Wednesday, December 5, 2007
International Day of the Ninja
The very first episode of Ask A Ninja was posted in late 2005 on a blogspot blog for Beatbox Giant. The first question was Matt's questions about when and where ninjas get their uniforms. (I wonder who Matt is? Maybe the bass player for the band that does the theme some but I never asked the Ninja)
In the Question #1: The Ninja-Mart Store episode the Ninja didn't even have a real Ninja uniform because the shows creators Kent Nichols and Douglas Sarine couldn't afford one. They shot the show with a broken camera, a good mic and launched with a catchy theme song "I Am Ninja", by the German band The Neu Tickles. Two years later it is the International Day of the Ninja and Kent and Douglas are grossing $100,000 per month in advertising revenues.
That's right $100k per month for a guy dressed in a Ninja suit standing in front of a wall yelling answers to a question that one of their viewers asked via email. But keep in mind their videos do get millions of views.
At the risk of being killed by the Ninja I'm going to give you a little bit of the story on how it all came together.
Kent and Douglas met in an Improvisational acting class in the Los Angeles area. From there they started creating an animated show about Ninjas living in Orange County, California. As they got further and further into developing the show for another production company they realized that animation was really, really hard to pull off so they were ready to throw in the towel and call it quits but Douglas wouldn't let it die. Douglas started asking Kent questions about video production and internet videos and how they could do something - anything - on the cheap. After spending some time watching other popular videos on YouTube they came up with Ask A Ninja.
I first met Kent in the Spring of 2006 at Vloggercon. We were on a panel together about creating characters and I got slammed by the crowd. They hated me but loved the Ninja. At that time Kent and I were both amazed by what Andrew Baron and what he was doing with Rocketboom but then came the big break up. Andrew and Amanda from Rocketbook had a big public falling out.
Later in the Summer I met Douglas for the first time when Kent and I were on another panel together at Comic-con and Kent and Douglas were making changes fast.
At that point because of the big Rocketboom breakup Kent and Douglas realized that no one in this online video space knew what they were doing when it came to monetizing online video. So Kent and Douglas decided they would figure it out for themselves and to do that they knew they would need money, which they borrowed from their family.
They were using Revver to host their videos and Podtrac to get advertisers and both services worked but just not on a big enough scale to make enough money to live on and pay back the money they had borrowed.
The Ninja boys also had a few great little things happen. They were asked by NPR to do a movie review for Pirates of the Caribbean and the Ninja was asked to be the judge of the Yahoo Talent Show. Both events gave Ask A Ninja more visibility and more video views.
Along the way Kent and Douglas picked up UTA as an agent and signed with a high profile Manager and high powered entertainment attorney.
Once they had those pieces in place they started talking with an online video podcasting company, Podtech about taking over advertising for the Ask A Ninja videos but at about the same time they also met with a very smart man by the name of John Battelle from an online advertising agency called Federated Media to talk about handling the advertising inventory for both their website and their videos.
Now keep in mind that Federated Media had never monetized online video before but John Battelle put together a very detailed and well thought out plan of how Federated Media would bring money to the Ask A Ninja Brand and Kent and Douglas liked the man and they liked his plan.
UTA brokered the deal with Federated, it took a few months to get things up and running but now my best guess is that the Ninja boys are taking home around 30-40K each per month and in the scheme of things they are just getting started.
Best of all Kent and Douglas are still nice guys, they are now dept free AND they still own Ask A Ninja. Now that’s something worth creating a special day to celebrate.