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Summary:

The PR team for quarterlife emailed us a press release yesterday announcing that the web series had racked up an impressive two million views since its debut three weeks ago. Given the high-profile nature of quarterlife and its creators, we were interested in the numbers. But […]

The PR team for quarterlife emailed us a press release yesterday announcing that the web series had racked up an impressive two million views since its debut three weeks ago. Given the high-profile nature of quarterlife and its creators, we were interested in the numbers. But when we looked a little closer, the story they told was significantly different from what we had first thought.

What caught our eye in particular was the part about how quarterlife was “averaging a total of 250,000 views for each of the eight webisodes it has posted to date.” That’s impressive, and as it’s written could lead one to believe that roughly a quarter of a million people were following the show from week to week.

But upon closer inspection, the stats seem to indicate that audiences aren’t sticking around. Quarterlife is available on quarterlife.com, MySpace, YouTube, and imeem. Here’s a quick rundown of how each episode did on each of those platforms, except for the quarterlife site itself, as they wouldn’t release those figures.

quarterlife_numbers.jpg

The numbers were pulled from the playcounts available through the quarterlife channels on each site as of the time of the press release. Now, it’s possible that the discrepancy could be made up on the quarterlife site, but series co-creator Marshall Herskovitz said those numbers are “fairly small.” So most episodes, even older ones that have been up longer, fall well below the 250,000 plays per episode.

When asked about the disparity, a quarterlife spokesperson said they were just trying to give an aggregate number because so many people were asking for the data. Herskovitz insisted I was oversimplifying the statistics, noting that there are many variables associated with the show, such as time of release, the amount of promotion, etc.

It’s easy to blame the promotion your show receives, but when your playcount drops from nearly 650,000 on YouTube for the first episode to just a little over 19,000 for the second episode, your problems go beyond marketing. People just aren’t coming back.

While quarterlife — which had the good fortune of getting picked up by NBC amidst concern that the networks are running out of scripted content as a result of the writers’ strike — may be able to pass a lie detector with this release (2,000,000 divided by 8 does indeed equal 250,000), it’s unfair to count the simple average when so much of that number is weighted towards the first episode. This might not matter as much on a lower-profile web series, but quarterlife was created by seasoned TV professionals with a strong track record — it was supposed to herald a new era of web content.

If quarterlife can’t keep an audience, what does it mean for future web shows? Maybe the web is a truly level playing field where old teevee experience doesn’t matter. Maybe it means people really don’t want to watch dramas online. Or maybe it just proves that you can’t take a failed TV pilot and recut it for the web.

Whatever it means, while quarterlife may not be worth watching, its stats definitely are.

  1. I think the bottom line is the show is just not that good. My concern is that I hope it doesn’t have a negative affect on the people who have actually created content for the internet that has true cross over touch points, and embraces the community and the technology, rather than just two old TV guys finally selling something to a social media company that they couldn’t sell to a network years ago…..The takeaway here is, make sure its good before you hype the hell out of it, no matter what platform it’s on! Content is KING.

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  2. [...] NewTeeVee added an interesting post on Is quarterlife’s Heat Cooling Off?Here’s a small excerptThis might not matter as much on a lower-profile web series, but quarterlife was created by seasoned TV professionals with a strong track record — … Maybe it means people really don’t want to watch dramas online…. [...]

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  3. I agree. A heavily hyped show has a strong premiere but low follow-up numbers – this scenario goes down dozens of times each season on old TV, and I imagine it’s going to be happening more frequently online, as well.

    That being said, the quarterlife guys pulled off a helluva sleight of hand, getting picked up by NBC.

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  4. I’m on MySpace and you know what? I had no idea the show had started! MySpace didn’t send out any Bulletin (which is something Tom could have done to all MySpace users). I didn’t even think to look for their page to Add them. So in at least my case, the promotion of the series has been abysmal. I’d heard about it well before it began, then nothing since a mention of strike-plagued NBC picking it up. And now your article.

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  5. Considering all things, I think Dallas based Blake Calhoun has done a better job with his numbers for Pink the Series on YouTube and he hasn’t had all the press that QL has had either.

    His first episode of Pink has had almost 2.5 Million views.

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  6. My guess is that the episode 1 YouTube number represents some serious promotional placement by YouTube, trumpeting “yes, we have Quarterlife,” followed by very little YT support.

    Also, looking at MS and YT, episode 1 went up 26 days ago on MS and “2 weeks ago” on YT. I wonder if the bump for ep 3 on MS represented some of those YT viewers checking out newer episodes on MS.

    But the biggest issue for me with these numbers and all others is that they only represent people who STARTED the video stream. Whether they watched 9 seconds or 9 minutes, it counts the same. And given that MS autoplays the clip on pageload, I’m not surprised their numbers are high. But how many of those episode 1 viewers made it all the way through to the end of the episode? Until the industry starts pushing for a “complete views” or “more than 50% viewed” metric, or until we start seeing post-roll stats, we can only speculate.

    It will also be interesting to see if traffic and interest spike up whenever NBC starts airing episodes. (And will those be on Hulu?)

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  7. The same thing happens to websites that launch with a lot of hype: big spike at the beginning, then levels off to the “real audience”.

    This is EXACTLY why we measure “stickiness” for web shows with subscribers, not views.

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  8. I could tell from our conversation that Mr. Albrecht had already decided what he was going to write before he spoke to me. Your readers should know that this is actually a rarity. Very few journalists — and I’ve spoken to many over the years — have been as rude, condescending, and openly uninterested in what I might have to say about my own project.
    Given that, I will offer a few responses here:
    First — citing a 250K average was intended to convey that we had received these 2M plays after only eight installments, not the twenty or thirty one might expect from other, more frequently updated, online series. This was a fair point for us to make. As I said to him, the analogy is a film in limited release, where the gross is only $750K until you understand that means a per-screen average of $75K, which is fantastic. By the way, even if you take away the first episode, our average plays on MySpace are higher than any series other than Roommates (to which I happily defer since it is so superior to our work in every possible way…)
    Second — Mr. Albrecht’s title is completely misleading. quarterlife is in no way cooling off. We posted our third highest number of plays just a week ago. And the huge play on YouTube just happened a week ago. A more accurate depiction would be that we had a huge number of plays — equivalent to a monster hit — for our first episode, then very high, but not as high, numbers for subsequent episodes. That might be the subject of a real analysis, which Mr. Albrecht did not supply. Instead, Mr. Albrecht implies that people watched the first episode and never came back. In fact, on Myspace, our first number has almost been equaled two other times.
    Third — he essentially negates the importance of promotion, but in fact there’s a direct correlation between our number of plays and promotion. We had 600K plays for our first episode on YouTube because the episode was promoted. Subsequent episodes have not been promoted.
    He can think what he wants about our series, but implying that we’re failing is dishonest and of questionable intent. There are many questions intelligent people can ask about how to disseminate content on the Internet, and whether “viral” is one process or an incredibly complicated series of processes that can be influenced by subtle forces. Our episodes are eight minutes long and don’t feature girls in bikinis on their promos. The fact that our virality might be influenced by that is something to be pondered and experimented with, not denounced by snarky pundits who haven’t put up their own money to create a new model for independent filmmakers, as we have done. Why our failure would please Mr. Albrecht so much that he must invent it is for him to answer. Perhaps he would prefer the Internet be entirely dominated by the large media companies, as has happened in television.

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  9. Mr. Herskovitz — I think if you read NewTeeVee, you’ll see our agenda, if any, is entirely the opposite of what you’re saying.

    If Chris had simply posted the chart he compiled of openly available play counts for the series, the story would have told itself.

    We aren’t counting anyone out, and will continue watching and following quarterlife.

    Thanks,
    Liz Gannes
    NewTeeVee Editor

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  10. It seems like there are some questions on the surface issues of this story, but the themes mentioned are perfectly clear.

    There is still no real success model for video serial content online. Even when the “big boys” from film and television do something for the web, it’s still an educated guess, and, as Marshall himself points out in his comment, the results of Quarterlife are positive, but not consistently so.

    But I think that’s a good thing — it forces him (and all of us following along) to analyze two important things: a) what builds an audience immediately (you might call this “viral-ness” or “one-time attention”) and b) what builds an audience over time. I assume that most people reading this site are interested in the latter.

    I think two things really affect the popular of online content — one is basic (consistency) and one is nebulous (value).

    When considering the world of online video, consistency is rare. There are no standards of production quality, delivery schedules, writing, acting, authenticity. It’s all over the place. So, setting an expectation in the mind of your viewer and then consistently delivering on that expectation is a huge advantage over 99.9% of the market. This is an important lesson I learned from Ask A Ninja — their production values are not amazing, but their voice and delivery schedule are. I also learned this lesson on my web series, Flipper Nation. The production value was good and people responded, but we didn’t deliver new episodes to meet demand. So we lost out on an opportunity. Good learning experience. As for Quarterlife, the jury is out on whether or not a large population of people want to watch the show, but I appreciate Marshall taking a huge risk and promising to deliver regularly on his promises (high production value and regular, longer-form delivery). That’s a huge step in bringing all of our games to a higher level.

    Secondly, value. This is harder to strategize. How do you tell your viewers that you value their watching your stuff? I bet that Marshall and his team know that, amongst the viewing audience of Quarterlife, there is a small audience of hardcore fans. His history and his paid-for promotions brought them in. And so, his work should be to incentivize this small group to become show evangelists. To promote the Quarterlife brand, to grow the overall numbers. To build the conversation. To reward them for doing so. Increased interactivity, increased exposure, celebrity, or access. These are all structures made for your core fans (not the casual viewer).

    So, how do we build our core audience to go out and grow our overall numbers? Well, that’s the question really being asked in this article, I think. Sorry for the long rant. I’d love to hear how are other people here engaging their core fans and growing their overall numbers?

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