Field Guide to the Web Game
October 14, 2008 11:13 AM
This week, “Saturday Night Live” and HBO announced that they’ll be launching online video efforts, joining the ranks of other Hollywood types like Hulu.com, Strike.TV, etc., in providing content on the Internet. It came with excitement, of course. The more big content players in the category, the better.
Success for everyone depends on how well the industry as a whole can attract an audience. Big names haven’t always meant success online. In fact, historically it has appeared to be the opposite.
The Internet’s a level playing field where two guys in a garage eating Ramen noodles can outsmart a multimillion-dollar effort. Success and failure all depend on the ability to understand the Internet and how to drive people to your Web site. No amount of money can guarantee it.
So what do giant players like “Saturday Night Live” and HBO need to do to achieve YouTube-like success? I believe it all boils down to thinking more like the little guys when it comes to developing an audience and ultimately, growing a Web business.
Start-ups put an intense, relentless effort into generating presence and building an audience at a very hand-to-hand level. Go to any Internet event and you’ll find many networking, speaking, presenting and working the crowd. They pass out stickers; people work their presence.
I believe big companies need to see the Web in the same way. If nobody knew about you, how would you tell them about it?
Start-ups also can’t afford to make mistakes and don’t recover as easily from bad ideas, so there’s a cautious look-before-launching mentality. They work to know a category, what’s missing, and what people want, then design from there.
A lot of the best ideas online, like YouTube and MySpace, spun out of a handful of small people noticing something that everybody could use.
Big companies can do the same. The market’s an easy read if you’re careful where you look. With “SNL” and HBO, they’re very different and so would be the strategy. It will be very interesting to see how both do.