends go on to make a living on web video, not to mention myself.

A comment on yesterday's Streamys post by Amanda Congdon sparked a new thought in my head. She said,

"...many of us *are* making $$$ in web tv (or in my case mobile tv)… and the jokes just aren’t that funny anymore. They seemed very 2007."

Very 2007 indeed. And 2008. And 2009. And 2010!

The reason there's an ongoing joke that no one's making money in web TV is because every year there are more and more people coming into this industry (awesome), but they don't know anything about the history and past achievements of others in the industry (shame). Anyone who only started paying attention to web video after The Guild and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog wouldn't know how Congdon, the first Rocketboom anchor, got picked up to make video blogs for ABC in 2006, or how Wallstrip was acquired by CBS for five million dollars in 2007, or how A Comicbook Orange and The Jetset Show (now Epic Fu) were both picked up for license agreements under Next New Networks in 2007.

And those deals were just the beginning. Every year more people are launching web shows and more people are getting offers of licensing deals and buyouts. Why, then, are people still asking us to show them the money?

The reason is simple: It is in the nature of the Web TV industry for people to start with no money. As long as there are new people starting their own show, there will ALWAYS be people making content for free.

Our industry, like many others, is like climbing a ladder. You have to prove you can make good quality, engaging content before you can make a dime. Whether you want to join the YouTube Partner Program, get your show picked up as the next Crackle series, or sell your TV pilot to the SyFy channel, you need to start at the bottom like everyone else. If you've never made anything before, how is anyone supposed to fund your seedy idea? You need to show them the content before they can show you the money.

And, sure, not everyone will be able to climb the ladder, but that's life. If you're having difficulty finding an audience, sit back and take a good look at what you're doing. Is your target audience online? Where can you go to find them? What can you do to get them to watch? All valid questions that I can't answer for you.

With all that in mind, let us all stop making snide comments about how there is no money in web video. If you're not making any money, you need to be asking yourself why. Does your content suck? Does your pitch document suck? Do you need to cut down the number of times you put "vagina" in your script? Maybe. One thing is for sure, Web TV is a very public growing process and, like any other career you're passionate about, you have to work hard at it to truly excel.

Keep on truckin'.

[Above image courtesy of Kevin Dooley]