My Pod Studios is an online video platform you may or may not be familiar with. While they might not have the name recognition of some other platforms, myPodstudios.com was listed by Quantcast as the 191st most trafficked website in December of 2011–just five places behind Hulu.com–and scored more than 20 million unique visitors in November alone.
From their website:
MyPod Studios, launched in October, 2010, was built to provide an alternative to the standard issue video networks that litter the Web, and take a slightly more unique approach to presenting online video.
I was fortunate enough to get a chance to chat with Jay Miletsky, the founder and CEO of My Pod Studios, to find out what they're doing right over there and what they have in store in the near future.
Q: What can you tell me about the goals for MyPod Studios?
A: Our primary goal is to create something that people will seek out as a source of great entertainment, enjoy, and want to see more of. There's a lot to be said for creating something that becomes part of people's everyday routine – it's fine when people get to our site because they've come across a link somewhere, but I'll consider it a huge accomplishment when we've created a site that people enjoy enough that they sit at their computers and consciously think "let me check out what's going on over at MyPod Studios." I think that alone is a goal worth shooting for, and I expect we'll get there sooner rather than later.
On a more tactical level, our goal is threefold:
- We want to continue to grow the amount of watchable content on the network, while remaining a gated community of only pre-approved videos.
- We want to springboard off of the success we've had with our category "hostesses," and evolve mypodstudios.com
- We want to expand our brand and venture out into original content production, long-form movie presentations and gaming.
Q: What is the reason (or reasons), in your estimation, for the rapid growth?
A: I think our network provides a more fun and enjoyable experience than many of the others. It's also more personal – the hostess on the home page and category pages add a level of humanity to the site that people can relate to, and we've made the Pods easy to find and access. So I think we've definitely done something right when it comes to the user experience.
But more importantly, I believe our popularity comes from the fact that we maintain control over the network. We don't just allow anyone to upload anything – an action which can only bring the average quality level of the network down. Everything on our network is pre-screened and pre-qualified before it's added – not necessarily for high production quality, but for what I call "watchability." A Hollywood-produced video that's not interesting to watch is of no value to us. We look for quality, but focus on watchability, which makes a big difference, and we do this across a wide set of categories, not just a very strict vertical.
Q: Where do the viewers come from? How are they finding you and your content?
A: Well, I can't give away the secret sauce, but I can say that our viewers find us through a combination of strategies. For one thing, we've built strong relationships with both our content providers who are incentivized to push traffic our way, as well our use base, 25% of which comes back regularly. Another 22% of our daily traffic goes from Pod to Pod. On top of that, we build awareness through social media press releases for specific Pods, a large emphasis on SEO, Ad Word PPC campaigns, in-network advertising, and some highly targeted SEM. Future plains include non-traditional advertising placements, which we roll out mid Q2.
Q: How would you describe the content mix at MyPodStudios? Is there any directive for tone, topic, or style?
A: We don't necessarily look for a particular tone or style. Instead, we look at all of the content that we're presented, and ask ourselves if it informs, educates and/or entertains. If it doesn't meet one or more of those three qualifications, then it's immediately rejected. If content we're reviewing gets past this step, we look at how well it was written, acted, presented and produced, and decide whether we think people would enjoy watching it. Watchability is tough to put your finger on – there's no precise formula for it – you just know it when you see it.
Q: How does your gated community help you achieve your goals–what does the elimination of "anything goes" do for your business model?
A: The most important thing that it does is provide the viewer with a sense that they're not wasting their time. In an "anything goes" environment, you really have no idea what you're going to come across – someone taking a video of themselves singing, maybe a video of some other guy shopping for fruit. Really, it could be anything. That's fun for awhile, I suppose, but coming across something that's interesting is just pot-luck. By keeping MyPod a gated community, the viewers understand that everything on our network has been seen and pre-qualified by our team, so they can be more certain that their time spent with us will be spent watching more enjoyable content. There is a distinct trust that has been built between our visitors and our editors.
Q: Web series seem to be growing in popularity, do you think this is a big year for web series and why?
A: Personally, I would love to see Web series take off in a big way – it would usher in a new era of creativity that we've never seen before. But honestly, I don't see it happening. Yes, there will be some stand out efforts, and series that get some heightened attention, but the fact is that people consume video differently online than they do on TV. When people watch television, they're in a more relaxed environment, and their minds are conditioned to watching episodic content with a week or more between segments, for 30 or 60 minutes at a time. And they're comfortable opening their minds to getting to know new characters and story lines.
That's not the way it works in an online environment. Online viewing is a less relaxed experience – our hands are always on the mouse, ready to click as soon as we're bored. There is no sense of urgency, and there's no expectation of talking about the last episode with friends and coworkers, so it's also more of a solitary experience (outside of online social sharing and interaction).
All that being said, there is room for original Web series – I just don't think that alone is going to be a game changer for online video. However, online networks, including our platform, do provide a good launching point for episodic content to be discovered. In fact, we're currently shopping two of our current producers as potential network broadcast series.
Q: What can you tell me about your curation? Is there an underlying mission/philosophy for the content you add? How many people are involved in the curation of content?
A: We run very lean. We don't have offices in six cities, with 60 or more people on staff. We're a team of five, and while we have one employee who is responsible for finding new content, we all act as screeners that accept content into the community. Our philosophy is to try and maintain a strong balance of content among all of our categories, look for opportunities to expand our category offerings (we're about to expand from eight categories to ten, with fifteen sub-categories), and to keep watchability as the most important ingredient for what we accept.
Jay Miletsky is the CEO and founder of MyPod Studios. He is responsible for MyPod's strategic growth and creative direction, with plans to introduce new networks and expand it's considerable reach. A online marketing veteran with over 18 years experience, Jay was previously the CEO and founder of Mango Marketing, developing branding strategies for a diverse set of clients including the NBA, Hershey's, JVC, Kraft and others.
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