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Summary:

Streamy and Webby award-winning Epic Fu, which built up a passionate community around its fast-paced geek culture show, has been off the air since May, and its fans haven’t known what to think. “I didnt want to admit it, but ive given up too :-(,” wrote […]

Streamy and Webby award-winning Epic Fu, which built up a passionate community around its fast-paced geek culture show, has been off the air since May, and its fans haven’t known what to think. “I didnt want to admit it, but ive given up too :-(,” wrote one fan, Tanner, a couple weeks ago.

Creators Steve Woolf and Zadi Diaz say that times in the web video biz have been tough, but they’re going to come back better than ever. “The new mission for Epic Fu will be to create a participatory network that shows people that their ideas matter and that they have a way to get their message out to the world; an entertainment and information network made of blogs, videos, discussions, and media about how technology affects entertainment, music, art, politics, style, and relationships,” Woolf posted to the community forum. Woolf expanded via email that the plans include a blog network and a shorter show format with less post-production.

We hope Woolf and Diaz do succeed in putting their years of learning and passion to work, but that new site has yet to launch. In the meantime, they are stringing together some paid gigs, like TV commercials for J!NX clothing, interviews for PBS, and a now-apparently-shelved Rocketboom Los Angeles edition. We asked Woolf to elaborate on how the environment for web shows has changed since they got started making Epic Fu (then called JETSET) in June 2006. He and Diaz have seen it all, from a Next New Networks deal that brought ten-fold viewership and sponsors, to a multi-year TV deal they say they turned down, to a Revision3 deal that fell apart when the recession hit. Here’s his reply:

Wow, where to begin. For one thing it’s so much easier, technically speaking, to get a show up and running now. No concerns about video hosting, codecs, RSS enclosures, and myriad other concerns. The awareness factor is certainly much higher now, too. When we used to tell people that we produce web shows we got confused looks, whereas now most people have heard of what’s happening with online video and are very interested and supportive.

In terms of gaining viewers it’s been interesting to watch how communities have evolved. In one sense it was easier to build an audience a couple of years ago because there were not many “shows” out there. Now there are a ton of shows so there’s a lot more noise to get through, but I think as web content producers we all need to strive to make something that doesn’t look like second rate TV. We will think that the show that will demonstrate to everyone why the web is different (and better) than passive television has yet to put its foot in the door and tap into the mainstream consciousness. It will happen soon, though.

Financially it’s been something of a roller coaster. In 2005 through 2006 there was no money in the space. In 2007 and 2008 there were a lot of opportunities to make money creating a show like ours. In 2009 it’s all about cautious spending and managing risk. But there are signs that things are starting to turn around, albeit very slowly. Things always take longer than you hope they will. In 2006 at Vloggercon everyone was convinced that a media revolution was upon us. In reality revolutions take years, and this one is still in its formative stages.

We’ve watched the rise and fall of many new media ventures, and we’ve watched the rise and fall of shows and people whose massive influence is likely to go unrecognized until a proper history of the evolution of online video is recorded. That part is a little sad, because there have been people who have given so much to this industry without the return they were hoping for.

  1. YES! I must have my Fu!!!

    I’ve missed my regular dose of Fu-snickety these past few months and look forward to seeing what Zadi and Steve have in store for us.

    Oh, and I read Steve loud and clear when he mentioned format and limiting post-production needs. We’ve been fiddling with some of those same issues at Bite Me TV.

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  2. Thanks for the update, Liz. I’ve been wondering about the Fu. I think parts of this resonate as a defining moment for web video content. Are we in the ‘trough of disillusionment” with indie video shows?

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  3. LOVE the FU! And I miss MobLogic too!

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  4. Not to comment on Epic Fu as I don’t watch the programming, but NTV’s obsession with Web Series needs to stop.

    But I digress.

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    1. What’s wrong w/ web series, Ashkan?

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  5. Honestly, web series borrow some of the worst habits, weaknesses and drawbacks of TV and emulate it on the Web, which seem backwards and a waste of resources.

    Oddly enough the only people that seem to have botched web series more than new media producers are traditional media companies.

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  6. By the way, again, just to stress, I am not familiar with Epic Fu and we obviously want talented and creative content producers to succeed… I just think they’re wasting their time and energy on web series.

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  7. Ashkan, would be interested to hear your thoughts on the way forward for Web Video if not ‘series’

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  8. I’m glad the folks at NewTeeVee cover web series’ as much as they do. Sure, web video is chaotic, going a million directions and full of uneven content quality, but it’s the “wild, wild west” and there are soooo many possibilites.

    Liz and the rest of you good people, keep doin’ what you’re doin’. :)

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  9. Jules,

    I am very biased but you can check out WatchMojo.com to get an idea of what I think is a successful editorial and business strategy. I started the company so yes I am biased, but we have multiple revenue streams and actual paying clients.

    I just don’t think that web series stand a chance on hell online, regardless of the quality. Truthfully, I don’t watch a single Web series.

    Ultimately:

    • Web series are way too hit or miss (sort of like TV search-for-hits strategy that does not work).

    • Creators tend to create stuff they like (nothing wrong with that, but a business that does not make), and not what will actually get seen, let alone what marketers want.

    • Ultimately, you need to think “what will other media companies pay for?” This is not something that your average Web series will be able to command.

    • Web series seem to rely on branded content, I have news for you: branded content remains a big IF/MAYBE. If that is your business plan, you’re doomed. You need to build a business where the branded content is the icing on the cake, and not the actual cake.

    • Speaking of the marketers, the ones who will underwrite online video tend to want things that can stand alongside TV level stuff, most web series fall short in that regard.

    Again, I am not talking about any one web series since I don’t watch any… but I would guess many web users don’t have the attention span to do so either.

    You can say that I am biased because of the kind of programming we produce at WatchMojo.com, but I think it’s the other way around: we produce what we produce at WatchMojo.com because of these underlying trends and realities.

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    1. Ashkan -

      We’ve been able to make a good living creating Epic Fu for over two years, as well as make enough to employ 1-5 people during that time.

      Entertainment is a personal medium. Not everything will work. Even in the mainstream, 99% of all projects meet a dead end. Of the 1% that actually get made, 99% of those will die a quiet death.

      I find it remarkable that you’re able to state your opinions with such conviction when you readily admit you don’t want any web series. What do you watch on TV? At the movies?

      I would argue that your “underlying trends and realities” are based on the same personal viewpoint as the shows that you don’t watch. Can you point us to some real data supporting your position?

      Mystified,

      Steve

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  10. [...] New Tee Vee is obsessed with web series, to some extent with reason, but at the end of the day, I don’t see any real shot for 99.9% of web series to survive. [...]

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