While the rate of quality content being produced solely for the web has steadily increased over the past few years, the biggest challenge remains getting discovered and finding an audience. The Man Teen web series went the route of self distribution when it first was released online and got some good feedback, but limited numbers. Creator Andy Lazarus knew that their must be a better way to go about doing this and sought out help.
The main question was how can you get exposure for good content without breaking the bank to pay for traffic to an unknown channel? And further, once you have that attention, how can you translate that into money to continue creating that content?
This isn’t the be all end all solution, but it is one example of a strategy to achieve those universal goals.
The first step is that the content must be good. If the content isn’t good, there is only so much you can do to build an audience and monetize it. Assuming that the core content is good, you also must look at the best practices for online distribution.
ReelSEO writes about these all the time and YouTube has their Creators Playbook to help with this as well, but most content creators don’t seem to be aware of it or follow the tips that they lay out.
The Man Teen content was strong in itself, but it needed a little love in terms of the best practices. The biggest change was adding end slates to the content to encourage viewers to share, like, subscribe, go to Kickstarter and watch more of the content.
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Once you have good content that also incorporates YouTube’s best practices, the next step is getting the right audience for that content. In general this boils down to two options, self distribution or partnering with an existing network.
For self distribution you have to realize that just putting a video up on YouTube, even if it’s the most hilarious video ever, does not guarantee that anyone will see it. To go this route you need to have an existing audience (email list, blog visitors, Twitter followers, etc.) that you’ll be able to market to. If you don’t have a large existing audience, then you’ll need a significant marketing budget to be able to drive traffic to your channel. The advantage is that the views, audience and subscribers are yours and yours alone.
Partnering with an existing network allows you to take advantage of the loyal audience that they have already built and mitigates some of the risks associated with self distribution. The downside here is that there are no guarantees you will get this distribution so it’s a good idea to have a self distribution plan in place as a backup.
That’s exactly how we did it with Man Teen. We built our self distribution strategy first and then setup meetings with various networks and channels before securing a deal with Machinima’s Reckless Tortuga
Now that you have strong content and a distribution plan, the final (and most important business-wise) step is how do you monetize this content? There are a variety of different monetization methods for content that could be a full post in itself. For Man Teen there are three methods that we are using to monetize the content.
The first method is taking advantage of YouTube’s built in monetization through pre-roll and display advertising. This is automatically taken care of by YouTube and generates a little (too little if you ask me) amount of revenue. The way to get the most out of this is to get more views since it’s all paid on a CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions or views) basis.
The next two monetization tactics are looking towards the second season rather than just the first. One is seeking sponsors while there is a buzz around the first season. This allows a content creator to essentially pre-sell integration into the content and build revenue before the season is released.
Lastly is using the popular and growing method of crowdfunding with sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. As many of you know, back in April YouTube announced that any channel can use in-video annotations to drive traffic to these sites to help fund content. With Man Teen we produced a video exclusive for Kickstarter and we’ve included Kickstarter links in all the videos on the channel.
We’re just now in the middle of the first season so it’s a little early to tell how it will all work out, but the viewership and interest so far has greatly exceeded that of the original release. You can check out the series here and the Kickstarter campaign.