There’s a natural inclination to mock network TV’s reliance on reality programming these days, but the companies producing web content aimed to partner with advertising definitely have an emphasis on non-scripted over scripted content as well. A look at 10 of the companies that have made a business out of pairing content with advertising, including Babelgum, DECA, Funny or Die, Generate, Next New Networks and Revision3, reveals that at least six of them focus exclusively on nonfiction content as opposed to fictional. While the actual shows do manage to avoid people-eating-bugs-or-competing-for-dates territory, there’s still a distinct lack of narrative being produced.
It’s easy to understand why: Non-fiction is, in general, easier and cheaper to produce than fictional content, and the emphasis on information, not storytelling, that runs less risk of offending brand partners. The non-fiction series produced by Next New Networks and Revision3, for example, are easily targeted to specific audiences — making them an easy sell to advertisers interested in reaching such groups.
Plus, these series are often structured around hosts with proven fan bases. A fictional web series might be able to draw well-known talent, but audience engagement works on a different level, as you’re watching the actor play a character, as opposed to watching the individual him or herself.
The question is, if this trend continues, what will happen to the current evolution of the medium? It’s hard to imagine the Citizen Kane of online video coming from a collaboration with Doritos, after all. It may be left to the independent creators to save us from the wasteland of narrative — provided, of course, they can find a way to pay the bills.
These thoughts come to you courtesy of a longer feature I wrote for our paid research service, GigaOm Pro. Check that piece out for the full breakdown of which companies are focusing on fiction or non-fiction content currently, as well as more analysis of the pull non-fiction has for advertisers. But please feel free to share your thoughts on this specific write-up here.