Patricia Handshiegel

Digital Dish covers the ins and outs of an Internet executive moving into the television arena. Disher Patricia Handschiegel is the founder of Stylediary.net, which she sold to Stylehive.com in November 2007. She has a background in Internet infrastructure and technology business, was an advisor to Kaboodle.com (sold to Hearst in 2007), and has contributed as an entertainment/media business writer for Venturebeat.com. She’s also been an early visionary of professional Internet TV content since 2005 and is currently an advisor on several entertainment/Internet projects. Always an entrepreneur, she had a highly profitable babysitting monopoly at 11, lent her writing skill to students at 17 and landed her first published national article at 23.

She has also worked as a ghost writer for a national TV correspondent. At 22, she was recognized nationally for promoting the growth of women’s hockey and advised companies on creating hockey products for women. She’s been quoted and profiled in dozens of media outlets since and is currently developing two book concepts. A serial entrepreneur, she plans to continue to build Internet, entertainment and media companies, with the goal of promoting social change and charities. She is currently involved in the use of technology to help find missing and abused children, and has contributed financially to TheJoyfulChild.org and other organizations. She is the founder of Look|Shop|List.com (in development).


Digital Dish

July 2008 Archives

Talent Pool: Tips for a Successful Marriage of the Talent Business and Web Talent

July 30, 2008 4:05 PM

No other market has been affected by the Internet quite like that of the talent business. It’s not as if there wasn’t already a frighteningly low barrier of entry for hopefuls and a big pool for executives—the Web has blown it out even further.

Now, any Tom, Dick or Harry can elevate him- or herself to at least marginal stardom, even if it’s just 250,000 Facebook adds.

For talent executives, this has created a new source for locating potential money makers.

It all sounds perfect. People have better tools and opportunity to become talent and executives have a new place to find prospective future stars.

It doesn’t always mean that it’s a match made in heaven. Plenty of Web hopefuls have burned the channels and soared upward, only to be stonewalled at entertainment’s gate, and plenty of cases where entertainment executives have put their bets on Web stars have resulted in poor outcomes, or worse.

It’s a little like dating in a sense. Two different types, two different sexes.

But there are some things both sides can do to make the experience better. Let’s start with Web talent:

Focus on the work, not the agent: The No. 1 thing aspiring Web talent seems to believe is that the work comes with the agent. In reality, it’s the other way around. Work gets the agent because agents are in the business of making money, and without enough proof of that, they’ll bypass. Others in the chain, however (like writers, bookers, etc.) are in the business of finding talent, so put your efforts there. Get the work, get the proof, get the prize.

Do it well: TV correspondents, writers, producers and others who actually make money have worked hard at their craft, and Web hopefuls should do the same. Work to constantly learn, improve performance, be more polished, etc., at all times. You want to look, act and perform at their level in order to make your work your business.

Work smarter: One of the most important elements is strategy. Look for projects that will elevate your presence overall, but focus most on securing things that entertainment executives—not Web people—will recognize as impressive. I have not met a single person in the industry who is aware of Revision3, but Strike.tv has all eyes on it. Work everywhere you can, but make sure to keep it strategic.

Make connections: Web talent spend a lot of time networking with Web people and other talent, but really, you should be focusing on getting to know everybody you can in the entertainment business. Producers, bookers, writers, agents, etc. The job gets done so much faster if you do. I’m proof of it!

How I’d Build a Digital Entertainment Company Right Now

July 29, 2008 11:19 AM

On Friday, I made a case for why digital entertainment projects need to be seasoned with a few pure-play Internet talent on staff in addition to the usual entertainment types. It had stemmed from being at nexus of both worlds and was spurred in part a conference I had attended where speakers clearly sounded lost as they talked about their companies’ efforts on the Web.

I’ve been involved in digital entertainment efforts launched by Internet business, as well as digital entertainment efforts launched by entertainment executives, and my takeaway had been solidified since long before Friday’s post.

I believe that truly successful projects in the category, regardless of who launches them, need a mix of proven, successful veterans from both worlds.

I also think that the stakes are slowly getting higher as the Internet continues to converge. We’re long past the early days of social networks, and users are more sophisticated and experienced than ever. Also, video has moved from YouTube clips to professional, episodic and TV-quality content. Everything—everything—around is us either constantly changing or soon will.

The best defense in any game is a good offense, and I believe mixing geeks and creatives is the way to do it.

I’ve dreamt of launching a true digital television network start-up, with the intention to of course someday cash out to a traditional network, since early 2005. If I were to do it today, here’s how I would go about it:

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Digital Entertainment’s Fatal Flaw?

July 25, 2008 8:57 AM

Not long ago, I attended a great conference where many high-level entertainment media and television executives spoke about the future of the Internet and their companies’ online initiatives. I’m not really the type of person to say something like this, but after a few hours, I wasn’t the only one in the room who noticed that though all were very talented and knowledgeable about the traditional part of their business, a lot of them didn’t seem to know what they were doing or talking about when it came to the Web.

The bigger disappointment, of course, wasn’t that they didn’t really understand the Internet business, but that only one person admitted it. Everybody else tried to sound like they were experts, and honestly, it wasn’t very convincing.

It no longer surprises me to see big media and entertainment companies struggling with the Web as they are. How could they be successful when a lot of their new-media departments are led and staffed with people from their traditional business?

I wouldn’t pretend to know development beyond what I’ve learned in the past two months, nor can I assume that I’d be able to successfully write a scripted series on my first pass, but that’s kind of what entertainment companies are doing to their executives regarding the Web.

The problem is, you are talking about two totally different businesses, with many different elements. There is no way a traditional entertainment or media executive could know what we from the Internet business know about the Web, just as you all know things we don’t about television, production and so on.

I believe the smart play at the moment would be to staff projects with a mix of executives from both. I’m not talking about the guy who has worked in the new-media department of a talent agency, but execs from the true Internet side, who have a history, knowledge in the business and have done this stuff.

I know it’s still hard to execute when you’re a giant entity, but perhaps creating your own incubator for Web projects is a solution. I’m not sure.

What I can say for certain is that there’s still time for entertainment to survive the current and coming disruption. But failure is certain if the industry continues to take the current approach. Coming Monday: How a tech girl would build a digital entertainment project now.

Surfing the Internet

July 23, 2008 1:11 PM

In the Internet world, they call conditions ideal for opportunity “perfect storms.” YouTube, MySpace, Facebook—even my former startup StyleDiary—all were born in this type of climate in a sense. Certain trends, user habits, connection speeds and all kinds of other factors were going on, creating a really good environment for a smart, successful startup to potentially cash in.

I compare it to surfing: You watch the horizon, spot a wave coming in and start paddling with a plan of attack. Surfers and startups do it, and in both games, even the big pros are at risk of miscalculating something and, of course, failure.

The only defense you have is to know how to spot a good wave and as importantly, how to efficiently, effectively ride it.

The internet itself is a force of its own, already creating opportunities for businesses with the promise of more to come. A lot of very good waves have been breaking and the forecast only points to bigger and better ones coming soon.

I believe the most important thing digital entertainment executives need to be watching right now isn’t their fellow surfers, but the playing field everybody’s on. In the Web game, that’s called Internet protocol (IP), and believe me, like the ocean, there are very specific, fairly predictable things it is going to do.

In technical terms, it’s a fault-resistant, highly stable, device-agnostic, accessible and less expensive platform intended to unify all communications to its single, better structure.

For the entertainment business, it means the merging of television and radio as we’ve known it to the new broadcast channel: the Internet.

People in my world (IP telecom) have seen the conditions forming since back when most in business were first learning to say “social network.” Early signs and winds (webisodes, digital video production houses, etc.) are starting to blow now, and believe me, things are going to get good.

The problem is, as with any perfect storm, certain trends, user habits, technology and other factors are a big part, and plenty of players in the digital space are already miscalculating and misjudging them. I believe the best approach right now is to create a team of seasoned professionals from both markets, then take out the boat.

Usability Is King, Part II

July 21, 2008 12:00 AM

My previous post talked about one of my favorite (and one of the peskiest) topics in Internet business: usability. It delved into how television networks have redesigned their online sites (thank you, Hulu) and noted what they’re doing right with their new interfaces, with the promise of writing about what they’re doing wrong in my next post.

As I write this, I’m at the 2008 Blogher conference in San Francisco, where I’m speaking on a panel, so today’s entry will be short and (hopefully) sweet (though who doesn’t love that?).

Here’s where I think they miss the boat:

1. Not all interactive features and community are alike.
Community and interaction became all the rage with the introduction of MySpace, but what many don’t realize is that how users engage (if they do at all) can vary by age, demographic and category. Some prefer old-school message board styles, others via blog commenting, others the style seen on MySpace and similar sites. Yet most of the network sites went with the MySpace type format. I’m not convinced it was right for their audiences. I’ll write more on this in a future post.

2. It’s still hard to find the slide.
The user experience has improved significantly on most network sites, but in taking some time to cruise around on each, it’s still a bit difficult to understand what exactly it is that I’m supposed to do upon hitting the page. As I said in my first usability post, if it’s hard to know what to do, users bounce.

3. They lack excitement.
If there was one thing I noticed while hanging out on network Web sites, it was that few really got me engaged and excited. Plenty had whistles and bells, but I didn’t really feel provoked to want to stick around and get involved. In my “Usability Part I” post, I had talked about how the e-commerce business leveraged “real estate” to show users what’s in store for them on the site and help attract them to want to check it out. I think networks could improve in this area online and spice things up a little.

Without question, the new interfaces and changes to network sites are a positive step in the right direction. Smart Web sites in the future will be multimedia entertainment platforms that give users a lot of variety and choice. No, I don’t mean in where, when and how they get their content (or the content itself), but in how they engage and get involved.

Usability Is King: Part 1

July 16, 2008 12:01 AM

I was on a panel at South by Southwest this past spring moderated by legendary tech author/VC/entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki and a host of bright, successful Internet business founders and users. During the discussion, one panelists commented about how she “needs to be able to find the slide” on a site or she’ll leave. Being a huge ecommerce tech geek, I knew exactly what she was talking about. Web users will give it a few seconds to “get” what a site’s all about. Any longer, they bounce.

It was a pesky issue that drove ecommerce giants to spend tons of money and time to solve during Web 1.0, and in part why you see many Internet retail sites designed the same way. Things like where the eye lands/moves when it hits a page (usually left or center, then right diagonal) and our likeliness to stay if we don’t have to scroll down were noticed. It’s why you see left-to-right navigation, landing pages fit to screen size and lots of little mini-advertisements (aka, “real estate”) of what the site offers to draw people in.

In other words, a good, well-designed playground that doesn’t take long to figure out, where visitors can find the slide.

I’m a stickler on the topic (it’s one of my strongest consulting skills) and believe networks today are getting it right (even if everybody’s platform is now very Hulu-esque). Not all nail navigation 100%, different community features would have potentially made better sense, but it’s all an important step in the right direction. Here’s why:

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In Search of….the Audience

July 10, 2008 9:46 AM

Lately, I’ve got people on my mind. Millions of them. I’ve been wondering where they are and what they’re doing because it seems they may be the sneaky culprit in the great caper of the missing audience that’s been hoodwinking entertainment.

Viewership is down, the market’s facing looming fragmentation and revenue models are starting to get slippery. I’m not going to lie, to be on the case is a little like being a storm chaser heading at a mighty twister. I saw this monster coming and believe me, I’ve been waiting for the moment to try to outwit it for years. The forecast might be grim for entertainment business, but I believe it’s possible that companies can do things now to better endure a hit.

That points to two big issues: audience/traffic and fragmentation, at least, fragmentation as I understand it. I know there’s a lot of talk about models, but I think that’s somewhat symptomatic. I believe the bigger issue lies in a need to rethink audience development, and then the overall streamlining of the Web experience for users.

Imagine if you turned on your television tonight and suddenly, there was no order to it -- you have to haphazardly hunt down the content without any sort of structure or guide in your search.

That’s the case with content on the Web. It’s no surprise that generating traffic and making money has been so difficult.

Plenty of signs point to users trending towards this anyway, but with a structure in place, the migration could happen quicker. With audience, it’s been more than 40 years since television industry has had to truly marry users to a brand new platform as executives today must with the Web.

I know everybody wants to believe that “choice” for users means the whole shebang, but it really lies in when and how these days. What and where, luckily, can stay in companies’ hands if they let it. The key is to stop focusing on pushing content out and to start pulling people in.

Easier said than done? Maybe not. Facebook and MySpace are two big examples. Hint: it’s not on the Web.

Hooray for Hollywood!

July 2, 2008 2:05 PM

It was early 2005 when I realized that television and Internet would someday converge. I wasn’t anywhere near television at the time, really. I was just a girl who had a newly launched start-up social media company and a wicked background in internet protocol (aka, the Web) that enabled me to see around corners in the business.

My work in television, in a sense, started right there. But, while most TV execs are going from the traditional tube to the Internet, my path has been the other way around. I spent three years learning, adapting and evangelizing professional (Webisodic, etc.) Internet content because I saw early on that user driven would be hard to monetize, and that ultimately, IP’s plan for you and I was simple: all things over one pipeline – the Internet.

Fast forward to the present and I’m now a television exec in a sense. I’m an executive producer on a show concept that’s already been shopped around and has “strong interest.” I’ve coordinated a crew and production, handled talent, and dealt with people’s agents, have a manager and a network approved showrunner, all in just two months of entering the business.

Believe me, it didn’t exactly start out that way, and in many ways, it’s been a crazy, harrowing experience. I first tried to work with agents at WMA and CAA but nobody would have me, even though I had since sold the Internet business (one of just 86 acquired last year) and had some proof in the market. Reluctant to give up, I studied the way the business worked, figured out who made the decisions, and crept into the networks directly myself. Within hours I had meetings with nearly all the top VPs and SVPs of development I targeted, and within a few weeks, a manager who thankfully connected me with a network approved producer. That’s when I learned the first lesson in television business: without a showrunner, an idea stands little chance.

Two months later, we’ve just finished production on the sizzle reel and have tapped into my Internet background to create an interactive element that’ll hopefully serve as a model for bridging traditional TV with the Web. I’m by no means a television business expert, but that’s why I wanted to launch a blog chronicling my efforts.

Could a Web executive make moves in the entertainment space, and more importantly, what could happen if you put geeks and creatives together? That’s the premise of Digital Dish. Three times a week, I’ll be talking about just that. Hello, Hollywood. I’m excited to be here.