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

August 2008 Archives

Lessons From Early Web Shows: Model Live

August 27, 2008 2:09 PM

As I write this, I’m watching Vogue’s Model Live webisode. Surprisingly, I remembered the Vogue.tv URL and hit it rather than going to Bebo (perhaps a testament to what Vogue has done well).

After a too-long page load, I’m on the site. I never understand why companies don’t listen to what was learned in the 1990s about usability. Not everybody is on high-speed, and Flash sites load slowly. While design is important, overly designed or stylized pages please you more than us.

Vogue TV

The interface is smart, clean and shows me exactly what to do. I would have opted for left-to-right navigation with the show player as the first thing my eyes laid on. Instead it was the store, which maybe was intentional.

I won’t lie. I wanted to know what the store was about.

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Reality TV Needs Rethinking

August 25, 2008 10:11 AM

When you think about it, reality programming is kind of a gift. It’s less expensive to produce, can be done fairly efficiently, has nearly endless ideas and subjects and, most important, audiences seem to like it. It can be done in different formats: docu-reality, scripted reality, competitions, etc. If you’re lucky to nail a winning concept, it can spin out ancillary revenue streams and cross-platform capabilities.

Most important, it’s Web TV-friendly. I think it has the potential to help migrate online audiences to adopt small-screen television.

The Amazing Race

But, for all the potential reality programming seems to have, finding and creating winning concepts appears challenging. A recent trade magazine article commented about the redundancy of formats, themes and formulas among networks, and how it ultimately was making things feel stale.

More than once, I’ve heard women viewers complain that all reality seemed to paint women in the same light. Many, male or female, who I’ve tapped about the topic have said they feel shows are too silly and sensationalized.

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Adding Up the Week's Random Thoughts

August 22, 2008 5:39 PM

I’m really excited about all of the webisode content announced this week. The most notable element is that it’s mostly coming from big entertainment companies. That’s a good thing because it can mean a healthy ecosystem.

In my last post I mentioned that I wasn’t watching much Internet video, in part because I wasn’t into any of the content, but I’m interested in both the MTV and Vogue magazine shows mentioned in the news this week.

Both are reality format, which is smart for Internet video at the moment. It’s less expensive, can look a little rough and still be palatable, feels familiar to the audience and seems likely to be a natural fit for online.

Vogue’s show seems marketed well. I first learned of it through a print ad in Vanity Fair, then saw it somewhere online a few days later.

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Getting Users Excited About Web TV

August 20, 2008 10:00 AM

I’m writing today’s post from Nassau, Bahamas, where I’ve been grounded due to Tropical Storm Fay hitting Florida. I’m confused about what to expect. Is the airport going to close in Miami? Where is the storm going? And more importantly, should I expect to be able to get home? I’ve been tapping televised and Internet media to try to figure things out.

Tropical Storm Fay

Nearly every Web page I hit in my efforts offered a video clip in addition to an article. Every time, I skipped the video and went straight to the text.

It got me thinking: I almost never watch video online. I’m the right demographic, Internet-savvy, etc. I tend to be an early adopter—I ditched MySpace for Facebook long ago, and have since left both for Twitter. As a digital consultant and blogger/journalist, I spend nearly half my working hours online.

So why is it, then, that I ignore most Internet video?

There’s nothing interesting on. I don’t care for current webisodes. Truthfully, no series has really piqued my interest. The short news clips on CNN.com catch my attention, but somehow they never seem to load. After an attempt or two, I move on.

The idea of sitting in front of my laptop, let alone my handheld, watching “television” doesn’t appeal to me at all. I know that in the future, traditional televisions will pipe in Web TV shows, but that’s far off at the moment. Unlike the iPhone, my BlackBerry isn’t ideal for watching shows. Also, content is hard to find. The Web is very fragmented and disorganized at the moment.

So how could a network or producer sway me to watch their online stuff?

Create what appeals: Nothing in traditional television gets a green light if it doesn’t fit what development executives believe the audience wants. The same should go for Internet TV content.

Expand the viewpoint: Why is most online content webisodic? Why so much comedy? Most importantly, why isn’t anybody trying anything else? If I were creating shows, it’d be much different than what’s seen now.

Stop “freeing” it: The Internet is vast enough without users having to figure out who is hosting your content. Rather than giving us video “where we want it,” focus on how to drive us to you. It’ll make things so much easier for all.

Timing Is Everything in Web World

August 19, 2008 1:41 PM

In the late 1990s, dozens of startup companies saw a future for mobile devices. They knew that we the people (especially business people) would want to have “anytime, anywhere” access to e-mail, the Internet and other documents.

More than half of those companies aren’t even around today. Some had to close their doors without even giving employees notice, or worse, severance. Others held out, like Palm. Very few became success stories.

Were they wrong about mobile? No. They were just too early for the market.

In 1998, the promise of the mobile Web was real, but it was just that: a promise. Despite plenty of mobile-ready devices, the users weren’t there yet and wouldn’t be for some time.

It’s a great example of one of the most important elements of Internet business: timing.

You can see plenty of examples of it in more recent years. Very few MySpace or YouTube clones have done well. On a smaller scale, similar happened with my first start-up, Stylediary.net. Within an eight-month time frame, seven similar companies formed. Most are not in business any longer.

Anything too late to a market won’t stick, while anything too early will more than likely starve as it awaits user adoption.

The reason why it happens, in part, is because the Web is constantly evolving as a technology itself. Where the Internet is in terms of its development plays a role in what’s possible. Other factors, like user adoption and devices, also can take part. It’s one of the hardest elements of Web business. How does one determine what’s early and what’s late in the market?

It takes a look beyond future predictions and toward the immediate. For example, mobile video and Internet gaming are tracking extremely well, with enormous potential. But I don’t believe the supporting technologies are there just yet, or that user adoption is where it needs to be to make initiatives truly viable at the moment.

To quote a February article regarding mobile TV online, “Press releases outnumber viewers.” I believe it. Audiences haven’t yet fully moved to watching Internet video via laptops and PCs, let alone handhelds. Most are still carrying Razr and traditional cell phones, rather than devices that can support initiatives in the capacity that a business would need them to.

Broadband speeds in many parts of the country just aren’t there yet, either.

So what does it mean for entrepreneurs and executives, who may feel pressured to get involved? Relax and know there’s still a little time. Should you have these types of strategies in the queue? Absolutely. Do they need to happen right now? No.

Focus on drawing mass users to your traditional Internet platform (aka Web site) and map mobile and other initiatives for the not-too-distant future. Most importantly, take a lesson from Web 1.0 and look past what’s expected to what is. It’ll help.

How Names Can Hurt You in Web Business

August 13, 2008 7:00 AM

Strike TV

In the offline world, we are exposed to and engage with brands just about everywhere we turn. In the online world, it’s a bit different. You never casually pass by MySpace as you might pass a McDonald’s on your way to work. You don’t regularly see Starbucks to the point where you think about it and stop in.

Instead of being seen and heard, brand names are typed into an address bar or search engine. If it’s passed onto another person, it’s spoken, e-mailed, posted or sent via instant message.

This means anything that’s difficult to say or spell, or has unusual wording, can make it difficult to find your company online. It can make or break your online efforts more than you think.

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Adding Up Some Random Thoughts

August 11, 2008 10:33 AM

I’ve had a lot of thoughts that don’t exactly make for a whole blog posting lately.

For instance, I think the Google/Seth MacFarlane deal was really bright. An ad’s an ad no matter how you slice and dice it to the audience, but people probably will watch it, and it is a creative play while the market tries to sort itself out. I keep wondering who was behind it—Google? Endeavor? Smart. I want to have drinks with them.

I love the new Web shows coming out from Hollywood veterans. You have to understand, tech/Internet people have been doing this kind of stuff forever, and it’s very nice to see some variation and improvement of stories, content, etc. (both from you and them). I’ve been really impressed with how well some have marketed themselves, too. Good on it! It’s still really early for video online, but early stuff is important.

I’m also excited to see Silicon Valley/tech trying to angle into Hollywood. I heard that Revision3 was in the local press about having dreams of moving into entertainment. Glad to see it. Revision3 is a decent brand with the right idea, even if it’s a little techie for Hollywood/TV.

Confidential to Revision3: Create a few non-tech shows. Make some things that appeal to the same viewers being courted by Disney and CBS.

One thing that’s interesting is that Web projects out of Hollywood are almost entirely episodic, while those out of the Silicon Valley are short, newsy shows. It’s because the latter is cheaper and easier. WallStrip sold to CBS for $5 million. Just saying.

Also in recent news, the idea of magazines producing Web TV shorts on their print stories. Brilliant. What a cool, cool move on content and a smart play by print media in the Internet dog fight. That puts them right smack into the playing field with traditional television for Internet audiences, and that with a slightly slicker card to play, too.

We are so lucky to be riding through a major technological revolution like we are. It’s like the invention of the telephone, only better.

Sifting Through the Noise on the Web

August 8, 2008 4:39 PM

The Internet had burned enough companies the last time around (aka Web 1.0), leaving it nearly deserted by corporate America for many years before the boom time we’re seeing now.

While the Web lay there relatively untapped, the playing field was left to anybody interested in creating a site, and create they did. On a larger scale, it was MySpace and YouTube; on a smaller one, popular blogs and the “Internet famous.”

Without much competition from corporations, these players have been able to take the market, some with enormous success.

I don’t believe it’s a case of their understanding the Web more than big media/entertainment, so much as that they haven’t faced major competition. And, contrary to the buzz and traffic many of these sites have, most are struggling with making money. Guess who they’re eyeing for their exit?

For entertainment and television executives, it can be difficult to sift through the noise and find solid small companies to partner with or purchase.

What are some of the key things to think about as you consider partnering with or purchasing smaller players?

First, understand that many Web properties are high on unique visitors but low where it matters: session times and repeats. One million unique visitors who spend less than a minute on a site and do not return are not truly “traffic.” Ask to see all of a site’s analytics—where the audience is coming from, what it’s doing, how long it’s doing it, etc., before you get into bed.

Second, watch the hype machine. It’s been widely discussed online that many of the information sources covering the Internet space feature companies based on friendships, relationships and other interests. That can skew opinions and, worse, a company’s value and market position. Watch for players with excessive coverage on one or two sites, or a site that covers one company regularly but no others in a category. These are the signs that tip audiences to bias, and should do the same for entertainment executives.

Last, don’t limit your scope. A lot of entertainment and television execs tightly focused on social networks and blogs. Consider small blog networks, e-mail newsletters and other platforms in the market as well to ensure you’re taking a well-rounded look.

When in doubt, ask. Some of the most insightful people in the market are more than happy to offer a realistic look at the landscape to digital media and entertainment executives.

Be Your Own Celebrity Weekly

August 6, 2008 5:37 PM

Who wouldn’t love to work on an entertainment Web site, especially one that has a little star power and plenty of offerings to integrate into the user experience?

It’s a great idea: Networks shaking hands with their audience, hosting cast/crew blogs and interesting, engaging content (sneak peeks, outtakes, advice, blogs and video messages from the cast and set), letting users come in, soak it up and of course, share it with their friends.

If you don’t think your audience is looking for this, you’re crazy. It’s the essential drive that sells things like In Touch and People magazines. It doesn’t have to be intrusive or involve a paparazzi chase, but offer a little extra glimpse or access to what takes place behind the scenes and, believe me, people love it.

I remember when TMZ.com first became popular. It wasn’t the stories it broke as much as the fact that it took the audience that much closer, through video, to the Hollywood/celebrity experience.

I don’t see why more networks and talent don’t capture this themselves and offer it online as a natural extension of the show brand. It isn’t just about posting photo stills from the set but leveraging talent, tools and interest into a cool, interactive experience.

Imagine the new show “90210” with a cast and crew armed with Flip video cameras on set from time to time (with warning, of course), recording, editing and uploading fun clips to a network home page. Or, if the entire cast of a film were given inexpensive digital cameras and encouraged to take a montage of shots of their experience as a film is made, to be uploaded to the studio’s site so that users could interact and watch the process.

I’d check out a really good blog by a star on a show if it were authentic. I think people would equally love to hear from directors and others on the set.

Networks can control the valve by hiring a great site editor to review cast blog/photo/video submissions and fill in gaps with daily recaps, fun posts about the production process and other content to ease the burden on stars and staff.

Success, of course, would depend on how it’s done and how well it’s integrated into the market, but if it’s everybody’s dream to meet a favorite star or sample Hollywood/celebrity life, who better to offer it than the entertainment business?

Meshing TV With Interactive

August 5, 2008 10:35 AM

I haven’t blogged much about my experience in developing a television series since the start of Digital Dish, but my project is still alive and well, and finally in its next stage of the process.

The showrunner, her business partner, the entire cast, our manager and I have all become very close, like family. It’s no wonder such close relationships are developed in entertainment business. You spend an enormous amount and length of time working together.

It’s an unexpected surprise for an Internet exec. In my industry, one person, a little ambition, and a free Tumblr blog can be all it takes to become the next big thing.

More than a year of experimenting with formats, a month of networking in the industry, and two months of work after finally finding the right production partner, and it’s moving. I’ve said more than once that it’s “harder to sell a TV show than an Internet site.” Honestly, it is.

But one of the biggest goals I had as an Internet entrepreneur was to try to find ways to create television concepts with cross-channel capabilities, especially the Web, baked in. I had seen a few years ago that there could be potential for it due to convergence between TV and the Internet.

Finally, here I am.

While I can’t share a lot of details about the project just yet (it’ll be unveiled at the end of the week!), there were a few “rules” I followed as I built its interactive component that may be helpful to others.

First, I kept the focus tightly on meshing the two platforms (TV/Web) so the Web site is designed to be a very direct extension of the show, versus just a landing page with information. I understand that this may need to be folded into a network’s site, but I think it can live there with easy access without disrupting its original design and aesthetic.

It was created entirely with the audience in mind and has tons of ways they can get involved and get value.

Second, I tried to think of every ancillary revenue stream possible. The site has so many different ways for advertisers and sponsors to get involved, plus cool retail, music and other tie-ins. I don’t think networks do this nearly as much as they can online, but I believe audiences could be responsive.

Third, I thought bigger. The treatment has other cross-channel capabilities (and revenue) worked in, and all tie back to the interactive site. Inspired by brands like American Girl, which do this very well, I created a variety of extensions to the show brand. Again, I don’t believe networks do this nearly as much as they can.

Will it work? We’ll see!

Talent Pool: Top Tips for A Successful Marriage of the Talent Business and Web Talent, Part II

August 1, 2008 1:18 PM

In my last post, I talked about the new digital talent pool available on the Internet and how Web talent can make the move into traditional entertainment business.

With the exception of a handful of people (Perez, Tila), few Web talents have truly panned out for entertainment executives (music industry excluded).

However, I still think the Web can be a viable source for tapping talent depending on how you use it. My tips:

Look Beyond YouTube: Talent 2.0 has moved beyond rough clips on YouTube to their own produced shows, either hosted on their own sites or those of more network-esque distribution channels like Revision3. This crop of smart performers usually has at least somewhat of an established brand, following, etc. (Bonus! I’ve included a list of my favorite Web talent picks below.)

Do your homework: Verizon recently signed a Web show only to be met by angry, public protest from several African American groups due to something the show produced in the past. Verizon instantly dropped the show, but the damage to its brand was done. Go beyond what a talent tells/provides and do Google searches to search blogs, other social networks, comments on articles, etc. before you sign.

Know they need to grow: A lot of Web talent are raw and new to the business, but can quickly grow and adapt with even the slightest guidance. I know many great web talent that have moved over (as I know tons of entertainment people who have successfully transitioned to web). A lot of the new crop of performers, writers and producers online are savvier than ever before.

(Bonus feature: My top picks online right now include TechSoup’s Alison McNeill, CNET’s Natali Del Conte, and Veronica Belmont, who are each very professional and making some important moves.)