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Column: Independents Lead the Way to Profit in Web Video

I have good tidings to share this holiday season.

And here it is: Maybe it is better to be an independent.

In the past few weeks, a number of independent Web video producers have inked some impressive money-making deals that are indicative of the future direction for Web video.

I’m talking about Felicia Day of “The Guild,” Zack Luye of “Bottles, Blends and Brews” and the team behind “DadLabs.” All have landed big-deal sponsors or additional hosting gigs.

The trio of upbeat news items from these three Web creators underscores a bigger point: Not everyone gets hurt in a recession. And, gasp, some people can make money in one.

When it comes to Web video, the key is to be the perfect fit for an advertiser or marketer.

So forget layoffs. Forget the recession. Forget the incredible shrinking ad budgets. This week let’s talk about what is working in Web video.

Let’s recap the deals first. Popular original Web series “The Guild,” about a group of online gamers, landed a sponsorship deal for its second season with Microsoft and Sprint. The first season, which earned 9 million views online, was funded solely by fan donations. Over at the parenting show “DadLabs,” the producers struck a deal with Baby Bjorn (maker of baby carriers) that will run for six months. The deal is in the “six-figure” range, the show’s Chief Creative Officer Clay Nichols told me. Not bad for a show whose 325 videos have generated more than 3 million video views. Then, just last week, Web host Zack Luye scored an additional gig as the host of a weekly show that Adagio Teas will carry on its site starting in January.

Why do these deals matter and what do they have in common? They are important because they are the roadmap to making money as an independent creator. “DadLabs” for one is slated to break even by Jan. 1. That’s because the show’s producers have focused on landing targeted advertisers. If you’re Baby Bjorn, you can’t find a less cluttered environment than a show like “DadLabs.” Similarly, the Microsoft-Xbox sponsorship of “The Guild” is a brilliant partnership—“The Guild” is precisely the sort of show Microsoft’s gaming console should be backing.

Then there’s the Adagio Teas Web show. The tea maker will be launching a weekly video podcast in 2009 highlighting its signature tea blends, with Mr. Luye at the helm. That Adagio is launching a podcast is proof that brands are increasingly hungry for video content for their sites.

In fact, online video is one of the seven strategies eMarketer has suggested brands use to make it through these lean economic times. Specifically, eMarketer advised brands bring their video content to the Web, such as promotional films, sales demos and customer testimonials. Video makes a site stickier and keeps viewers more engaged with content.

The new Web show will revolve around Adagio’s signature blend line, said Ilya Kreymerman, chief technology officer for the company. “We needed a way to start highlighting some of the more interesting creations. The podcast will help us showcase some of these different tea blends,” he said.

So it seems as if podcasts and the producers who make them are proving their worth.

Comments (2)

This is some great news Daisy. It's nice to see that some brands are jumping at sponsorship opportunities.

It's just a matter of time before positive ROI really reveals itself within online video, and we see major brands really start to become an integrated part of the ecosystem.

I see a future where brands don't look at polished content and then decide where they want their messages to go (like the traditional TV model), but rather right from the beginning when the scripts are first being dreamed up.

Will there eventually be Chief Brand Integration Officers (CBIO) for online video?

Daisy - Nice Post. I especially like your notion that people should simply 'show up.' We know that video on the web is continuing to grow at an attractive rate. Happy Holidays. Best, Scott

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