Morgan Webb, the TV host, gamer, and model, threw her hat in the ring for tech news video shows in August 2007, and produced the daily show WebbAlert as a side project with her husband. But the show ended its run this week, with Webb citing the increasing demands of her day job as a host for G4’s video game review show X-Play.
Though Webb was sick with the flu, she agreed to answer our questions about WebbAlert via email. She declined to give financial and viewer specifics, but made it clear that she’s not quitting for lack of revenue, and her following from other venues came along to watch her web show. While she said she would do it all over again, it’s clear Webb thinks her future is in oldteevee. Our slightly edited correspondence follows.
NewTeeVee: Once you got the rhythm down, how long did it take you to make a WebbAlert episode?
Morgan Webb: The script would take about five to six hours, then make-up, filming, compressing and uploading took another hour to two hours, then the show was edited and uploaded by about 1 a.m. That’s about 17 hours of work for one episode.
NewTeeVee: How did the concept of the show change over time?
Webb: The concept behind the show didn’t change too much. It started as a place people could get that day’s summary of the happenings in the blogosphere, and since there was such a positive response to that service, the show didn’t change that much.
NewTeeVee: Had you explored other forms of distribution and syndication for WebbAlert specifically? Did you ever feel like you could have quit your other gigs to focus on WebbAlert?
Webb: We did look into buying distribution but the numbers didn’t seem to make sense. Unlike a lot of Internet video experiments, we were able to make good money making WebbAlert. Federated Media was fantastic at selling us, and I’d like to thank them for helping us do as well as we did. I think the secret to making money in this space is to keep your costs way down. We didn’t have any full-time employees, and our production process was incredibly cheap and streamlined.
I was able to do well financially from WA, but a large part of that reason is that I am already known from my television show, X-Play. Part of what Federated was able to sell was my name and my reputation in the tech space. Without my TV show and my history on air, WebbAlert would not have been as big a success. The web video space is nascent, and while I could have left my TV show and be supported by WA, that move would not make any sense career-wise.
Also, I feel that a large part of future web content will be provided by the current media players. For example G4 (my cable network) is able to create a lot of professional high-quality free web content because they have a large infrastructure of people and equipment already in place. They aren’t investing thousands of dollars in cameras and lights, because they already own better equipment than any individual could. The content also gets subsidized by its appearance on air, so they can work with higher budgets than are available to web only content. Most internet video consumers are not motivated by the lofty ideals of supporting independent video providers and will gravitate to the highest quality free content they can consume.
NewTeeVee: What were the biggest challenges you faced?
Webb: My TV show went from producing three episodes a week to five, so my work responsibility increased a great deal. Doing X-Play, plus any specials like our week-long GDC and E3 coverage, as well as WA became exhausting.
NewTeeVee: What were you most proud of? Do you have a favorite episode or two?
Webb: The day after news airs it is irrelevant, so I’d have to say my favorite lasting episodes were on the TED conference. There are some amazing lectures on there from inventors, scientists and media moguls, and you can watch them all free. I enjoyed bringing my favorite TED lectures to my audience.
NewTeeVee: If you had the time to make another show, would you go down the same path or try another format/topic/schedule?
Webb: I really did like the format and topic, I would do it if I could.
NewTeeVee: Did making WebbAlert help you in the rest of your career?
Webb: I’m sure it helped me in some way, but any direct causality is hard to pin down. My career is primarily in broadcast, and for now the broadcasting world doesn’t care anywhere near as much about online presence as it probably should. This will change over time — but as is usually the case with big media, it will take a lot longer than it logically should.