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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Viral videos (with bonus comments from JibJab, Mr. Evolution of Dance, and Aaron Yonda of `Chad Vader') ... SIGGRAPH starts in Boston

- My Entertainment 2.0 column today focuses on viral video. The headline is `Low-budget viral videos attract TV-sized audiences'. Here's the gist:

    Traditional network TV is far from dead, but viral video -- short clips that garner attention via e-mail links that circulate like wildfire -- is an important and impressive new force that is shaking up the world of content and advertising.


    ...``Just like the Internet changed the way people book their travel, or do their banking, the Internet's changing the way we relate to entertainment," says Ryan Magnussen, chief executive of Ripe TV, a Los Angeles company that produces video content for the Web, handheld devices, and cable TV. ``The value of NBC in the past was their distribution platform, which was incredibly powerful. But that's now starting to break down."



As part of my reporting, I got the chance to correspond via e-mail with Judson Laipply, who made "Evolution of Dance," and talk with Gregg Spiridellis, who (with his brother Evan) made "This Land" and "It's Good to Be in D.C.", and Aaron Yonda, part of the group that made "Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager." (Aaron wasn't quoted in the piece, unfortunately.)


Yonda works at a custom metal shop in Madison, Wisconsin, and hopes his viral video work might get him noticed and create opportunities in the entertainment industry. Many of the videos he has made with collaborator Matt Sloan, on the site Channel101.com, have gotten 11,000 or 12,000 views... but when YouTube put "Chad Vader" on its homepage on July 17, suddenly it hit a million views. Yonda told me the budget for the video was about $2000, and they made it over the course of two months. "The primary payoff is having people like it," he said. "The secondary payoff has been that people go and check out our other videos, which don't use [George Lucas'] copyrighted characters."


Gregg Spiridellis said that JibJab isn't planning to make a political video for this year's mid-term elections -- which is too bad. Their main focus right now is on attracting other talented animators and video-makers to their site. "We're trying to figure out new production models," he said. "How do we coordinate and produce and cultivate talent in a way that reflects the economics of online [entertainment]? It will be very different from the development process for a TV sitcom. How do you create a virtual organization to make stuff, where you don't have a bunch of writers sitting at desks in your office full-time?"


I asked Judson Laipply whether he thinks there is a formula for making viral videos go viral, and whether he had an edge over others, since he'd cracked the code once. He wrote, in an e-mail:


    I don't think that viral videos have a formula yet. In fact I think that is what makes it so interesting. What makes one person forward a video over another? Is it that something is so funny? That the skill level is high? An Original idea? I don't think I would have any advantage over the next person because of my previous success.

Judson said his next video -- a new "Evolution of Dance" routine -- will be out right after Labor Day.


- Also, SIGGRAPH 2006 opens today in Boston. About 25,000 people are expected, according to the Boston Herald.