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Summary:

In this week’s installment of our Five Questions interviews, the co-creator of lonelygirl15 and CEO of EQAL discusses the industry’s lack of imagination, location-based technology, the evil of the word “viral,” and what he might have done differently in making his seminal web series.

Miles Beckett_EQAL_close

This week’s Five Questions has a timely nature, as EQAL’s Co-Founder and CEO Miles Beckett and his team just had a big anniversary. Four years ago, lonelygirl15 debuted, changing what people thought about online video forever. Below, Beckett talks up Foursquare, shares a profoundly moving video and considers what he might have done differently with the seminal web series he co-created.

1. What’s the one big issue/law/attitude/restriction that you think is holding back the industry?

I am most passionate about the creative side of the industry, and I think the biggest thing holding us back right now is a lack of imagination. Everyone is focused on making money, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of this as well. On the distribution side of the industry, we’re trying to create repeatable formats that we can sell to advertisers and guarantee a return on their marketing dollars. I don’t think this is a bad thing. It’s necessary to advance the industry, and I think we’re making good progress.

But, on the content creator side of the industry, it seems like people are still trying to use the Internet as a way to get noticed and break into TV and film, or they’re copying “things that have already worked” in the hopes that someone will buy it or sign them to a deal.

I think it’s a shame that we aren’t thinking more creatively. The thing that’s so awesome about this moment in time is that you have the freedom to create whatever you want and post it for the world to see. Digital cameras are cheap, YouTube is free, and you can use Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, and a variety of other services for next to nothing. There’s no reason to hold yourself back. Take a moment and think about how you could use the multimedia and interactive nature of the Internet to tell a familiar story in a completely different way. Unlock your creativity. How could you tell a story on Twitter? On Foursquare? On YouTube? How about using all three in some interesting new combination? That’s what I’m most excited about seeing.

2. What industry buzzword do you never want to hear again?

Viral. It drives me nuts. I just picture an out-of-touch marketing executive shouting, “Johnson, make this video go viral!” Building a brand online isn’t about being viral, it’s about sustainability, consistency and authenticity.

3. If someone gave you 50 million to invest in a company in this space, which one would it be? (Mentioning your own doesn’t count.)

From an investment standpoint, both financially and in terms of supporting entrepreneurs, I’d actually much rather use that money to start a fund that would invest 50-500k in a bunch of pre-financing bootstrapped startups rather than put it all into a more mature company.

But, if my hands were tied and I had to put it all in one place, I’d bet on Foursquare. I think that mobile location-based services are just going to get bigger and bigger and there are a variety of potential business models that will make them incredibly profitable.

4. What was the last video (that you weren’t personally involved with) that you liked enough to spread to others?

The Nashville Flood. May 2, 2010. Beautifully shot. Haunting music and imagery. It captured a tragedy and managed to convey both the human heartbreak and the powerful beauty of a flood.

5. Last week marked the fourth anniversary of Lonelygirl15. What do you think the show’s lasting legacy will be, and with the benefit of hindsight, is there one thing you would have done differently at the beginning?

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been four years. Time flies. I think that lonelygirl15‘s lasting legacy will be introducing the world to this new medium. I’m additionally hopeful that it will inspire new creators to produce innovative social shows that truly take advantage of the interactive nature of the Internet. We didn’t write lonelygirl15 as a movie or a television show and then chop it up into shorter pieces and post them online. The story could only be told on the Internet, and more specifically on YouTube, and we intentionally wrote it in a way that broke the fourth wall, incorporated audience participation into the narrative, and used website features as plot points (like video responses and mobile uploads”).

With the benefit of hindsight there are many things we would have done differently many different times over the past four years. I guess most of all I wish we had planned out lonelygirl15 as a recurring series from the very beginning. When we first wrote the story, it was meant to run for a few months and end with a cliffhanger that would lead into a feature film which we were planning on shooting at the same time. When we saw the massive recurring audience that formed around the show online, we decided to retroactively change the story and broaden the LG15 Universe into something that could continue indefinitely and support multiple story lines.

Needless to say, that wasn’t an easy process and it was particularly stressful because we had to do it on the fly with a very small team. I think the show suffered as a result, and I’m bummed about that. But, it was something we had to do in order to continue the story, grow the brand, and build a company.

Related NewTeeVee Content:

Five Questions With Tubemogul’s Brett Wilson

Related GigaOm Pro Content (subscription required):

Shattering the Fourth Wall To Find Web Audiences

  1. :):):)

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  2. Are you fucking kidding me?

    That was so pathetically soft balled, a puppy in pink satin would’ve been harder.

    You actually went as far as specifically mentioning the anniversary of LG15 and asking about its legacy, and still failed to lose a single word about the fact that they recently canceled the entire LG15 franchise.
    No questions about the background of that decision.
    No questions about the future of the franchise.
    No questions about the broader implications of the proto-web-series, the poster child of the industry, dying a quiet death, unable to sustain its audience, unable to turn a profit, long abandoned by its creators, which have turned into a software company by now.

    And not just that, he actually said
    “Digital cameras are cheap, YouTube is free, and you can use Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, and a variety of other services for next to nothing. There’s no reason to hold yourself back.”
    and yet, on the other hand, killed LG15 because it didn’t make money and they couldn’t afford to continue it.

    wtf kind of journalist are you?
    You had one of the most prominent content creators of the genre at hand, who had recently declared the most well-known web series and ancestor of the entire genre dead, after failing to turn it into something valuable despite the massive PR wave it got, and you ask him…what videos he recently linked.

    You might as well have titled this piece “Miles Beckett advertises EQAL” and went out to lunch. Same difference.

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    1. Well, I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this article, and I should have mentioned the ending of LG15 (though to be fair, that has been pretty obvious since EQAL established their new direction). But just to be clear, this piece is part of a regular feature that we do here on NewTeeVee, one that’s not intended to be a hard-hitting piece of journalism but instead a profile piece (see others in the series). In fact, the first four questions are the same each week. We may do a more extensive interview with Beckett down the line, but that wasn’t the intention for this.

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      1. Well, good to know that NewTeeVee does not consider asking the tough questions and raising issues with a broader implication for the entire genre a priority.

        Clearly a potential interview in the undetermined future is completely equivalent to asking the question right here, right now, asap after it happened.

        There was a lot of talk about why this industry isn’t being taken serious by the world at large after the Streamy Disaster.
        Interviews like this contribute to that.
        Why exactly would anyone take this industry serious, when everything is touched with velvet gloves?

        No matter what one does in this “industry”, no one ever dares to be critical. Everyone is always an ultra-talented indie filmmaker, paving the way for the next generation of video entertainment, no matter what they actually do, and any imperfection is hushed up, glossed over or spun into something else.

        If one of the leading news sources for this medium can’t even ask about something as significant as lonelygirl15 officially being dead, in a question about recent LG15-related events and its legacy, instead going for a nice, unconfrontational, open-ended “insert promo here” question, then why would anyone take any claims about the genre as a whole serious?

        If all supporters of the genre continuously chant “all is well, web is the future” no matter what happens, individual claims about the web’s importance or the viability of the medium simply have no credibility.

        And if you have no credibility, why would anyone take you serious?

        This particular interview may not have been designed as a hard-hitting piece of journalism, but it does show the same symptoms of a larger problem.

        Because, try as you might, you can’t deny that NewTeeVee didn’t draw much attention to LG15′s official death or Miles’s statements in context, either.

        Your site as a whole simply ignored it happening, even in a situation like this, which basically cries for being used to ask about it.

        And if that’s the way “reflection” in the genre works – praise everything praisable, ignore anything bad – then it’s no wonder that outsiders don’t believe the hype.

        After all, hype is all we get, all the time.

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  3. Look, I realize that sometimes, in an interview situation, there are some questions that the subject isn’t going to answer and asking them will only result in the termination of the interview and no article at all.

    But EQAL’s recent moves have raised serious concerns about the sustainability, profitability and monetary value of online video. EQAL, in having abandoned LG15, the very property that skyrocketed online video into public view, is saying that online video is not a viable economic enterprise.

    And I just don’t understand how you couldn’t ask Miles Beckett about this. His answers would have indicated the future of online video and New Teevee. Beckett is a central figure in making online video seem like a going concern. If you can’t ask this man about the future of the very industry you’re writing about, then your interview seems a bit pointless.

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    1. What I’m taking away from this, Ibrahim, is that there is definitely plenty I could talk about with Miles in a full-length interview format — which is a completely different beast from the Five Questions feature, as I’ve explained already. Thanks for commenting!

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      1. Then I’m even more baffled. I don’t know how your assignments and stories are designated and divided, but it seems an incredible waste of opportunity to ask Miles Beckett questions but only ask him questions that don’t address the future of this industry you seem to want to write about.

        Yes, the job was to do a soft-news feature. But if you have access to a pivotal industry figure, were these five questions really the five most relevant ones? Why do a Five Questions soft feature on Miles Beckett when you could have used that chance to ask questions that actually matter? That’s like stumbling on a gold mine and ignoring it because you were only looking for that penny you dropped.

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  4. Great interview Liz (P.S. Good luck with G4)
    I am really glad that Miles Beckett brought up how things have shifted from trying to make original content on the web to trying to either chop up a movie or TV show into a web format or simply using the web as a stepping stone to ‘bigger’ things.
    LG15 was a unique and different method of telling a story, it made webseries unique. Now in the age of web TV all too often web series feel like low budget cable.

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  5. Mathieas: Agree completely, that’s exactly what I was saying.

    To everyone else, I’m more than happy to do a more extensive interview with Liz if she wants. As she mentioned, this was just a weekly “5 Questions” feature that they do on NewTeeVee.

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  6. the article was good and had some wortwhile insights. those looking for the EXPOSE OF THE CENTURY are usually disappointed, no matter what the subject. it was not a puff piece at all, not to need to spell out things that people already know. the interview was not about “IS THE FUTURE OF WEBSERIES DOOMED”

    i will say this though — no other webseries, and i’ve watched a lot, has as many long-term hardcore fans as lonelygirl15 did and does.

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  7. i need spellcheck. grrr.

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  8. All shows come to an end, even webshows that carved out the genre. This renegade troll is one deranged fan. Wow. I mean, WOW. He/She should have given up when they became EQAL. This feels like a high school kid who doesn’t get much attention in real life. Watch your mouth too. My mass-comm students read these boards for value. Please go away and don’t ever come here again. You made your point about EQAL, it’s time grow up.

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  9. [...] 5 Questions With…EQAL’s Miles Beckett [...]

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  10. [...] drives me nuts,” said EQAL CEO Miles Beckett. “I just picture an out-of-touch marketing executive shouting, ‘Johnson, make this [...]

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