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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Are People Ready To Pay Money for Long Form Niche Content?

Jules Watkins from the UK writes in with the following email:

Hi Tim,

Read your blog with interest.

I wanted to get an opinion. I am a TV Producer Director based in the UK and shoot and make shows for all the major networks eg BBC, Channel 4. Sky, MTV UK etc.

I want to break out of this and make shows I own the rights to. My idea is for 30 mins shows to put on download services like BT (as cable network that charges per view) as well as itunes and even direct from a purpose built site.

I realize short videos do well over time..but is there a demand for longer episodes especially as some download services play straight to your TV.

The shows will be niche eg video gaming doc with an entertaining twist and I am sure the exact angle isn't really available on mainstream TV.

My question is do you think people are ready to pay money for niche long form content other than big brand shows like Ugly Betty etc! or like ebooks and niche blogs will people pay say $4 - 6 $ for a show they just cant see anywhere else.

i estimate each 30 mins show to cost between $20000 and $30000 dollars to make, I will direct and shoot and rough edit and get an editor to polish and get a proper sound mix.

I can finance the first myself..am i taking to big a risk? Can I make a good profit?

I realize it would be good to get a sponsor first but as this would be a first for me doing it under my own name not via an established company it could be tricky to get cash in advance..maybe it would come after when I could show them it finished?

many thanks,


Thanks for the the email Jules.

I think it is possible to make long form niche content that people will pay for but you have to be very careful about what you make, how much it costs and how you market and promote that content.

My advise would be to do a test first of something that emotionally moves you personally is in a niche that you are passionate about and doesn't cost more than $5,000 to produce. For the sake of this conversation let's say that your child has been diagnosis with autism.

Creating a video that explains to parents what they can expect in dealing with an autistic child and how to cope with it as a family might be a long form niche video that people would pay for now. It wouldn't cost a lot to produce the video and if it was informative and actually gave good take away advice people would buy it for themselves and for friends and family.

In creating this Coping with Autism video I would also create a blog and an audio or video podcast that would build a conversation to develop an audience through contextual search. (I apologize to those of you who came here through search hoping to find a video about Coping with Autism - I'm just using this as an example.) This "audience conversation" is what makes the Internet so different and so much more powerful than traditional Television. I wish I could have a conversational audience with French Maid TV but the conversation that my viewers want to have with the French Maids are not the types of conversations that advertisers want to see their products next to - so I'm still noodling that one. Please let me know if you have any ideas.

A few other things to consider are:

1. Selling Long Form Video Online is Still a Pain in the Ass
Even though there are some download services that play straight to your TV, currently you can not sell long form independent videos on popular download sites like iTunes unless you are a major distributor. There are small sites out there and you could sell your own video on your own site but if you need to sell thousands of copies to recupe your costs it ain't going to happen unless you have lightening in a bottle, you are an expert at online viral marketing or you have a huge marketing budget.

2. You Don't Have a Huge Marketing Budget
Studios and TV Networks are the biggest costumers of Television advertising. TV Networks use their own air time to promote their own shows and movie studios use TV advertising to get your butt in the theater seat. You will have to come up with a marketing plan and incredible "Key Art" that will cut through the clutter or no one will ever find your long form video.

3. You Don't Have a Huge Marketing Budget
I'm writing this one again because most of us independent content creators are passionate about our creations to the point of impairing our hearing and our good judgment. We love our own projects so much that it's hard to believe that no one would consider buying our interactive DVD / digital yarn about a woman getting revenge on her married ex-lover through building a "tell all" Vlog with videos and photos of his escapades with other women. (Let me know if you want to buy a copy for $10. I still have a few left.)

4. The Market Place Isn't Built Yet
This point pretty much echoes the fact that it's a pain in the ass to sell long form video online but the fact of the matter is most people like to watch long form video on their TV and there is still no easy way (as in changing a channel easy) to get content from the Internet to your TV.

All that said, I think it's fairly unlikely that right now you could spend $20,000 on a long form video and see a return on your investment unless you have something that is really, really, really great, people want it and they can't get anything like it anywhere else, you are a master of viral marketing or you have a huge marketing budget.

I am aware of several new websites that are creating portals where you will be able to sell your long form online videos and audiences will be able to watch them on TV without a ton of hassle so the market place is being built. Think of the music industry and study who has been a successful online artist and what they have done to sell there songs online.

Once you are able to discover and watch any Internet video on your TV with the same ease of use of discovering and listening to music on your PC you will be able to produce and sell your own long form content but until then I say keep your content short, use it to set the stage for your long form videos and start putting that viral marketing plan together because you are going to need something really special to cut through the clutter.

I'm not saying, "Don't do it." I'm saying, "Don't do it just yet."

Someone is going to be able to produce and sell a video online that is going to make millions of Pounds and that someone might be you.

Thanks again for the email Jules. Let's keep the conversation going.


neovids said...

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rob said...

Hi Tim and Jules

I wish I had the balls to get up and make video content that I could sell to the public.

I have always had an interest in video production but have not done anything along the lines that you are thinking.

Jules, as far as marketing goes you should have a look at the Guerrilla Balance sheet. It shows how you can turn your marketing into a profit center.

Do you remember the Da Vinci Code craze? Some smart Guerrilla marketers raked in millions by using Guerrilla tactics.

These same tactics would be valuable for your marketing efforts in relation to your video production.

So to answer your question about "are people ready to pay money for niche long form content..." the answer is yes if you market correctly.

For more info about the Guerrilla Balance Sheet go here:
http://tinyurl.com/5r88r5 I honestly think it will be worth your time to read this.

Norfazillah said...

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Collection of free movie online

Joel said...

Having worked in Television for many years now I am often told by people that they have the next great TV show. The assume that the idea is worth a ton and that they can produce it themselves and some network or someone will by it.

You lay out the realities very clearly.

I agree no one is saying not to do it but nothing is a slam dunk and while podcasting and the lowering of the cost of production and post production technology is opening the door to possibilities, it is still very hard to make real money producing content.

Much is created that is never seen and many good ideas will never see the light of any screen.

As my brother always says focus on story and the package first cause without that you really have nothing.

Lan Bui said...

Hey Tim, great thoughts here.

I would like to add that there are great markets for niche content and people are ready and willing to pay. We are builing a subscription website with niche content for a very specific industry, our model would work with many other industries.

Basically, almost every industry has veterans and newbies. Take the veterans and make videos with them about the industry. Make a video or two a month and sell a subscription to the website. Also create a social network for the members so they can share info and have conversations.

What do you think?

1 Tim Street said...

I could see the subscription model that Lan is talking about working. If you take On-Air TV promo and Motion Graphics for example, there is a group called Promax that has members that are TV Promo producers and Motion Graphics designers. They get together every year for a conference where they talk about the tools, tips and tricks of the trade. Then they make the conference sessions available for purchase on DVD and people buy them.

The content is important and it's coming from experts so I think Lan's models has merit but what about creating fictional content?

Creating and selling Independent long form fictional content is going to be a rough road for most people but just like some people are able to break into Hollywood some content producers are going to be able to break into Self Independent Global Distribution. Once that happens and we see someone do it, others will follow just like they did when Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile.

EnlightenedWatcher said...

I think you might be on to something even if you see no one else in the market doing the same thing.

Narrow down your niche with a service like wordtracker, study mark joyner in reference to viral marketing, post videos to a You Tube account with tags, and you might just strike gold.

Viral marketing even empowers you to have your customers pay for your marketing and break into a new niche.

I'd like to know what you find out.


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Lan Bui said...

Oh yeah, fictional content is hard.

The only way i can think of to sell fictional content is creating something with a strong enough brand. Like a comic book... people are willing to spend $2-$5 on a new comic book once a month... how much does it cost to make a comic book.

Lets start up conversations with the independent comic book people and see if they are making money.

Jules said...


Thanks Tim and others for your comments, I've definitely it's given me quite a lot of things to think about in more detail.

I'll keep you posted what happens.

I still have hope!