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.