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One of the biggest problems with web television is that no one has yet written the guide to how to make it work. That is what I am trying to do. We are presented with dozens, if not hundreds of different types of web shows and webisodes fictional and non-fiction. Although We Need Girlfriends is a successful model, Quarterlife was highly unsuccessful. So how does one figure it out?

The first thing to think about before even shooting is writing. How can YOU make your content hold up with the audience? For a small example, please read the article on the left called “The Sitcom Digresses” which is about how broadcast shows like 30 Rock and Family Guy have begun to realize the need for quick wit and attention grabbing writing styles. (And so has SNL, but they do have Andy Samberg and he wrote the first rules of web television, so that’s kinda cheating.)

When I pitched RTVF 65i, Television for the Web, I simply said this: “How often are you watching television and you think, ‘Nothing is on’? How often are you on the web and you think that nothing is on?” Think about that for a sec.

Broadcast TV has much more going for its form. You have about 30 secs to a minute to gain and KEEP an audiences attention. On the internet… you have anywhere between 7 and 11 seconds. (!) Why you ask? Well… because of the content creator’s worst enemy of course:

StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon

Also, shows can’t be as long either. Broadcast is used to a 30 minute (22 minutes) or an hour long show (44 minutes), but the web is free game! Though that doesn’t mean make epic 40 minute shows.. focus groups with college age students have shown that episodes ranging from 3 to 11 minutes are the most watchable. (This does not include the ultra successful Dr Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog.)

So. These are thoughts that will come out of my head as we move forward with this research. There is a lot of thought going into this and I hope it helps not only the academy of television, the university’s that teach television and the content creators, but I hope it helps everyone looking to have their content seen by the world.

Hi! My name is Jamie Cohen and I am leading the research on teaching television production for the web. Just a short intro for everyone so you can get the gist of what myself and my collegue, Dr Peter Gershon, will be researching in the coming months. Dr Gershon and myself are both television professors at Hofstra University’s School of Communication in the Radio/Television/Film Department. More about the two of us later.

Twebivision is my term referring to the atmosphere of our current culture of television production.

This April, at the Broadcast Education Association Convention in Las Vegas, Dr Gershon and myself will be presenting a panel called “Teaching Television Production in the Age of YouTube.”

We are creating a curriculum to be taught not only at Hofstra University, (the school that held the last presidential debate) but at any university studying the new course of the methods of television producing. What we have that no other university has is the close connection to the working model for this type of production, our alums Brian Amyot, ’04, Angel Acevedo, ’04 and Steve Tsapelas,’03. These three guys founded Hofstra Filmmaker’s Club at Hofstra and later went on to create Ragtag Productions. They created a web series called We Need Girlfriends that aired on YouTube and MySpace. Through ingenuity, hard work and very creative marketing, their webisode series got noticed by Sex and the City’s Darren Star. The show is now in production for a pilot for CBS. (link)

We are studying their process and also following our knowledge of television production in the classical sense, that television is a close-up medium. What we are looking at is a possible renaissance of television production. Originally, television was produced for a very small screen (in comparison to the film screen) and in the recent years, as television sizes increased, the formalities of production have been treated with less respect. Now, with television on a very very small screen (inside a screen), the formal techniques MUST be adhered to.

What Dr Gershon and I are discussing is also the new fact that television production for the web is actually only about 25-50% production… the other 50-75% is branding, creative advertising and self promotion. To quote Benjamin Palmer, CEO of the Barbarian Group, in The Screens Issue of the New York Times Magazine (Multiscreen Mad-Men, November 21, 2008):

Because what TV offers that the Internet doesn’t offer is a guarantee of fame. You know that millions of people saw that bit of you on television.

When producing for the internet, the content creator is on their own. What we are trying to prove is that formal higher education is just as necessary for web television production as it is for television production. It takes more than access to editing software and a camera to create successful content for the web.

We are teaching originality, authenticity and creativity as well as the understanding of the internet’s use of the word democracy (more on that another time).

Even more than the creation of material is the research we are doing with the subject of creator to viewer connection. This new world of web television allows the fans of the show access to the creator in a way never before seen in the field of television.

Please check back for updates on this study. The links on the left are my delicious links that I have been using for RTVF 65i, Television for the Web, the class I created and teach. Also, check my personal delicious site for additional research. In the coming months I will be posting our new findings and our outcomes of the RTVF Department’s curricular (For Your Island, RTVF 164 with the Webshow) and extra-curricular (HTVinteractive) work in the world of Twebivision.

Research Links

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